Monday, May 20, 2013

Astounding NY Times Editorial Spells Doom for Ed Deform: Was Brent Staples Absent Today?

...while charter schools can be a path to excellence, they can also cause problems. Shoehorning them into existing school buildings over local objections can alienate parents and reinforce among students a harmful sense of being separate and unequal. 
Mr. Bloomberg’s schools chancellor, Dennis Walcott, called the criticism an “unconscionable” assault on the Education Department... after 12 years, this mayor’s ideas are due for a counterargument. The critiques the candidates are offering hardly shock the conscience, and their complaints about the Bloomberg administration can be heard from teachers and parents in any school in the city. ... NY Times editorial
After 12 years of outright support of Bloomberg ed policies and for ed deform in general, along with some of the worst coverage of local and national education issues (other than when Anna Phillips was reporting for a year), this editorial is a sign that the increasing messages of outrage emerging from every area of the city are reaching their mark. Staples has been the most adamant supporter of deform and a union basher to boot. I hope he brings an absence note.
 The school system has indeed gone overboard in relying on standardized testing. Tests need to be a means to the end of better instruction, not the pedagogical obsession they have become. Yes, Mr. Bloomberg has shown disdain for consultation, as in his rush to close underperforming schools without the full and meaningful involvement of affected communities. The system needs to strengthen neighborhoods’ connection to schools and reconnect with parents who feel shut out. And while charter schools can be a path to excellence, they can also cause problems. Shoehorning them into existing school buildings over local objections can alienate parents and reinforce among students a harmful sense of being separate and unequal.
Wow! What a blow to the charter shills. Actually talking about strengthening the neighborhood schools and how charters helicoptored in help destroy that concept. Yes, choice = divisive = destructive.

It is important to note that when teachers or their union complains everyone shrugs. But when it is clear that the message is not coming from the union or their flunkies it begins to hit home. And for the social justice bashers, there is a lesson -- a union that only worries about bread and butter is going down the tubes.
Make sure to read the series of article at Perdido Street School on the end of ed deform. Here is a link to one:  Ed Deform House Of Cards Falling - Ed Deformers Whining About It

 and another… Quinn Vows To End City's Participation In Field Tests
Witness Chicago where the union is leading the national counterattack by making made social justice reachouts (without the rhetoric) a prime component (along with bread and butter.) Make no mistake -- it was the work of the CTU which is the only organization with the power and outreach to make these connections, this helped create a movement.
there can be truth in applause lines. Comptroller John Liu spoke for many at the forum when he told of his frustrating inability, as a parent, to give input to school officials. And William Thompson Jr., a former city comptroller, answered Mr. Walcott in a statement on Saturday by noting the incompleteness of educational gains: “For 12 years, the mayor has vilified teachers, shut out parents, turned classrooms into test prep centers and closed community schools. We have tried those policies, and our kids are still not receiving the education they deserve.” 
Liu I believe. Thompson whose main campaign supporter is Bloomberg neighbor Merry Tisch, queen of ed deform, I do not.

The Times still has to take a shot at local control.
When Mr. Bloomberg won direct control of public education in 2002, it was a historic and necessary victory, ending a system of local districts that was grossly dysfunctional and unaccountable. The candidates should not be allowed to downplay or deny how bad things were when nobody was in charge. 
In fact there were people in charge and every ill of that system has been exaggerated (and believe me I can list every single flaw -- but flaws that could have been fixed without mayoral dictatorship). This is another propaganda war that has to be fought.

The fact that not one mayoral candidate has the nerve to talk about taking a look at a more democratic system of running schools is problematic. Until we end mayoral control -- and the UFT takes a firm stand in calling for its end -- the downward spiral will continue.

Leonie commented at the listserve:
Everyone should read the lead editorial in today’s NY Times; I will post it below for those w/out access but please also click on this link, leave a comment, and send it to everyone you know via the NYT gadget so that it becomes the most emailed and read thing in today’s newspaper:

Education and New York City’s Mayoral Race -

This editorial represents a total sea change for the NYT whose editors (and publisher/owner, whose best friend is Bloomberg’s personal investment adviser) have defended the mayor’s education policies for the last 12 years.  This is also after a week where Walcott was allowed to vent, almost uncontested, in three articles on the NYT news pages against the Democratic candidates, who want to take schools in a different direction –with Walcott claiming that they were simply in the thrall of the UFT.

Here is the key sentence in the editorial today: “The critiques the candidates are offering hardly shock the conscience, and their complaints about the Bloomberg administration can be heard from teachers and parents in any school in the city.”

Wow.  Did someone on the editorial board actually talk to a public school parent for the first time?   Or does someone on the editorial board actually send his or her kid to a NYC public school?

Astounding change!    Before this, Brent Staples who usually writes their editorials on schools, either ignored what was happening in our schools, or supported the mayor’s policies, and followed the usual narrative that the only debate that existed was between  Bloomberg vs. the UFT, who were looking out for their interests.  Parents did not exist in this world view.

Today marks the day we finally live in a city where not all three daily’s editorial boards automatically defends Bloomberg on schools.  This is a MAJOR major blow to his legacy.

Here is the editorial in full below; the only major problem in it is that it takes the usual (false) position that pre-mayoral control the districts were hotbeds of dysfunction and corruption.

For good or for ill, the Community School Boards lost much of their power in 1996, six years before mayoral control was instituted.  Due to a major change in the governance law, they lost the ability to appoint a superintendent and hire teachers and other staff.  The legislation also gave the chancellor the ability to intervene when districts failed to meet performance goals, when school board members acted inappropriately and also required greater financial disclosure by community school board members.

Otherwise this editorial is stunning and could have written by people who were actually paying attention to the reality of our schools the past twelve years.  Only question I have is where were they before?


  1. I wish you had included Michael Winerip along with Anna because his reporting was truthful as well.

    1. Of course Mike. But he is not reporting but a commentator. There is an important difference here. Reporters look like just the facts when in fact you can see between the lines if they do a good job -- as Javier Hernandez sort of did on Saturday -- actually he was one of the better ones -- he seems to get it.

  2. The worm has turned and is carrying a bazooka. Looks as if the Walcott missive has reached the ears of those who now have to reevaluate their position on the education miracle touted by the Bloomberg administration.

  3. I agree with the editorial, but as a "charter shill" myself, I'd like to point out that charter schools do in fact represent an incredibly aggressive form of local school control. I have been to MANY charter school board meetings (all of which are open meetings), and here is one thing I've NEVER seen: any hedge fund manager or anyone else in the private sector exerting the slightest influence on curriculum or purchasing decisions, or in any other way taking any action that would accelerate the "privatization" of public education.

    Here's what I have seen: parents visiting the meetings, sharing what they like about the school and what their concerns are. And board members and school leaders listening intently and often making changes.

    You will deny this is actually what happens, but before you do, please explain how many charter school board meetings you've been to. Then, explain exactly what your preferred system of local governance is, and why it is superior to the charter school model.

    1. My preference is a locally elected school board based on elections of a board at the school level. How is your charter board chosen? How many parents from your school are on it? How many kids at your school walk to school?\
      In fact what role did the neighborhood have in starting your school? Or were you hellicoptored in?
      I'm betting you are not seeing neighborhood people given the extra large catchment zone charters pull from. How can you be a neighborhood school when "choice" offers other neighborhood schools? What I advocate for is a true neighborhood school like the one I went to as a kid. If it doesn't work do what it take to fix it. No excuses. Your guys always say that to us but use all kinds of whiny excuses: it's the culture, the union, the teachers, the principal, the blah, blah, blah. No excuses. Fix it and not by putting another school next door that will undermine it.
      How do you call the charter local control when the Board is an outside agent? Do parents elect that board? Do teachers have a long-term commitment to the school?
      What are the school student turnover rates? and the teacher turnover rates? What is the average age of the teachers? I bet they are young and white. And the kids and parents are not. At the very least teachers at my school stayed for a long time if not for their entire careers. I was there for 27 years. We were a constant force for some stability in the lives of our kids and their kids. Not that that counted for a lot but it was something.

    2. But you don't deny there are hedge fund managers on your board. Why?

  4. If you've ever spoken to parents at daycares in neighborhoods like Brownsville or East New York, you're very familiar with how urgently they are demanding public schools that are safe and will help their kids get to college. I fully agree that the NYC DOE has not been successful in supporting and empowering local schools to be able to do this, and it's not the fault of the extremely dedicated teachers and principals. I agree that we should fix schools that aren't working. But who exactly is going to do the fixing? No public agency in the country has gotten this job done. Very few non-profits have gotten it done. New Visions? ELOB? CES has a strong track record, but it's heavily weighted toward suburban schools, and frankly, most successful in schools that have additional autonomy (like charters and pilot schools). So, who? Your locally elected school board? Those have proven effective in smaller communities, but the sad reality is that in almost all urban settings, these bodies have been captured by political interests and have not represented the interests of families and students effectively.

    So how about this: let's get some GREAT teachers who become great principals, and then make THEM into superintendents. Build a support structure from the ground up, only spending money on things that REALLY support kids and teachers. Do you like that idea? This is KIPP. This is Uncommon. This is Achievement First. Would you rather have John King in charge of your schools or Joel Klein?

    As for charter boards, yes, they generally have at least one parent representative and some community representatives, alongside people with high giving capacity. Why? Because schools are community institutions, and there are more people in the community than just the parents at a given school. And because yes, the reality is that current funding is too low, and I'm happy for hedgefunders to redistribute some of their wealth in support of public schools. And can you blame them for not wanting to put this money into the traditional school system? From the inside, I have been amazed at the capacity of urban districts to waste money. Direct to schools? Since principals have so little budget control, they tend not to be great at managing finances, since this isn't really their job. Yes, this balance is out of whack at many charter schools, and that is something the charter sector desperately needs to change. But if we are ever to wrestle control of our schools away from mayoral control, we need to find a form of local governance that actually works in big cities. THIS is where the most important innovation is happening in charter schools (not generally in the classrooms), and there are important lessons to be learned.

    But if we dismiss charter schools entirely on the basis of corporate conspiracy theories and spurious arguments (you have a lot of good teachers, but they're young and white, so the learning they inspire matters less), those lessons don't get learned and we take a step backwards, away from local control. I'm equally hard on charters- see horacemanifesto dot tumblr dot com. But let's PLEASE stop villifying on both sides and start focusing on what really works.

    1. Tony
      I want to make it clear. I view charters as an alien force being used to break and privatize the neighborhood schools. If you put your efforts into reforming the current public school system we would be ahead of the game.
      This is a good dialogue but I do wonder exactly where you are coming from. You name KIPP etc as models. I do not accept an org that has so many kids leave as legit. Their numbers are bogus.
      And their methods of controlling kids are awful.
      I taught many difficult kids and gave them as much freedom as was feasible in what was often a difficult situation.
      You really should read Gary Rubinstein's blog on KIPP bogus numbers -- your success rate rises as you get rid of low scoring kids -- and the 60% girls -- see my blogroll for link to Gary.
      I taught in Brooklyn for 35 years and at one school for 27 so I talked to parents all the time.
      I have been an ed activist since 1970 and was deeply involved in the old school board stuff -our group supported the efforts of community people of color to break the white political control of our board -- and things were stacked against them due to politics. We could have changed those dynamics if we gave more local control to real patents not politicians. That is what you should be fighting for.
      I don't have time right now to get into the details but i consider Joel Klein and John King no different from each other.


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