Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Is New State Ed Commissioner Steiner Same Old, Same Old?

Progressive ed reformers would rather have seen Bill Cala become NYS Ed Commissioner. He actually taught in high schools and rose to superintendent of the Fairport schools and ran the Rochester school system for a while. Bill once said that anyone who doesn't understand that lower class sizes is a crucial element is stupid. Bill is also part of the test resistance movement. I guess having these credentials automatically disqualified him.

So, we have a state ed commissioner coming down from the ivory tower (see NY Times article). But isn't David Steiner a professional educator who ran teacher training programs (which have been so vilified by the Teach for America supporters and other ed deformers)? Well, though we certainly don't want lawyers like Joel Klein and Randi Weingarten making decisions real teachers should be making (ever guess why the UFT so easily accepted the waiver for Klein), the record of ivory tower types hasn't been much better. Note how unprepared to deal with the urban classroom so many classically trained educators have been.

Did Hunter College have a 29% grad rate and does it matter?

A comment on ICE mail by Bill made this point:
Dr. David Steiner is being hailed as a true reformer who is in favor of merit pay for teachers, but according to college data records, Hunter College students have a graduation rate of only 29% after 5 years. This is an abysmal record when compared to the NYC public school graduation rate of over 50%. I think Mr. Steiner should be advocating merit pay for college professors instead of public school teachers.

Interesting point Bill. How about merit pay for doctors whose patients don't die? Or for lawyers whose clients don't go end up on death row?

JW responded:

Yes, but the 29% grad rates at Hunter are probably somewhat more nearer the truth than the 50% in the schools. I guess that's a plus.

Sean responded:
All those who have been wringing their hands for a 'professional educator' can breath a sigh of relief now. Finally at last, someone with an graduate degree in education as straw boss, yeah, that's real progress.

Talking points from the Diane Ravitch fan club and the UFT may be forthcoming soon tentatively endorsing this reliance on the 'professionals' to get the job done. I wonder what the PSC has to say about Steiner? (Psst - College teachers really are smart - they already voted Unity caucus out a few years ago)

Let me take a wild guess, Steiner receives a thumbs up from Bloomberg and Weingarten and everything is in place to collaborate with Arne Duncan. If Bloomberg/Mulgrew win their respective races and this mayoral control deal is sealed, the corporate ed deformers and entrepreneurs will have all their ducks lined up in a row, neo liberal local, state and national elected officials, and institutional heads, marching in lock step with the Unity caucus officials bringing up the rear, riding shotgun in the caboose. It's a love fest amongst the elite! Satyricon USA!

The upcoming UFT and mayoral elections are an opportunities to build the grassroots resistance movement I urge everyone to participate in them in some way.

I agree with Sean – except for that Ravitch dig - yes I am in the Ravitch fan club.

I don't know about the comparison of grad rates, but Steiner is already questioning the teacher certification process, which he says has a 90% success rate and therefore should be suspect.
“It seems to me that a gateway certification test that has that high a pass rate should give us pause,” he said.

Yes, what we need is something like the Bar Exam where the pass rate has sunk from 70% to 65% over the past 15 years. Hey, I have an idea. Why not have teachers just take the Bar Exam. It will tell us as much about how they will really do as teachers as the current teacher test. Another sign Steiner doesn't have a clue? Well, he does say “It’s just a test that probably doesn’t put the bar high enough, but whether it’s even the right bar is something that we have to look at.”

Maybe Steiner does get it. Mentions the word "bar" twice in one sentence. See. He agrees with me about the bar. Actually, the right bar is one I know on 14th Street.

Well, Steiner sounds a hell of a lot like Jack Welch. In replacing one of the worst state ed commissioners in the nation – Richard (Dickie boy) Mills who turned the NY State Ed Dept. into a political shill – we may just be seeing someone with the potential to be worse.

Hunter College is one of the largest training grounds for NYC teachers, with 2/3 of its graduates (let's see, 2/3 of 29% is---you do the math).

What exactly has Steiner done to merit this post? The Times says
Since becoming the dean of Hunter’s education school, Dr. Steiner has developed a comprehensive system of filming student teachers to evaluate their mastery of skills.

Ahhh. Filming your lessons. Brilliant. I was involved in a program that videotaped lessons and analyzed the results for effective questioning techniques – in 1970. What goes around comes around.

Steiner said: “Nothing makes more of a difference for a child than the quality of the teacher that is in front of her or him."

Here we go again.

One of those "teacher quality" freaks. Guess he never heard of the impact on teacher quality of smaller class size (a great quote on this from a comment on a Pondiscio post in the sidebar – Even ineffective teachers are more effective when class sizes are smaller…and sure, it would be better to get rid of the ineffective teachers, but I don’t see that happening).

Until the powers that be at least recognize this point even if they say we can't pay for it (see one Bears Sterns bailout and ask why not), then we will remain on the hamster wheel of ed deform.

Now look at this "innovation"
Several New York City charter schools and some teachers at public schools run by the city’s Education Department have been participating in an experimental program at Hunter that places would-be teachers in classrooms right away and grants certification based, in part, on whether students improve on tests.

Based in part on student improvement on tests?
What part? Bet it's more than any other factor. There certainly is no opportunity to even use whatever bogus value added stuff is around. Call it the luck of the draw as to which kids you get.

When one reporter asked him if he had spent time teaching in a high school or elementary classroom, Dr. Steiner, who had not, said:

“I have had the pleasure of teaching about 2,000 students in the last quarter of a century,” he said of his time in universities. “Of course I have spent a lot of time in schools and I look forward to doing ever more of that.

Not someone who walked a mile in our shoes.


Ivory tower.

In spades.

We're doomed.

Doomed to more testing and more judging of teachers based on the wrong criteria.

Take a look at the list of characters posted at Gotham Schools that love the Steiner appointment and you'll get the idea.


Anonymous said...

Sense of humor is important in the teaching profession, may be this is-the reason for the appointment of this clown! Never taught in the classroom, this is the era of virtual reality, this is the remedy for education today.

Anonymous said...

If he never taught in a classroom, how could he teach teachers to teach or even supervise those professors who do? Shame on Hunter for having him as Dean of Education> Shame on NY State and on those supporting another ivory tower "leader." It dissapoints me that my alma mata, which has been reknowned for educating educators is right in the game of putting phonies in power!

Anonymous said...

that is disappoints...sorry I am typing with one hand these days and I make typos sometimes.

Anonymous said...

Wow - way to give a guy a chance! 'Cause the system is working so well right now & teacher quality is such an oppressive concept!