How are Chancellor Banks and his team planning to change the Department of Education?

A disastrous week one!!

Mayor Adams was determined; schools were going to open on Monday, January 3rd. Appeals to delay the opening for a few days cast aside – testing and tracing were in place, the pre-holiday bumps in the previous de Blasio administration resolved.

Nope

Student attendance was well below normal and staff attendance far, far below normal. The number of positive COVID tests burgeoning, if you could get a test. While the Department had an in-school testing regimen only students with parent consent could be tested, and, Friday’s snow pushed student attendance below 50%.

The NY Times describes a “stressful” week for parents and teachers – read here

The education website Chalkbeat interviews parents, students and teachers across the city and describes school after school struggling to provide any instruction, see here

COVID from a national perspective, see here

NY Times COVID Tracker, Saturday, January 8th:  see here

Every morning the NY Times releases a COVID Tracker, the number of increases or decreases in COVID test positives, in August the positives were dropping every day, by October began to creep upward, by November double digit increases almost every day. For the past five days the COVID testing numbers have been unchanged, perhaps, and I underline perhaps, the COVID apex has been reached and we can expect the downward trend to accelerate.

At the same time Michael Powell tweets about an ugly situation involving our new schools chancellor, his now partner and his police brass brother’s influence to quash a scandalous incident.

A terrible week one, an alienated work force, confused parents, maybe week two will better or, maybe not.  Chicago teachers refused to report to work and the school system is in meltdown, if Adams/Brooks can’t get their act together: who knows ….

The school year runs from September to June, changing an school administration on January 1st is awkward, schools have been functioning for four months; the “new guys” inherent a budget and planning from the “old guys.”

De Blasio choose Carmen Farina, a retired superintendent who knew the players, there was a high level of trust. More than four years later de Blasio brought in the superintendent from Houston, Richard Carranza, who created a new position, Executive Superintendent, sort of a Chancellor’s cabinet. 

David Banks, the CEO of the Eagle Academy Foundation, five secondary public schools for young men of color, and a longtime friend of Adams was the preordained choice, as soon as the November election was concluded Banks and the new Police Commissioner were announced.

Would Banks keep the leadership team at the Department?

The answer was a resounding “no,” Banks reached into the past and selected Dan Weisberg, who served early in the Bloomberg administration as Deputy Chancellor.

 

Daniel Weisberg is First Deputy Chancellor. In this role, he manages a broad portfolio and is responsible for cross-functional strategies that achieve the Chancellor’s vision. Previously, Dan was Chief Executive Officer at the educational nonprofit TNTP. Prior to his time with TNTP, he worked at the New York City Department of Education under Mayor Bloomberg as Chief Executive of Labor Policy and Implementation, where he was responsible for leading the DOE’s relationships with its union partners, including negotiating collective bargaining agreements covering teachers and principals.

Weisberg was controversial, in 2005 and 2007 the Department and the Union negotiated contracts: raises of over 40%, a longer school day, teacher planning time and the creation of the Absent Teacher Reserve (ATR), teachers who lost their position due to a school closing or loss of funding were not placed in other positions, they remained on payroll and had to find their own jobs. In Chicago the same system had been implemented with a significant difference, if you weren’t hired in a specific period of time you were placed in layoff.  Bloomberg made every effort to implement the Chicago system to no avail.

Weisberg moved on to The New Teacher Project (TNTP), a think tank and more recently a school support organization, founded by Michelle Rhee in 1996.

TNTP after Weisberg’s arrival published a number of policy papers, what I call advocacy research.  I define as finding data to support a position.

The Widget Effect (2008), exploring data from four school districts found that almost all teachers received satisfactory ratings and were rarely ever observed. The paper called for a rigorous observation system with the results used for staff development as well as promotion, dismissal and salary increments (Read paper here)

Against Quality Blind Layoffs argues against a seniority layoff rule, and avers that “teacher quality,” as measured by supervisory judgments and scores on standardized tests play a major role in determining layoff (Read paper here)

Rebalancing Teacher Tenure suggests extending probation and including student achievement, value-added measurements in determining tenure decisions (Read paper here )

Shortchanged: The Hidden Costs of Lockstep Teacher Pay calls for a merit pay system rather than annual step salary increases (Read here)

Teacher Evaluation, in a somewhat garbled examination a paper is critical of checklist systems and calls for teacher evaluations that assess performance based on curriculum   Read here

Mirage, once again argues for the use of student evaluation data as a tool to both drive instruction and teacher assessment, TNTP is a strong supporter of the Common Core. (Read here)

For the last five years or so TNTP appears to be more of a school support organization, working with schools and school districts to improve outcomes. 

When I did my due diligence I received a wide range of opinions, “a brilliant thinker” to those who sighed and mumbled unmentionable phrases.

I was surprised that the new leadership team is almost entirely from outside the Department of Education. One team member was a New York City principal and Affinity District leader and left the Department a year ago (See a glowing review of her school co-authored by Linda Darling-Hammond)

See leadership team with brief bios here

Weisberg and his team will have to identify key issues, develop policies and implementation plans.

Do you retain the 32 P-8 geographic school and separate high school districts, move to more local school level decision-making, or clusters of similar schools by needs?

Do you fund schools by need and change the Title 1 formula (See A Better Picture of Poverty)  as well as tracking the funding: how are schools using dollars and how impactful is the use?

How do you approach the call for lower class size, dollars for lower class size would limit the use of dollars for other initiatives; however, is supported by teachers, parents and the City Council

How do you “fix” Special Education?  The system is failing to provide mandated services to huge numbers of students.

How do you create a meaningful, collaborative relationship with the teacher/principals unions?

How do you move from a P-12 system to a P-16 system:  the completion rates at community colleges are abysmal with finger-pointing: why do our graduates fail to complete community college? 

The New Teacher Project seemed obsessed with teacher evaluation, New York City has a complex system, a system that the Department and the Union agreed to and both sides are comfortable with.  Is Weisberg still searching for the magic bullet?  Does he intend to “tear down and rebuild the system” or work with the Unions and advocates to develop a collaborative relationship?

The first problem is getting past Omicron.

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