Three strikes and you're out or third time's a charm

Brenda Wilkerson, Director of CS and IT education for Chicago public schools was one of the keynote speakers at this year's CSTA conference. During her talk, she made a comment about it taking three times through to get it right so if you're working hard and struggling in your first year of teaching CS, it's not the time to give up. Learning to teach takes time.

She's absolutely correct. I saw this in myself and I've seen this in many other young teachers. First year through, your job is to survive. This is when you rely on colleagues lesson plans, it you can you shadow another teacher and in general do your best to give what you can to your students while making it through the semester.

Then, I often see something interesting. Year two is frequently a step back. It was for me and I've seen this in many young teachers in many subject areas. I'm guessing this happens because we feel we have a year under our belt and then we overreach while trying to be innovative and more effective.

In year three things start to improve again and then, if the teacher continues to work at their craft, there's steady progress for years to come. At the point, the teachers seem to better understand how to experiment and grow as a teacher in a safer way while also understanding that it's OK to have a bad day or even a bad unit - there's usually time to recover.

It's also interesting that while this progression is most obvious in new teachers it also seems to take place with experienced teachers teaching new courses.

All this means that teaching CS or any new subject takes time, effort, and patience. It means young teachers shouldn't beat themselves up and that supervisors need to be supportive and give the time and resources to allow teachers to succeed.

It also means that schools with high teacher churn - notably charter chains create environments that are anything but conducive to allowing society to build a cadre of expert teachers. It works for these charter chains because they're exploiting the fact that they require a small number of teachers as compared to large urban public schools so can burn through teachers like gasoline and the fact that they're judged only by standardized tests. The model is not sustainable if privatizers get their wish and charters become the national norm.

Finally, it's another reason for people to wise up to "leadership" programs like Teach for America where candidates come in for a couple years before moving on to "better" opportunities.

So, if the third time's a charm, how about the flip side? After how long a period of time should we expect CS teachers to really know their subject area? I'd say three years is also probably right. Year one, the teacher is just surviving but after that, I'd expect a teacher to want to master their subject. When I taught math early on in my career, I felt overmatched. Particularly at Stuyvesant. I was a CS major, not a math major. What did I do? I sat in on colleagues classes and did self study over the summer. Of course by the time I got up to speed, at least to my standards, I was teaching compute science.

So, if you're a new CS teacher, why not take CS101 and data structures over the summer instead of doing another scripted PD? Between local and community colleges, at least in urban areas, this shouldn't be a problem.

So, is third time a charm? Three strikes and you're out? A bit of both?

We have to give our new CS teachers the time and support to learn to teach and to learn the subject area but at the same time, I think it's reasonable to require that they do so given the resources.

CS Ed advocates should pay attention to greater ed issues

For anyone involved in K12 CS education, the past few years have been a wild ride. When I first tried to make inroads in the DOE decades ago I couldn't get through the door. Now, CS Education is everyone's darling. It's really amazing. It's been a combination of grass roots efforts by teachers, non profit education efforts such as TEALS, advocacy of groups like Code.org and amazing individuals like Fred Wilson who has probably done more to move the needle of CS Ed in NY than any other 10 people combined.

While everyone agrees that to do CS education right at the K12 level we need great teachers and lots of them, everyone also knows that teachers voices are often unheard. The voices with the greatest weight belong to the large non-profits, principals, superintendents and local politicians.

Today's post is a plea to those with voices to think about the effects of their advocacy for CS Ed to the greater education landscape.

I started thinking about this recently as I've been developing the CS teacher certification programs for Hunter College. As I spoke to people across the nation I found that many of the efforts to developing teacher certification are what I call the "you take it you teach it" model. You take an abbreviated version of APCS-A and APCS-P and you're a certified CS teacher. Just about every real educator feels that this is ludicrous. Some feel that this can be a first step - get these credentials to get in the door and then you have three to five years to really learn your subject and craft. I'm good with that but I have a problem with anyone who says "you take it you teach it" is good enough and I've heard of a number of regions that are seriously considering it.

Why is this so bad and, I'd argue, dangerous? Not merely because we'll end up with substandard CS teachers for the foreseeable future but also because it undermines the teaching profession as a whole.

It's no secret that public education is under attack. A number of states including Wisconsin, Arizona, Oklahoma, New York and Michigan have considered relaxing the standards to become a teacher to address a teacher shortage. In their twisted logic, the politicians and "reformers" say that we can't find enough qualified teachers because we've made it an untenable career so let's lower standards. You can argue that any current state's requirements are overly cumbersome but that's another conversation.

When CS Educators say that all that's needed to teach CS is to sit in on a two week APCS institute is saying that to teach any subject you don't need content expertise. This is dangerous to education as a whole and when power players in the CS Ed movement don't speak up otherwise or even worse that the stance that "you take it you teach it" is OK, we're undermining teaching as a profession.

We need our heavy hitters to publicly and privately say that we need a short term entry into the profession but we absolutely need plans and pathways so that at the end of the day we have the best prepared teachers in our schools for CS and for all subjects.

Another issue is when as CS Educators we don't pay attention to the whole child. I was at a meeting of CSTA people from about thirty states a few years ago. Someone asked "how can we advocate for CS when the school might use it as an excuse to get rid of music?" Cameron Wilson, at the time a lobbyist for the ACM said something to the effect of "I'm not concerned with other subjects, my concern is getting CS into the schools." I get it, he was employed to stump CS but we have to remember that we're only a piece of the puzzle. We want a seat at the table but we have to make sure that the table is populated with everyone needed to provide a great education for our kids.

A final issue I'll mention here is how so many CS educators are so close to the College Board. It was very disturbing that so many CS Ed players were pushing for more students to take the APCS exam. Not the class, not some other CS class but the APCS exam. AP is an extremely controversial subject among teachers and many of us feel that too many kids take too many AP classes and certainly too many exams. Remember, the College Board is the organization that pushes things like the PSAT8/9 another meaningless but high stakes exam inflicted upon our kids at taxpayer expense. I understand that AP makes things easy - they have courses, curricula, etc. but we've given the college board an outsized influence on CS education and we're not paying attention to their outsized influence on education in general.

I'm just a small time teacher. I don't have a national voice. I'm urging those that do:

  • Look into what's going on in greater education. Look at the way public education has been under attack and why.
  • Look at the side affects of our choices - who we partner with and what policies we push.

We might not agree on the right path but everyone with a voice in CS Education should be having hard conversations about this and then strongly advocating for the positions they feel correct.

Observing CS Teachers

Another set of tweets god me thinking:

I get the intent. CS teachers should be evaluated by people who have some clue about the subject. Leigh Ann's reporting that some people are working on checklists got me wondering if it really matters? Sure, it matters if teacher observations were actually set up to improve instruction but given what we have in NY does it really?

In New York City, teacher observations are a major part of a teacher's annual rating and the other part is still that standardized test nonsense. Teachers are observed at least 4 and commonly 6 times or more per year. There might be pre and post observation conferences.

Sounds good but the system is amazingly flawed.

To start, the DOE uses the Danielson Framework which provides a basis for teacher evaluation. The framework is at best flawed with even Danielson coming out to say it's being misused. Of course I'm sure she protested all the way to the bank. A teacher can be a "Danielson style" teacher and be great but a teacher can also check all the Danielson boxes and be mediocre at best. Likewise, some of the best teachers I know break the Danielson mold and if a supervisor rigidly adheres to the framework these great teachers would be found ineffective.

To make matters worse, the rubric is so large that the DOE just focuses on small parts which means even if the framework was comprehensive and correct, teachers are only evaluated on a small part.

When a supervisor evaluates a teacher, they have a checklist with the rubric where they can rate a teacher 1 (ineffective), 2 (developing), 3 (effective), and 4 (highly effective) and write down some notes.

I guess the hope was to have some consistency but the truth is the process is very subjective. I know a supervisor who gave a teacher a ratings of 2 (which is basically failing) for the professional development category even though the teacher fulfilled all contractual obligations and then some. There are also supervisors who won't give a rating of 4 out of principle. On the other side, I've met supervisors loathe to give low scores.

The tweets at the top of this post refer to the current situation where CS teachers are never observed and evaluated by supervisors who are knowledgeable about CS. Even if someone designs a checklist - something I'm skeptical about given the fact that there are so few people strong in CS, experienced as teachers and with an eye for teacher evaluation out there, if the application of the Danielson framework is any indication, a CS checklist won't help.

Besides, CS won't be any different from any other subject. Since the destruction of the comprehensive neighborhood high school we've had a proliferation of small schools. Some people think that small schools are universally better. They're wrong. You need a mix. One of the problems with small schools is that you don't have subject area supervisors. You have a principal and an assistant principal. The result is that most teachers are evaluated by supervisors with no subject area expertise and no subject area pedagogical expertise.

The old system, even though it was also subject to abuses was much better - at least in the hands of a good supervisor. The observation system is inherently flawed. Observations are snapshots out of context and the mere presence of an observer changes the tone of the room. That said, if a supervisor knows the heartbeat of their school and has ongoing conversations with their staff, they can both ensure teachers are doing an honest job and also help them to improve.

The method of observation also doesn't have to be complicated. My first supervisor made it very simple. He said he looked for one basic thing - "was learning going on?" The conversation would then go from there.

Sometimes you have to look beyond the lesson. In my first year, I frequently observed a friend's history class. One day the class seemed to do very little. It seemed like all talk and play. I talked to the teacher about this. He said "that was what they needed today." He was a master and he was right. You might drop in on his class to see amazing instruction or you might come in and wonder why he wasn't fired long ago but at the end of the year when you looked at how much his kid learned and loved his class you realized that he was an amazing teacher. No rubric or framework needed. Just the eyeball test.

They also used to have more peer observations.They had to be coordinated by the department supervisor and he or she had to be in the loop but the peer observation model helped cross pollinate ideas in a department, build camaraderie and it also eased the workload of the supervisor.

To answer Alfred's question from his tweet, how do we help administrators help CS teachers? Get other teachers involved, keep an open mind and look at the big picture.

A friendly reminder to use the right language when describing CS

I was part of this conversation the other day:

I always use that line to emphasize that I teach CS - a way of thinking and problem solving and looking at the world. The languages we use in our classes are tools to help us communicate ideas not the ends but rather a means.

I've spent the past couple of days at the CSTA conference. It's been a lot of fun. I've been spending the time with old friends and meeting new ones and as everyone who knows me knows - I love talking shop.

I overheard a conversation today. One CS teacher describing what they did to a few others. I overheard:

We teach Scratch then Swift and C++ and also teach Python

I heard statements like this describing programs more than a couple of times. I know we're at a conference of CS Educators but even in this community we have everything from beginners getting their feet wet to hardcore computer scientists to everything in between.

We shouldn't be teaching languages as an ends unto themselves and the majority of us don't.

What many of us do, though, is take the easy path and use the name of a programming language to describe what we do rather than really define what we do. This is why we hear "I teach Java" or "I teach a class in Swift" even when the teacher teaching Java might really be teaching Object Oriented program design and development or data structures or something similar just using Java as the language or tool.

I too fall into this trap but I try to catch myself. I try not to say "I teach Scheme" but rather I'll say "I teach Scheme. Actually, we're studying functional programming using Scheme as the language but for convenience, I'll just say Scheme for the rest of this talk…."

The words we use to describe our field set the tone. If we're sloppy and say "we teach Java," it's just like biology teacher saying "I teach microscope."

As we try to define our field in the K12 space and seek equal footing with established subject areas it's important that we use the right language so that other educators and policy makers don't get the wrong idea.

Self Certification - not a good idea

You've probably seen an image like this:

self-signed.png

It's what you see when you try to access a secure web site but the web site itself certified itself as being secure.

When people see this on a professional site it sets off all manner of red flags. We feel much more comfortable when go to a site and we don't see that error. When we see the secure green lock in the url bar indicating that this site is certified through an external trusted source.

Let's take this a step further. If you needed surgery would you go to a board certified surgeon or would you go to Dr. Nick Riviera or some other "self certified" doctor? Likewise you wouldn't want to be represented in court by someone who hasn't passed the bar.

We might not feel that these certification and licensing processes are perfect but when we need the services of a doctor or lawyer, we're happy these gatekeepers exist.

So we should all be extremely concerned with today's announcement that the deal for mayoral control just brokered in NYC came with strings attached and one of those strings looks to open the doors to give some charter chains the ability to self certify their teachers.

Here's a story on it in Politico and one in Chalkbeat.

One might think that some requirements to become a teacher are ridiculous. I'll get to them later but this is really giving the fox the keys to the henhouse.

Charters appear to have extremely high rates of teacher attrition so it makes sense that they want to control their teacher pipeline. This alone should be a red flag against self certification but what else are charter chains known for?

  • Misleading stats - claiming amazing passing numbers on standardized exams while neglecting to mention that somehow or other big blocks of students were removed from the school prior to the test year (link).
  • The gotta go list
  • Forcing high levels of parent involvement (tough for single working parents)
  • Charging illegal fees.

Top this off with as taking resources from public schools.

Charters operate in anything but a transparent manner and we're expected to trust them to prepare "highly effective" teachers? I don't think so. Since there is no real accountability for charter schools - they can easily game the system through student attrition, selective admissions (by putting up barriers to enter the lottery) and test prep they can pay lip service to teacher preparation and the public will be none the wiser.

If we had a reasonable way of holding principals accountable and no, test scores are not the answer then we could pretty much do away with teacher certification. If principals were held to task to run an effective school, something we can easily define but not measure, then they would have every incentive to hire the best teachers. Unfortunately we're nowhere near that place.

Since we're not, we're left with the current systems of teacher certification that has it's own slew of problems. A big part of it, in my opinion is that schools of education have lost the high ground. While there are some institutions doing great work, reputation wise, schools of education are held in very low regard. Strong teachers trade stories of the watered down content classes and waste of time classes where professors share their pet theories of education. I can't tell you how many times I've heard the new definitive way to teach. At the same time, education research is frequently held in low regard by teachers and the general public.

On the one hand we have charters run by and support by non-educators wanting us to trust them and on the other we have institutions that are questioned by the teachers they produce and the general public.

What a mess.

I don't know the answer. I'm working on teacher certifications programs at Hunter and it's a balancing act. How much content is sufficient and how much is too much. Can any of the general content be streamlined or is it all necessary. If it isn't necessary do we need it anyway to satisfy the bean counters?

If you don't have enough then we're sending unprepared teachers into the classroom. Too much and we'll drive potential teachers away.

As computer science education is defining itself we see similar struggles. We have some people advocating certifications analogous to existing teacher certifications. On the other extreme we have advocates for two weeks summer training and you're a CS teacher. I'd like to think that I'm advocating for the sweet spot. Strong content knowledge not tied to a specific course and matching content related pedagogy. Time will tell becomes the certification standard and time will tell whose approach was right.

For now, it's important not to give away the store. Private charter schools should not be the driving force behind teacher certification and they certainly shouldn't be allowed to train their own teachers and then 'teach' our students without much greater scrutiny.

Addendum:

I'm sure some of my friends will point out that private schools aren't held to any particular standard for teacher certification. This is true but private schools don't take public funds. Actually they do but in my opinion, they shouldn't. I maintain that charter schools are publicly funded private schools in that they take public money but operate as private entities. As such they should be held under the greatest of scrutiny and standards – they aren't

A Plea to AP teachers- don't measure yourself by your scores

AP scores just came out. As usual, I see the posts and take part in conversations where teachers talk about their results. Some are happy about their results, some aren't, some don't really care.

I just want to make a plea to all AP teachers out there:

Don't let your value be dictated by the college board or any other exam.

I never really cared much about my students' actual AP scores. There were a number of years when I never even saw the results. Of course, I had a population that would do reasonably well regardless of teacher so I was never placed under any pressure to "do better." One year - while the APCS-AB exam was still offered, my principal called me down to discuss the results to see if we could get more kids scoring 4s and 5s (which most of the kids already did). I told him that I thought we were doing fine, explained why I couldn't advocate more teaching to the test (such as more than paying lip service to the case study or more rote practice on the multiple choice), and told him how I measured our success as a program. He was happy with my answer and that was that.

The AP exam is one test on one day and in my opinion the least valuable measure of my students' achievement. This is one of the reasons I was so dismayed by the CSEd community's efforts in pushing the AP exams - not the class or the subject but the actual exam.

So, how should you judge your success? That's up to you. I can only tell you how I judge myself.

First and foremost - and I know this sounds cheesy - are you a "force for good" in your student's lives. Do you leave them in a better place? Have you opened the door to a possible future for them? Have you helped them grow? Beyond that, have they progressed in your subject and as students in general.

I've had kids "fail" the AP exam and go on to wonderful careers in tech and come back to thank me for giving them their start. I've also had kids that have gone into other fields but appreciate what we've done for them. I've also had my failures and I do mean my failures. Students I couldn't reach or couldn't figure out how to help.

As teachers, we work day to day trying to improve but we can get a great overview of how we're doing by using a much longer feedback loop - looking at what our graduates are up to. When young teachers would comment on former students coming back or running into them at tech events that they would have graduates of their own in a few years and invariably they do.

To really evaluate how you're doing you have to go with the long game. Very few people get that. I remember talking to a Google Executive while I was designing CAPE 2010. He said something to the effect of "I know we won't know if this program works for about ten years but we'll have to come up with something short term to satisfy the powers that be." That so few "get it" and need instant feedback is one of the reasons that our society is so test driven. We shouldn't be. Our focus should be on helping the students learn and progress.

So don't get distressed over AP results and don't get to high on them either. Certainly don't use them to drive what and how you teach. Let your students and your conscience be your guide.

CS Teachers - teacher first or content first

Is it easier to take CS people and teach them to teach or is it easier to take teachers and teach them CS?

The question gets batted around from time to time.

This time via twitter:

The conversation was referring to blog posts by Alfred Thompson and Garth flint. Alfred's key point - one that I've spoken about before is that short term professional development does not a CS teacher make.

As to the lead in question? I've seen both routes succeed and both routes fail. Both can be heavy lifts but there's a missing part of the equation that's never addressed.

The claim is that it's easier to teach CS to a non-CS teacher because they already know how to teach. The problem is, particularly in the later grades that teachers of different subject areas have very different tool sets. Sure, there are common factors – get the kids involved, layer, spiral, etc. but you don't teach a CS lesson the same way you teach a math lesson let alone a literature, history, language lesson.

In a math class, it's common to have students write solutions to problems up on the board. If you try that in a CS class, you'll be waiting 20 minutes while the kids transcribe the problems. Likewise, math homework will likely consist of a certain amount of repetitive practice problems whereas a CS class won't have something directly analogous. This is not to say that you don't have opportunities for students to present at the board in CS class or that there isn't worthwhile homework but rather that even at this simple level, there are differences.

So, if we're going to teach a non-CS teacher the CS content, beyond the challenge of giving them the necessary depth and breadth of content knowledge we have to teach them how to teach CS.

I've inventoried some of the techniques my colleagues and I have used in our classes and the collected methods could easily fill a couple of graduate education courses.

So, what's the answer to the question? It doesn't matter where you start but if we want to do right by our kids we need to prepare them in not two but three areas:

  • CS Content
  • CS Pedagogy
  • General education and pedagogy

Short term PD (professional development) won't do it and neither will scripts for "teachers" to follow. It's going to take time, will, and effort.

Here's hoping that municipalities look at the long game. It's fine to do PD now to get something started but it's not enough. I wanted my kids math teachers to know math and how to teach it. We should demand no less from our CS teachers.

Using Emacs 35 - Blogging

Very little new Emacs in today's episode of Using Emacs. The video shows my old blogging workflow and what I'm playing with now.

The only new Emacs covered is the prodigy package which lets you run services under Emacs. I use it to run Nikola's development server but I think prodigy will also be useful when I start writing that knitting application I promised my wife.

When I started this blog, I used Jekyll. It was simple and worked with GitHub pages. I wrote about why I transitioned to Nikola here and here.

There's not much more to say here so enjoy the video:

On Retaining Teachers

Back in February, I shared my thoughts on losing CS teachers to the tech industy. TL;DR - I don't think it will be a CS Ed problem.

That said, I do think that it will be hard to find good CS teachers but the reason is because it will get harder and harder to find good teachers in general.

There are plenty of reasons why it's harder to become a career teacher but I don't want to talk about those today. There are also plenty of powerful forces working to destroy public schools and teaching as a career but this post isn't about that either.

This post is my attempt to tell people what teachers are actually looking for. Some people assert that merit pay or similar "real world" incentives will keep good teachers teaching but teachers are a different breed.

Of course, I can't speak for all teachers but I can talk about myself and teachers I've known and worked with over the years.

I never thought I'd be a teacher, it was just something I tried when I was dissatisfied with Wall Street. I tried it, it stuck. I didn't feel at the time that teaching was my calling but somehow or other, I made a career of it.

To start, schools are not factories, companies, stores, or any other type of business. Teachers spend most of their days with students and little time with each other. Most of their time is allocated for them. A high school teacher in NY will likely teach 5 class of 34 kids each, have 1 period for lunch, 1 for preparation and 1 assigned to some school task. You probably won't see your supervisor much. Mostly at monthly meetings and when they observe you. Observations are ostensibly for teacher evaluation and improvement but the system is does neither well.

Teachers also don't have the same types of career paths as a other professionals do. If you want to remain a classroom teacher, there is no career path. You could become an assistant principal or principal but those opportunities take you away from the kids and from your subject area. They say teaching is a calling and for career classroom teachers it probably is. For those who spent a few years in a classroom and left for what they see as greener pastures, maybe not.

So instead teachers make a career by honing their craft, creating electives, working with clubs and teams, or doing something similar that doesn't remove them from the classroom.

In my case, I developed some electives and one thing led to another and I ended up where I am today.

The career situation of the teacher is why things like merit pay never work. As a teacher, I want, in fact need my colleagues to do well. I might have your kids next year and if you do a poor job I'll end up suffering with the results. Sure, I'd like to be recognized as one of the better teachers but it's not healthy for my students, my school, or my career if I'm pitted against my fellow teacher. We're all in this together.

Teachers do accept merit pay when it's forced on them though. As a friend of mine once said - it's like the teacher lottery - the way they assign the merit bonuses are based on those bogus state exams so the distribution is pretty random, one year I'll get it, another year someone else.

This is not to say that teachers couldn't use a higher salary but even then, teachers are not driven by the same motivations as business people. I don't know of any teacher who feels that they'd work harder for more pay or that they work any less hard if they're paid less.

Teachers work and fight for their kids because that's what we do. Right before I left Stuy for Hunter, the teachers and city agreed to a new contract. All of a sudden I got a pay raise. I can tell you that I was neither a better or worse of a teacher the day after the contract went into affect than the day before.

My mentor and friend Richard Rothenberg talked to me about the deal we make with society as teachers early in my career. He said, once you get a few years in and have some seniority you're pretty secure and you're only worry has to be teaching. We don't do great in the good times but we do OK. On the other hand, we still have jobs in the bad times although, again, we don't do great. We put in a lifetime of service knowing that we won't get any significant financial reward but at the end of the day between our contributions and the city/state's investments we'll get a pension and won't be out in the cold in our retirement.

The point is that those of us meant to be teachers were never looking for the fast track to the upper class. We work to make a difference and want society to enable us to make that difference. Teachers don't have to be paid like they are in "the real world" but they do need to put a roof over their heads, send their kids to college and have a vacation now and again.

It's not too much to ask but in this day and age it's apparently too much to give.

Mayoral Control - only when your guy's the mayor

The hot debate this past week in NY Education circles is Mayoral Control. When I started teaching, New York City schools were controlled by the Board of Education. The board appointed a chancellor. The system was supposed to balance community control as well as some centralized decision making. The system was created in the late 60s and was entrenched through my schooling. By the time I was a teacher I think it was pretty much a given that the system didn't work.

In 2002, everything changed with Mayoral control under Michael Bloomberg. Under mayoral control, the mayor appoints the chancellor who appoints superintendents an on down the line. This was supposed to create a chain of accountability leading up to and including the mayor. To address concerns that parents voices would be heard, we had the Panel for Educational Policy or PEP which was supposed to vet and vote on policy and initiatives.

Sounds good.

Of course, it was all a farce.

Parents may or may not have had a voice under the old system but they certainly didn't have a voice with mayoral control. The majority of members of the panel were mayoral appointees and if they didn't vote 100% in line with their masters wishes, they were removed for someone who would. Schools were closed and initiatives were passed that were wildly unpopular with parents.

What did we get under mayoral control? There was some good, but we also got:

  • 100% buy in to the pet education theories of non-educators like Bill gates.
  • School leaders who barely taught and had little experience as educators.
  • Destruction of neighborhood schools
  • Destruction of just about all of the large comprehensive high schools
  • Open doors for private charter schools that follow questionable practices.
  • Flawed (at best) school and teacher evaluation models
  • The ATR pool

Of course, reformers - those out to privatize education loved mayoral control under Bloomberg. It destabilized teaching as a career

Did results improve?

Some would say yes but it's debatable. Graduation rates and test scores are controlled by the politicians. When you have tests made, graded, and curved in secret (except for those charter schools that are exempt or grade their own tests), you've got to question any gains or losses.

Bloomberg's failing was (and possibly still is) that he and his appointees didn't understand education or teachers. Education not a business and can't be treated the same way.

Did this help with accountability? To quote Mr. Bloomberg: "They can boo me at parades."

Fast forward to the de Blasio administration. Personally, I was not a fan of Bloomberg's educational policy and I also feel that de Blasio's also doing a poor job. Regardless of my opinion, Mayoral control under de Blasio has certainly felt more community friendly.

This hasn't sat well with the reformers upstate and while Michael Bloomberg was granted mayoral control for his entire term, Bill de Blasio has had to fight for it every year and every year control has come with strings attached – generally involving the flow of money into private charter schools - still with questionable practices and results.

The funny thing is that many of those saying mayoral control was bad during the Bloomberg era say it's a necessity now and many against it under Bloomberg are fans under de Blasio.

What's even funnier, in a tragic way is that it isn't really even control. So much is really controlled in Albany under Governor Cuomo. When de Blasio wanted to charge private charters for space (rightfully so, in my opinion), Albany stepped in and gave the charters a free pass. How is that mayoral control?

Regardless of your political leanings, it's pretty clear that mayoral control is only a good thing when the mayor is your guy. We need something brand new that supports our communities. I was at the Personal Democracy Forum 2017 a couple of weeks ago and a recurring theme, one which we really need now for our schools is:

build with, not for.

If we don't get there we'll be stuck booing our politicians at parades.




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