Wednesday Reading List: A Wishlist for the New NYC Chancellor and a Politician with a Backbone

The Editorial Board of The New York Times just published a wishlist, indicating their hopes for whom Mayor Bill de Blasio might pick to lead our city's school system. There are some compelling names on the Times's list, but in the meantime, the editors apply some pressure to the mayor:

... the proven school managers whose accomplishments make them appealing candidates will be hesitant to accept the post in the absence of a clear, compelling mayoral vision and backing for forceful action on behalf of students. The mayor has described his mission over the next four years as promoting equity and excellence, but those goals remain largely out of reach, even as test scores have inched up and graduation rates have risen. In fact, the city needs to move more urgently on three fronts: ending profound racial segregation; closing failing schools while opening better ones; and finding more effective ways to train good teachers, retain the best teachers and move the worst ones out of the system.

If the school system managed to do even one of those three things, it would be an heroic accomplishment. From my vantage point, however, one of the Mayor's biggest challenges is that he doesn't seem willing to risk serious political capital in pursuit of any of those goals. Moreover, there's no evidence that he's willing to cede enough power to a schools chancellor such that s/he would be capable of taking the heat on the mayor's behalf.

Equally daunting in this enterprise is the dysfunctional relationship between the mayor and Governor Andrew Cuomo, a quagmire that throws sand in the gears of just about every meaningful civic issue - from schools to transit to criminal justice reform. When it comes to schools, the state's financial and accountability regime could work to the mayor's benefit, in that he could shift responsibility to the state for forcing his hand on things he might not have the leverage to do otherwise. If he were willing to play ball, and share both blame and credit for some of the system's changes, there might be a glimmer of hope.

That said, both de Blasio and Cuomo seem more committed to their mutual animus than actual problem solving, which more or less sucks for the families of New York City.

giphy (70).gif

Speaking of politically controversial education topics, Chalkbeat's Sarah Darville did a round-up of responses to Elizabeth Green's recent piece about Success Academy:

Elizabeth’s piece outlined her conclusions after more than a decade of reporting about charter school networks, and more specifically the Success Academy network in New York City. She wrote that charter school networks offer both great advantages — in their ability to provide rare coherence in what is taught across classrooms, and — and significant danger. Charter networks, she wrote, have changed public education by “extracting it from democracy as we know it.” Some of our readers saw their own thinking reflected in her conclusions. Others had a very different take.

I'm glad to see folks grappling with a range of perspectives on this topic. Success Academy serves a ton of kids in New York City, and their schools are not going to disappear anytime soon. The network and its lightning rod leader, Eva Moskowitz, will be fixtures in local and national education policy for the predictable future. People who argue the extreme points - either that Success is god's gift to American education at one end of the spectrum, or that Moskowitz was sent to destroy public schools on the other - are wasting time. Kudos to Green and Darville for sparking a reality-based discussion.

Finally today, at least one politician in this country seems to have a backbone. New Jersey Senator Cory Booker went off yesterday:

Here's Pema Levy of Mother Jones:

In a long and emotional speech, Booker explained why he finds the president’s comments offensive and dangerous. He described them as at odds with the idea that people are judged “by the content of their character” rather than the color of their skin or their country of origin. Booker linked Trump’s words to the rise of white nationalist violence in the United States, noting that anti-immigrant animus has driven domestic attacks on people of color ... Booker reminded Nielsen that she was under oath when she repeatedly said she did not recall the “shithole” comment.

First of all, thank you Senator Booker, for not tiptoeing around this issue, and for repping the fine, misunderstood state where I was born. If my Facebook feed is any indication, this speech resonated with a whole bunch of people yesterday ...

Have a great day!