A close-up look at NYC education policy, politics,and the people who have been, are now, or will be affected by these actions and programs. ATR CONNECT assists individuals who suddenly find themselves in the ATR ("Absent Teacher Reserve") pool and are the "new" rubber roomers, people who have been re-assigned from their life and career. A "Rubber Room" is not a place, but a process.
Of course the NY Daily News does not want to speak with anyone who was actually at PS 6 when she was Principal, like my daughter and me, or people who were victimized by her when she became Superintendent of "Region 8" or District 15 in Brooklyn, where she lives, or victims of her revenge and retaliation when she was Deputy Chancellor. Oops - Mr. Brown, the reporter of the latest NY Daily News misinformation posted below, did call me, but I guess I scared him with all the information and facts that occurred over the past 17 years since I first met Carmen and her husband Tony at PS 6.
My opinion is that Bill De Blasio made a huge error in appointing Carmen Farina as Chancellor, and I stand on my past writing about her as I write this:
Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña talks plans to fix city's most troubled classrooms
When Chancellor Carmen Fariña was chosen about six months ago to lead the nation’s largest school system, she vowed to take a more aggressive approach to overhauling the city’s most troubled classrooms. In an exclusive interview with the Daily News, she unveiled some details of the plan.
It's simple mathematics: Subtract bad teachers, add incentives to keep the good ones and that equals better student performance in troubled schools.
When Chancellor Carmen Fariña was chosen about six months ago to lead the nation’s largest school system, she vowed to take a more aggressive approach to overhauling the city’s most troubled classrooms.
In an exclusive interview with the Daily News, she unveiled some details of the plan.
“We have put together a team which we will be announcing soon,” Fariña said. “Certainly some of the things we’re looking for is, which of the schools might need new leadership, which of the schools might need a new infusion of teachers. So this is part of the radar.”
Fariña said the city’s efforts to target and address troubled schools are driven by her desire to create a more equitable system, withoptionsfor high-quality schools available to every New York family.
The problem of inequality in the city schools has long endured, despite efforts of educators and politicians. Studies have shown that schools in needier areas are more likely to have poorly rated teachers and classrooms with fewer amenities.
Black and Hispanic students face a significant achievement gap in graduation rates and math and reading proficiency, with similar challenges faced by English-language learners. Data released last week showed about 87% of white students graduated — compared to about 60% of Black and Hispanic students.
Farina said a new deal worked out between the city and the teachers union will usebonuspay to attract better teachers to troubled schools. She says the extra pay for high-peforming teachers will encourage them to stay in the system longer.
Teachers union president Michael Mulgrew, who is believed to have taken a leading role in contract negotiations, said that Fariña’s approach will lead to better teachers in city classrooms.
“Carmen, more than anyone else, believes that the majority of the focus should be on helping develop teachers and figure out which ones will be successful and hold them here,” Mulgrew said.
Fariña, who in the 1990s transformed the teaching staff at Public School 6 as principal of the once-troubled upper East Side school, said that getting rid of bad teachers is also part of her plan.
“We have to get away from a quota system of how many teachers can be rated in any one category, but we still have to hold principals accountable for making sure that the ones that are not effective are not there,” Fariña said.
Fariña said she intends to offer lessons to city principals on how to create a paper trail on poor-performing teachers andremovefrom the system those who can’t make the grade.
“We used to have courses on how to write a letter forfilethat was going to pass muster with the lawyers. so we have to go back to some degree, to do that training,” Fariña said. “It’s not as unwieldy as it would appear to an outsider.”
My question is, when the author wrote the posting, the statement that "The appointment of Carmen Farina, a forty-year veteran who worked her way up the ladder from teacher to deputy chancellor for teaching and learning was greeted with joy."
is extremely misleading. Carmen's re-emergence from retirement was not met with joy by anyone other than those who know that they can get favored positions easily, and have had such luck previously.
And then you profess surprise that Carmen returns to the reading war.
For the last four years of the Bloomberg administration teachers, principals and parents disliked and frequently despised the educational bureaucracy; for two decades none of the chancellors had been teachers or school leaders, initiative after initiative seemed to be punitive and ill-conceived.
Board headquarters, Tweed, became a “dirty word;” the deputy chancellors were inexperienced, and the teacher union and advocacy organizations were at war with Gracie Mansion.
The appointment of Carmen Farina, a forty-year veteran who worked her way up the ladder from teacher to deputy chancellor for teaching and learning was greeted with joy. The negotiation of a new collective bargaining agreement after five years without a contract, new promotion requirements that gave principal judgment more credence, and visit after visit to schools and meetings with teachers, it seemed to be a new day
It is surprising, and does not auger well, that the chancellor intends to resuscitate her favorite reading program, the Lucy Calkins Teacher College Reading and Writing Project.
To the extent possible educational decisions should be made at schools by principals and teams of teachers, the role of the superintendent and network leader should be to guide and support decisions made at schools.
Decisions made in Washington or Albany are looked upon with suspicion, and, usually fade away. Chancellor Farina and Calkins are close friends, its “uncomfortable” when a friendship drives education policy rather than research-based programs.
In an April articleChalkbeatreports Calkins’ antipathy to the Common Core is evident,
[Calkins] … described a model lesson by Common Core advocate David Coleman where high school students are asked to pore over the three-paragraph Gettysburg Address for several days, parsing the meaning of the individual words and phrases in the speech … “To me, it basically represents horrible teaching,” Calkins said
In a letter to Farina Calkins wrote, “Please, Carmen, protect the Common Core from the documents surrounding it that are people’s interpretations of it.”
But some critics say that parts of Calkins’ approach and the Common Core are incompatible. The prospect that Fariña’s ascension could expand Calkin’s influence over the school system has already unsettled some of them, including New York University education professor Susan Neuman. “I think that’s scary,” Neuman said, “and devastating.”
While you philosophically may support or oppose the Common Core, it does drive state tests and regents examinations.
A few days ago Chancellor Farina announced her intent to increase the number of schools utilizing Calkin’s methodology. The New York Timeswrites,
… balanced literacy is poised to make a comeback in New York City classrooms. The new schools chancellor, Carmen Fariña, wants more schools to adopt aspects of balanced literacy, including its emphasis on allowing students to choose many of the books they read.
The city’s Education Department turned away from balanced literacy several years ago amid concerns that it was unstructured and ineffective, particularly for low-income children. And Ms. Fariña is facing sharp resistance from some education experts, who argue that balanced literacy is incompatible with the biggest shift in education today: the Common Core academic standards.
But after several years of experimentation, the department moved away from balanced literacy. School officials grew concerned that students lacked the knowledge and vocabulary to understand books about history and science. In 2012, a study found schools that used balanced literacy lagged behind schools that used a differing approach known as Core Knowledge.
When the city released a list of curriculums it recommended under the Common Core standards last year, it omitted balanced literacy, amid worries that it was not sufficiently comprehensive to be labeled a curriculum.
While there are loyal adherents to the Calkins’ approach, the Columbia Teachers College Teaching and Writing Project, with the retirement of Farina the city abandoned the approach and the state did not include the program in the approved Common Core curriculum, Sol Stern writes,
[Farina] became the DOE’s enforcer, making sure that all teachers in the elementary schools toed the line and implemented Calkins’ constructivist methods for teaching reading and writing. Teachers received a list of “nonnegotiable” guidelines for arranging their classrooms, including such minute details as the requirement that there must be a rug on the floor for students to sit on in the early grades and that nothing but student work be posted on the walls.
Balanced literacy has no track record of raising the academic performance of poor minority children. No independent research study has ever evaluated its methodology.
On one hand we have a new chancellor who is a firm supporter of collaboration, who is advocating sharing successful practices among schools, a chancellor of a school system that just negotiated a collective bargaining agreement that is encouraging schools to go beyond perceived limitations of the contract and department regulations, to experiment and create and innovate, and, a chancellor who wants to reclaim a widely discredited reading program.
Unfortunately it appears that the chancellor is repeating mistakes that are all too commonplace, assuming that a program that we “liked,” or seemed to work for the kids we taught, or is in vogue, should be the approach used for all kids. Principal Farina led PS 6, an elementary school on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, an atypical school with a high achieving student body. The vast majority of students in New York City are children of color with parents who struggle in a city of inequality. Decisions as to which program to adopt must be based on sound research, not the whims of school and school district leaders.
School districts jumped on the technology bandwagon. The key to bridging the achievement gap was technology, if we flooded schools with the latest technology; if we taught kids how to use technology as a learning tool we level the playing field. Unfortunatelythe unintended consequence was to widen the achievement gap,
… the introduction of computers might “level the playing field” for the neighborhoods’ young people, children of “concentrated affluence” and “concentrated poverty.” They undertook their observations in a hopeful frame of mind: “Given the wizardry of these machines and their ability to support children’s self-teaching,” they wondered, “might we begin to see a closing of the opportunity gap?”
“The very tool designed to level the playing field is, in fact, un-leveling it,” … With the spread of educational technology, they predicted, “the not-so-small disparities in skills for children of affluence and children of poverty are about to get even larger.”
While technology has often been hailed as the great equalizer of educational opportunity, a growing body of evidence indicates that in many cases, tech is actually having the opposite effect: It is increasing the gap between rich and poor, between whites and minorities, and between the school-ready and the less-prepared.
Mathematics instruction is another arena where there is a sharp divide between the advocates of direct instruction and advocates of a more child-centered, discovery approach, not dissimilar to the Calkins approach,
A recent studysupports a direct instruction methodology, especially for struggling learners in first grade classrooms,
Pennsylvania State University researchers Paul L. Morgan and Steve Maczuga and George Farkas of the University of California, Irvine analyzed the use of different types of instruction by 1st grade mathematics teachers, including teacher-directed instruction, such as explicit explanations and practice drills; student-centered, such as small-group projects and open problem-solving; and strategies intended to ground math in real life, such as manipulative toys, calculators, music, and movement activities.
“In general education there’s been more focus on approaches that are student-centered: peers and small groups, cooperative learning activities. What can happen with that for kids with learning difficulties is there are barriers that can interfere with their ability to take advantage of those learning activities. Children with learning disabilities tend to benefit from instruction that is explicit and teacher directed, guided and modeled and also has lots of opportunities for practice.”
Moreover, neither struggling nor regularly achieving math students improved when using manipulatives, calculators, music, or movement strategies; these activities actually decreased student learning in some cases. Ironically, a regression analysis of the classes found teachers became more likely to use these strategies in classes with higher concentrations of students with math difficulties.
Unfortunately too many educators, in colleges and in schools are wedded to a philosophy rather than exploring well-researched, peer vetted methodologies.
Scattered around the city we find successful and ineffective schools, sometimes within blocks of each other and sometimes in the same building. The chancellor intends to “pair” effective and struggling schools hoping the struggling schools can “learn” from the successful schools.
The rage in the nineties was school-based budgeting: I traveled to Edmonton, Alberta, the school district that was the model, sort of the Finland of its day. When I returned I was asked, “Will it work here?” My answer was, “If you bring back the Canadians.” Edmonton was a different culture, highly competent principals working closely with their staffs in schools that had wide discretion over instructional approaches. The supervisors and teachers were in the same union, the district office staff and principals frequently changed jobs, parents were heavily involved in schools, and, the district was generally middle class. Success of a school usually depends on school culture; not reading programs, the success of the school depends on the quality of the school leadership and the quality of the staff – the synergy of leadership plus staff results in excellence. Yes, in high quality, highly effective schools the analysis of instructional approaches, the input that goes into decisions, the process results in the product.
School district leadership should “support” a range of programs with proven records of success. For example Core Knowledge or Success for All or Reading Recovery all have track records, school district leadership should be prepared to support proven programs in schools, not advocate for one program over another. And, if a school is not successful take the lead in selecting programs that suit the needs of the students. Too many school leaders selected under the previous administration lack leadership skills, and, the new guys” will have to retrain or replace the ogres.
Unfortunately “pair-a-school” approach has no research legs. What works in school “A” may fail in school “B.” The chancellor should be asking: what are the qualities of the school leader and the staff? What in the culture of the school results in higher student achievement?
The window is open; we can turnaround the largest school district in the nation, for the chancellor it seems that old habits are hard to unlearn.
I was an invited guest at a school leadership meeting – I forget the issue but after a lengthy discussion the principal jumped in … “I totally disagree with the approach – but – the teachers and parents are clearly committed to it – show me I’m wrong – make it work.”
We need more principals like Jeff Latto.
UFT President Mike Mulgrew, NYC Mayor Bill De Blasio, Chancellor Carmen Farina
Eye on the News
Who Is Carmen Fariña?
Mayor De Blasio’s new schools chancellor is a longtime champion of failed progressive pedagogy.
In his press conference introducing Carmen Fariña as New York City’s next schools chancellor, Mayor Bill de Blasio suggested that he had picked her over several other candidates because she was on the same page with him in opposing Bloomberg-era education reforms. Most of the city’s education reporters took the new mayor’s spin and ran with it, even though Fariña had served loyally as Michael Bloomberg’s second-highest-ranking education official. Daily News columnist Juan Gonzalez predicted that Fariña would now bring “revolutionary” changes to the department of education that she left in 2006.
A headline in The Hechinger Report claimed that Fariña wanted DRAMATIC—EVEN JOYFUL—DEPARTURE FROM BLOOMBERG ERA. But that depends on what Bloomberg era you’re talking about: during the years that she served in the administration, Fariña was fully on board with its education policies.
In fact, considering Fariña’s pivotal role during the first Bloomberg term in shaping the Department of Education’s radical initiatives, portraying her as a dissident from within seems absurd. Mayor Bloomberg took control of the schools in June 2002, but he knew little about what actually went on in the city’s classrooms. He appointed Joel Klein, a corporate lawyer with no background in instructional issues, as his first schools chancellor. Bloomberg and Klein deferred virtually all decision-making on classroom instruction and curriculum to a cadre of veteran progressive educators led by Diana Lam, Klein’s first deputy chancellor for teaching and learning. Lam and Fariña convinced Klein to introduce the constructivist “balanced-literacy” reading and writing program, developed by Lucy Calkins of Columbia Teachers College, along with a fuzzy constructivist-math program called Everyday Math, into just about every elementary school classroom in the city. (Klein would eventually realize that adopting balanced literacy was a serious mistake.)
In an early 2003 speech presenting his administration’s new education reforms, Mayor Bloomberg declared that the “experience of other urban school districts shows that a standardized approach to reading, writing, and math is the best way to raise student performance across the board in all subjects,” and therefore that “the chancellor’s office will dictate the curriculum.” And so it did. Lam soon became embroiled in a nepotism scandal and had to resign. Fariña then took over as deputy chancellor for instruction. She became the DOE’s enforcer, making sure that all teachers in the elementary schools toed the line and implemented Calkins’s constructivist methods for teaching reading and writing. Teachers received a list of “nonnegotiable” guidelines for arranging their classrooms, including such minute details as the requirement that there must be a rug on the floor for students to sit on in the early grades and that nothing but student work be posted on the walls.
Balanced literacy has no track record of raising the academic performance of poor minority children. No independent research study has ever evaluated its methodology. Nevertheless, it was popular in education schools because it promulgated two of progressive education’s key commandments: that teachers must abandon deadening “drill and kill” methods and that students are capable of “constructing their own knowledge.” Progressives such as Calkins evoked ideal classrooms, where young children naturally find their way to literacy without enduring boring, scripted phonics drills forced on them by automaton teachers. Instead, in a balanced-literacy classroom, students work in small groups and follow what Calkins calls the “workshop model” of cooperative learning. The program takes for granted that children can learn to read and write naturally, with minimal guidance. Calkins rejects E.D. Hirsch’s finding (based on an overwhelming consensus in cognitive-science research) that the key to improving children’s reading comprehension is grounding them in broad knowledge, which she and other progressives dismiss as “mere facts.” Calkins also believes that her model classrooms promote “social justice” for all. In an interview I conducted with her at the time the DOE selected her program, she told me that “It’s a great move to social justice to bring [balanced literacy] to every school in the city.”
That’s what Fariña tried to accomplish in the early years of the Bloomberg administration—including the social-justice part. She was instrumental in creating the most centralized, top-down instructional system in the recent history of American public education. Agents of the deputy chancellor (euphemistically called “coaches”) fanned out to almost all city elementary schools to make sure that every teacher was marching in lockstep with the department of education’s new pedagogical approach. Under the rubric of “professional development,” DOE central headquarters launched an aggressive campaign to force teachers to teach literacy and math only one way—the progressive way. Each of the city’s 80,000 teachers got a six-hour CD-ROM laying out the philosophy behind the new standardized curriculum and pedagogy. The CD portrayed the world of progressive education writ large, with all its romantic assumptions about how children learn. In addition to inculcating Calkins’s balanced literacy, the DOE’s training manual celebrated the theories of an obscure Australian education guru—Brian Cambourne of Wollongong University in New South Wales, a leader of the whole-language movement (a cousin of balanced literacy) then dominating Australian public schools. Cambourne’s ideas gave city teachers not only more balanced literacy (or whole language) theory, but also a warrant for social-justice teaching.
Cambourne claims that as a young teacher, he discovered that many of his poorly performing students were actually quite bright. To his surprise, almost all demonstrated extraordinary competence in performing challenging tasks. The son of the local bookie, for example, “couldn’t learn basic math,” according to Cambourne, “but could calculate the probability the Queen of Spades was in the deck faster than I could.” Cambourne decided that children learn better in natural settings, with a minimum of adult help—a staple of progressive-education thought. Thus the role of the educator should be to create classroom environments that stimulate children but also closely resemble the way adults work and learn. Children should no longer sit in rows facing the teacher; instead, the room should be arranged with work areas where children can construct their own knowledge, much as in Calkins’s workshop model of balanced literacy.
Such constructivist assumptions about how to teach literacy were enforced with draconian discipline in city schools for several years. Progressives like Calkins, Cambourne, and Fariña don’t insist that more learning occurs when children work in groups and in “natural” settings because they’ve followed any evidence. To the contrary, as much as it tells us anything on this issue, science makes clear that, particularly for disadvantaged children, direct, explicit instruction works best. But under Fariña, reeducation sessions for teachers were meant to overcome dissenting opinion and drive home the progressive party line. To quote the directives to teachers included on the CD: “Your students must not be sitting in rows. You must not stand at the head of the class. You must not do ‘chalk and talk’ at the blackboard. You must have a ‘workshop’ in every single reading period. Your students must be ‘active learners,’ and they must work in groups.”
As I reported at the time, some brave teachers objected. At Junior High School 44 in Manhattan, a teacher tried to point out to his supervisor, quite reasonably, that some teachers feel more comfortable with and get better results through direct instruction and other traditional methods. The school’s literacy coach, sent by the DOE, then responded: “This is the way it is. Everyone will do it this way, or you can change schools.”
Calkins was grateful for Carmen Fariña’s efforts in advancing her instructional agenda, her career, and her organization’s bottom line. (Calkins’s Readers and Writers Program at Teachers College received over $10 million in no-bid contracts from the city.) Calkins expressed her appreciation in a foreword she penned for Fariña’s book, A School Leader’s Guide to Excellence, coauthored with Laura Koch, Fariña’s closest associate and collaborator at the DOE. “When Carmen and Laura took the helm of New York City’s school system, teachers, staff developers, and principals across the entire city let out a collective cheer of enthusiasm,” Calkins writes. She conjures a glorious history: “Within a week [of Fariña’s promotion to deputy chancellor for instruction] our education system began to change. Educators at every level could feel possibility in the air; the excitement was palpable.” And because of Fariña’s magic, “sound practices in the teaching of reading and writing became the talk of the town—the subject of study groups and hallway conversations in every school . . . The entire city began working together afresh to meet the challenge of improving education for all children.”
In reality, though, the balanced-literacy advocates failed in this task. The city’s eighth-grade reading scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) tests barely budged over 12 years, despite a doubling of education spending—from $12 billion to $24 billion. There was no narrowing of the racial achievement gap. (In sounding his tale of two cities theme, Mayor de Blasio makes no accounting for the failure of progressive education programs to reduce the academic achievement gap between poor and middle-class children.)
Recognizing balanced literacy’s meager results, Chancellor Klein reverted to a system of more autonomous schools, giving principals far more discretion over instructional matters. Klein apparently came to believe that he had been misled by Fariña and Calkins. The chancellor then became a supporter of Hirsch’s Core Knowledge curriculum, with its focus on direct instruction and the teaching of broad content knowledge. He set up a three-year pilot program, matching ten elementary schools using the Hirsch early-grade literacy curriculum against a demographically similar cohort of ten schools that used balanced literacy. The children in the Core Knowledge schools significantly outperformed those in the schools using the Calkins approach.
Still opposing the direct teaching of factual knowledge, Fariña recently shrugged off the pilot study, saying that not enough schools were involved. But if Fariña is serious about that criticism, she now has an opportunity to run a much larger evaluation of Core Knowledge. As a result of the city’s adoption of the Common Core State Standards and of aligned curricula emphasizing the “rich content knowledge” that the standards require, 71 elementary school principals have chosen to use Hirsch’s Core Knowledge literacy program in their schools.
Let Fariña visit and study those schools over the next year. If she really is committed to changing the tale of two cities, as she and the new mayor claim to be, one way to start would be to cast aside ideology and judge whether those Core Knowledge classrooms, drenched in “mere facts,” are actually the key to narrowing the devastating knowledge gap between middle-class kids and poor children, who begin school with little knowledge of the world and with a stunted vocabulary. She might also find that there is at least as much “joy” in classrooms in which children get taught explicitly about the world around them as there is in classrooms in which children “construct” their own knowledge.
The Supreme Court handed down its decision in Harris v. Quinn on Monday, saying partial public employees can't berequiredto contribute to unions.
According to SCOTUS blog, the 5-4 ruling is a "substantial obstacle to expanding public employee unions, but it does not gut them." SCOTUS blog also notes the case does not involve "full-fledge publicemployees," but rather says that union bargaining fees cannot be imposed on employees that are not full public employees.
Justice Samuel Alito wrote the opinion in the ruling.
On its surface, the casedealswith home care workers in Illinois who care for the disabled. The plaintiff, Pamela Harris, serves as the caretaker to her son Josh, who suffers from a rare genetic syndrome. The elder Harris receives Medicaid funds to do so and essentially functions as a state employee.
Many state-supported home care workers in Illinois are represented by the union SEIUHealthcareIllinois-Indiana. Under the contract between the union and the state, all home care workers covered under the contract are required to pay a fee to SEIU to cover the expenses associated with bargaining, whether or not they want to be union members.
This arrangement avoids what unions commonly refer to as freeloading -- that is, benefiting from the union's work without helping to underwrite it. Since unions have to represent all the employees in a particular bargaining unit, they commonly seekrequirementsin their contracts that all workers pay such "fair share" fees.
Below, more from the AP:
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court says public sector unions can't collect fees from homehealth careworkers who object to being affiliated with a union.
The justices on Monday said collecting the fees violates the First Amendment rights of workers who are not union members.
The ruling is a financial blow to labor unions that have bolstered their ranks in Illinois and other states by signing up hundreds of thousands of home health care workers.
The case was brought by a group of Illinois in-home care workers who said they didn't want to pay fees related to collective bargaining. They claimed the "fair share fees" violate their constitutional rights by compelling them to associate with the union.