Sunday, December 29, 2013

Ed Reform and NY State

New York State, and in particular, NYC, is a great place to consider what has happened and what changes may be coming for ed reform.  Call it the ghost of ed reform today, the future and, of course, the past.  

NYC - the ghost of ed reform in the future
Naturally, all the change in how NYC will based on new mayor-elect, Bill de Blasio.  Here's a selection of what he pledged during the campaign from NYC Public School Parents:


- a public screening process for their Chancellor (superintendent)
- support a change to the law so that members of the Board of Ed have set terms and cannot be fired at will by the mayor.
- ensure that all Board of Ed members are given at least two weeks to discuss the policy ideas at hand before voting.
- provide independent monitoring to determine whether students with disabilities are receiving all their mandated services.
- prioritize expanding and improving early education by providing universal pre-K.
- fight for the $3B in court-ordered state funding owed to NYC to reduce class size
- reduce the spending on privatization, outsourcing, contracts and consultants
- have a moratorium on co-locations with charter schools as well as enforce provisions in state law that require co-located charter schools to pay for services and space that they receive from the DOE.
- pull NYC student data out of the inBloom cloud ASAP
- dedicate funding for meaningful community-based after-school programs

There are many more and boy, do some of these sound familiar.  Board members receiving staff input in a timely manner, Sped service improvement, the desire for less spending on consultants. etc.-  all sound like topics we have discussed here. 

Also, why does de Blasio seek the money to reduce class size?  A great article in the NY Times lays out the case. 

Student Data Privacy - the ghost of ed reform in NY State today
Coming January 10th,  in state Superior Court,  is a face-off between 12 parents who want a restraining order against inBloom, Inc.  From Ed Week:

On Jan. 10, a lawsuit filed by 12 parents seeking a restraining order will be heard in state Superior Court. The parents want to prohibit the state from moving data about individual student performance, attendance, suspensions, and eligibility for special education to the cloud.

New York state's education department is still pursuing plans to proceed with inBloom, which at one time said it had formed partnerships with nine states, although officials in Delaware, Georgia, and Kentucky told Reuters in May that they had never forged an official alliance with the organization. All the other states except New York have since withdrawn, placed plans on hold, or, as in the case with Illinois, made participation optional—most due to concerns raised by various constituencies about the security of the data once it is housed in the cloud. (Chicago Public Schools recently decided to handle its student data on its own.)

To understand, inBloom has lost nearly every partnership except for New York state.   The withdrawals are ALL around concerns about student data privacy.

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Catherine Nolan, who chairs the state's education committee, released a statement about a letter they sent to John King, state education commissioner, "expressing serious concerns about a plan to share sensitive student data with an outside vendor." The letter was signed by nearly 50 of their colleagues in the Assembly.

"It is our job to protect New York's children. In this case, that means protecting their personally identifiable information from falling into the wrong hands," said Silver in the statement. "Until we are confident that this information can remain protected, the plan to share student data with InBloom must be put on hold."

Common Core Standards- the ghost of ed reform in NY State today
New York State's Education department has a website to promote its work called EngageNY.   @The Chalk Face education blog has a story on Common Core videos that are being used. 

I personally found the one in the story - for kindergarteners - to be somewhat disturbing.  There is something so mechanical and detached about the way this teacher is providing the teaching.  I also learned that there's two ways to think/learn about math.  The teacher does not state the name of the first way (as she starts) but she calls the second way, "the math way." Can a teacher or someone who knows about teaching math explain why the students would need to learn to think of math in two different ways?

What is interesting as well are the comments to this story.  Is warmth and engagement just as important as teaching and learning?  Does it matter more at one grade level than another?

The ghost of ed reform past in NYC
This comes in the form of a lengthy review of public education in NYC under Mayor Bloomberg via Diane Ravitch.

At the outset of his administration, some dozen years ago, Mayor Bloomberg decided that the reform of the education system would be his greatest legacy. He said it again and again in his campaign. He was convinced that the only thing missing was management skills, of which he had plenty. He actually claimed that he could get better “results” with the same amount of money (then $12 billion). The spending has more than doubled, but the better results remain elusive. Unfortunately, the mayor decided that testing and accountability and choice would be the strategies that he would rely on to transform the system. In doing so, he mirrored George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind. That was the zeitgeist of 2002, when Bush signed NCLB and Bloomberg took office and gained complete control of the school system.

She then relies on a NYC Education Department insider, Tweed Insider, to detail it all out.

Part I. Have the current organizational structures and funding policies formed an environment necessary for a successful education system to thrive?
Part II. Are measures of school and teacher performance currently in use valid, reliable, and fair?
Part III. Is the policy of closing schools and replacing the closed schools with new schools working?
Part IV. Has the portfolio strategy based on market-choice and charter schools improved student outcomes?
Part V. What new policy directions should be considered for implementation?
Each fact and data point cited is sourced at the embedded links throughout the essay.

It's compelling reading because those are the very questions every state should be asking itself at this point.  What is working - really working - and what isn't?  

I would also add a question about costs.  What did all this cost, what are the continued costs and how much of it was spent on outside consultants?

The review of the ghost of ed reform past for NYC is completed by this from the Huffington Post and professor Alan Singer of Hofstra University.   It's what he calls NY State Education Department's "shadow government."

It is supported by $19 million in donations from wealthy individuals and foundations. The "Regents Research Fund" fellows are a private think tank embedded in the public education department that is defining education for New York's 3.1 million public school students. They frame policy, consult regularly with State Education Commissioner John King, and interact with state employees and officials, but they are not covered by the state's Public Officer's Law or ethics rules.

In December 2010, Merryl Tisch, chancellor of the New York State Board of Regents announced that thirteen Regents Research Fellows would report to and advise John King and the seventeen-member board. Instead of making them state employees subject to review and public accountability, the fellows were paid by a private funds.  

From the start there were reasons to question the legitimacy of this quasi-public body. I have searched both the Internet and the New York State Board of Regents website and I can find no definitive list of Regents Research fellows, although I was able to assemble a partial list based on press releases and their individual Linkedin postings.

Wait, what? The Chancellor of the NY State Board of Regents created a board of Regents Research Fellows and no one knows for certain who is on the board?  

According to a New York Times report, three of the eleven original fellows had doctorates and four were Ivy League graduates. Two were lawyers and one worked for the New York City Department of Education setting up the algorithm to evaluate teachers based on student test scores. Five of the research fellows originally worked for charter schools where they had a total of ten years of classroom experience. Six of the eleven fellows advising the commissioner and the Regents on educational policy never taught at all.  

Some of their "work":

In April 2011, an Albany task force consisting of sixty-three experienced educators from around the state recommended that student test scores count for no more than twenty percent of teachers and principal evaluations. But King adopted the recommendation by the "fellows" that up to 40 percent of an evaluation could be based on state tests.

Who is involved with this effort?  Why none other than Bill Gates.  From the NY Times article:

Mr. Bloomberg and Mr. Gates are expert at using philanthropy in a way that pressures government to follow their public policy agendas. 

No kidding.

There are lessons to be learned from New York City and state and it's time to start paying attention.  

1 comment:

zee said...

When I saw "Five of the research fellows originally worked for charter schools where they had a total of ten years of classroom experience," I guessed right away that they were TFA-ers (two years experience each). That is what TFA is designed to do - give people a teaching credit on their resume so they can go on and create a career in EduReform in the employ of the Gates-Walton-Broad-Murdoch-etc. cabal of edu-preneurs.