1-25-07 Money

This Weekly Reader is about money. The best educational leaders I know always ask two questions when making decisions: the first is “what does it mean for kids?” and the second is “what does it mean for taxpayers?” In my view, taking care of student learning and being good stewards of taxpayer dollars are the two primary responsibilities of educational leaders. I’ve written a lot about student learning over the past several months, so I thought I’d talk a little bit this week about taxpayers’ money, and how it makes its way to the DOE.

New York City has the largest K-12 education budget in the country. For 2007, the approved budget is around $15.5 billion, excluding certain pension and debt service costs. Overall, about 40% of DOE funds are received from New York City, 45% from New York State, and 14% from the Federal government (the remaining 1% of the budget primarily comes from private funds). By comparison, in 2004-2005 Los Angeles funded 18% of its education budget with city funds, Chicago 42%, and Houston 82%.

The vast majority of the DOE’s budget directly supports schools. Over two-thirds of the budget is spent on direct classroom instruction, another 10% on instructional leadership and support, and another 14% on ancillary student and building services. The remaining 12% of the budget is spent on district and central administrative services and other disparate items. As I pointed out in a previous Weekly Reader, the DOE is a leader among large cities in getting education dollars into the classroom.

The DOE publishes a “Statement of Net Assets” which is in some ways like a corporate balance sheet or personal financial statement. We report almost $14 billion in assets, over 80% of which are in buildings and land. The DOE has just under $4 billion in liabilities, primarily from accrued expenditures, including vacation, sick leave, and judgments. Net assets (total assets minus liabilities) are approximately $10 billion.

In short, we have stewardship of a very big chunk of our tax dollars. For more information about the budget and spending for New York City Schools, including the entire approved budget, go to:


Being good stewards, generally, of $15.5 billion is a big task. Another big task, however, is fairly allocating resources to individual schools. Right now school budgets are very much in the news, as we move forward with Fair Student Funding. Here’s how the Chancellor explains it:

"Today, we send money to schools under 90 separate funding formulas. What is worse, the biggest pots of money follow the weakest logic. They are distributed largely based on historical patterns. That means they carry forward decisions made based on long-ago political deals, not the current needs of our kids.And the results are plain to see. Take two schools with similar enrollments, about 550 kids. They’ve both got high poverty rates, over 80%. One school gets about $5500 per student in general education tax dollars. The other school gets about $3500. That means one school gets $1 million more in general tax dollars than the other. And there is no good reason for it.This is not about rich versus poor, Brooklyn versus the Bronx. This is about senseless disadvantages that strike every community and every corner of our great city. The status quo isn’t fair to the kids at the schools that end up with fewer teachers or programs, or both. The status quo also undermines our accountability system, where too often we hear officials excusing their low performance based on money—even though money may have nothing to do with it.

Instead of proliferating an unjust and unfair status quo, we propose a simple reform called Fair Student Funding. And it is really simple. From here on out, we’re going to fund the people who matter most. We’re going to fund the kids.At every school, every student will carry a base level of tax levy funding based on grade level. Then, on top of that, we’ll offer additional funds to kids who cost more to educate based on their unique characteristics: because they are poor, learning English, performing poorly, or in certain specialized schools, like our testing high schools. So a 7th grader might carry $3500, plus an extra $300 if she is poor, and an extra $1000 if she reads poorly on the day she entered middle school. So under fair student funding, two schools with the same mixes of kids will get the same amounts of city tax dollars. (In addition, they’ll also continue to get federal and state categorical dollars, like Title I, as they had before) It is so simple that we’ll eventually be able to explain to principals most of their budgets on one clean page. Simplicity and fairness are virtues, but they are both means to our ultimate end: student achievement. Our new approach does so:

· By taking away the excuse that unfair funding has forced low achievement,

· By building in incentives for schools that succeed in helping our lowest performing students; and

· By laying the foundation for greater parental choice among our public schools in the future.

Fair student funding is an exciting vision, but it is also a vision we will achieve one step at a time. We are going to implement it gradually and flexibly, over a period of several years. We are going to avoid drastic swings and do this in a way that protects the important programs in all of our schools. And we are going to move forward with the benefit of the views of parents teachers and other stakeholders. Starting next week we will be initiating an extensive schedule of community engagement through which I have no doubt that this initiative will be refined and improved.

Continue to watch the DOE website for updates on this and our other Children First Initiatives. And please send me your ideas for Weekly Reader topics. As every teacher knows, the best way learn about something is to have to explain it. Many thanks this week to my financial colleagues here for teaching me about the budget.

1-18-07 Important Changes at DOE

I promised to write about money this week, but it’s a week of important announcements, and I thought it best to interrupt our regularly scheduled program to encourage everyone to read about the DOE’s new steps in putting Children First. Go here for the Mayor’s speech, and follow the link there to see a more complete description of the changes that are coming:


Here’s how I see it. No matter how difficult change is, we cannot protect the status quo. New York has made more progress over the last few years than most urban districts, but even after a lot of progress, four out of ten of our kids are not graduating from high school on time. Six out of ten 8th graders are below grade level in English and math. I wouldn’t accept that for my own children, and I won’t accept it for anyone else’s. So I support anything that has a fighting chance of substantially changing the odds for all the kids we are entrusted with.

I know this: after the zillion dollars that have been poured into educational research and educational reform efforts over the last few decades, no easy, painless formula for urban school success has emerged. One thing we do know is that urban schools that really succeed for their kids almost always have strong principals who have the power to manage their schools in a way that works for their particular situations. It makes sense to me. Reasonable people, full of goodwill, differ greatly about the right formula for change, and all of us really care about kids. But we’ve got to make a good bet and move forward, because we cannot accept the status quo. I don’t see another choice.

Here’s the other thing I know. Nobody anywhere is devoting more talent, more thought, more experience, and more hard work to creating a new future for kids than New York City schools. I’m really proud to be here.

1-09-07 Hot Topics in 2007

Happy New Year. I predict that 2007 will be an interesting year in education policy. We seem to have a national sense of urgency, which could drive at least the start of some big changes. There are three areas where I think we will see a lot of action:

Reauthorization of No Child Left Behind: NCLB, originally sponsored by Ted Kennedy (D-MA) and Judd Gregg (R-NH) in the Senate, and George Miller (D-CA) and John Boehner (R-OH) in the House, was passed in 2001 with overwhelming bipartisan support. (The vote was 87-10 in the Senate; 381-41 in the House). NCLB is up for re-authorization this year. Here are some of the recommendations for improvements, representing a variety of ideas and perspectives:

From Mayor Bloomberg and Florida Governor Jeb Bush:


From the American Federation of Teachers (the national organization of which the UFT is an affiliate):

K:\Pool\Leigh's Weekly Reader\AFTNCLBrecs[1].pdf

From Michael Petrilli of the Fordham Foundation:


From the National School Boards’ Association, the Childrens’ Legal Defense Fund and 99 other signers:

K:\Pool\Leigh's Weekly Reader\NCLBreauthNSBA.doc

Teacher compensation – A number of states and jurisdictions are experimenting with approaches to teacher compensation that go beyond the traditional lock-step compensation system based on experience and education credits. Last year, the US Department of Education announced a $400-plus million grant program to fund grants for innovative teacher compensation programs. These grants are fueling a lot of experimentation. The Consortium for Policy Research, based in the University of Wisconsin, has done a series of case studies of alternative compensation systems, including state-based systems in Kentucky, North Carolina, Arizona and Iowa, and district-based systems in Boston, Charlotte-Mecklenburg, Cincinnati, Philadelphia and Dallas. You can access the studies here:


As the results of all these experiments become more apparent, we are likely to hear more and more about the pros and cons of changing the traditional system.

Finally, closer to home, New York City Schools’ funding—The Campaign for Fiscal Equity lawsuit has finally come to a conclusion in the courts. The legislature and Governor Spitzer now have the ball. We’ll see what happens.

Next week, a short explanation of where the money comes from for NYC schools

12-19-06 New Report; High School Closing

Two important things happened in education last week—one national, one local.
On the national front, the New Commission on the Skills of the American Workforce issued its report “Tough Choices or Tough Times.” This bipartisan commission includes many of the most influential thinkers on education policy today, including Chancellor Klein, former Senator and Secretary of Labor William Brock, former Secretary of Labor Ray Marshall, former Michigan governor John Engler, Professor Sharon Kagan of Teachers College, Past President of the Toledo Federation of Teachers Dal Lawrence, former Secretaries of Education Paige and Riley, and former Boston Superintendent Tom Payzant, among others. The report was described in a Wall Street Journal editorial by Mayor Bloomberg as “a sobering assessment of our nation's education system.“

The report points out that “American students and young adults place anywhere from the middle to the bottom of the pack in all three continuing comparative studies of achievement in mathematics, science, and general literacy in the advanced industrial nations. . . . It is easier and easier for employers everywhere to get workers who are better skilled at lower cost than American workers.” To stay competitive, says the Commission, we will need a workforce with “a very high level of preparation in reading, writing, speaking, mathematics, science, literature, history, and the arts,” that can compete in a world “in which comfort with ideas and abstractions is the passport to a good job, in which creativity and innovation are the key to a good life, in which high levels of education – a very different kind of education than most of us have had – are going to be the only security there is.”

The Commission makes a series of recommendations that would change the face of education as we know it. These are, briefly:

1) “Assume that we will do the job right the first time” – in the European model, create Board Examinations in core subjects, of comparable rigor to other industrialized countries, typically to be taken at the end of 10th grade. These examinations will certify students as ready for higher level academic work—either at the community college level or in the equivalent of an International Baccalaureate program.
2) “Make much more use of available resources” – Redeploy resources saved by the first item in order to recruit and deploy a teaching force from the top third of the high school students going to college, build high quality early childhood education, and direct resources to disadvantaged students.
3) “Recruit from the top third of the high school graduates going on to college for the next generation of teachers” – change teacher compensation by making retirement benefits comparable to the better firms in the private sector, and use the money saved to increase teachers’ salaries, building a more differentiated career ladder for teachers.
4) “Develop standards, assessments and curriculum that reflect today’s needs and tomorrow’s requirements” – stress creativity and innovation, facility with ideas and abstractions, and the self-discipline and organization needed to manage work.
5) “Create high performance schools and districts everywhere” – Rethink the role of school boards as managers of schools, and allow public schools to be created by teachers and other independent contractors who are held accountable by school boards to high performance standards
6) “Provide high quality universal early childhood education”
7) “Give strong support to the students who need it most”
8) “Enable every member of the adult workforce to get the new literacy skills”
9) “Create personal competitiveness accounts – a GI bill for our times”
10) “Create regional competitiveness authorities to make America competitive”

I predict that this will be an influential report, and that these ideas will begin cropping up in a number of places. Here’s a link to the Executive Summary. The entire report will be released in bookstores and through Amazon on December 22.

K:\Pool\Leigh's Weekly Reader\ToughChoices_EXECSUM.pdf

On the local front, the DOE announced the closing of five high schools. Three are large high schools in Brooklyn: Lafayette (1850 students, graduation rate of 39%), Tilden (2000 students, graduation rate of 44%) and South Shore (1990 students, graduation rate of 44%). Two are small schools in Manhattan: Urban Peace Academy (340 students) and School for the Physical City (382 students). These schools will not accept incoming freshmen next year and will gradually phase out over three years, to be replaced with new small schools.

I think these schools deserve a moment of silence. Even when performance is unacceptable and closing is the best thing for students, it’s a wrenching process to close a school, especially a big high school with a rich history. Lafayette, for example, was founded in 1939, and dedicated by Fiorello LaGuardia. Sandy Koufax and Larry King graduated from Layfayette. Al Sharpton, Willie Randolph, and former White House counsel Len Garment graduated from Tilden. There was a time when New York’s high schools were among the best urban schools in the country, routinely turning out leaders in all walks of life—not to mention baseball legends. It’s a sad end for these once-great schools. We owe it to New York to close them elegantly, and to replace them with schools that produce a new generation of leaders.

12-13-06 Standardized Testing

This Weekly Reader is about standardized testing. Given how controversial a topic testing can be, I thought it might be useful to provide a little information on standardized tests generally and on New York’s tests in particular.

There is no magic to the term “standardized” test. A test is “standardized” when it is designed to be given in the same way every time, usually with the same degree of difficulty. This allows you to fairly compare the results among different groups of test takers. A “standardized” test is a good way to see how any particular test taker compares to others, or to compare groups of test takers. We use standardized tests in situations where we want to see if the test taker has attained a certain performance standard; in competitive situations, like college admissions; and in situations where we want to see how particular schools, districts or states compare to others.
It is important to differentiate between a test and the purpose for which the test is used. A test is simply a tool, kind of like a scale. I may have a perfectly accurate scale that gives me very useful information about whether I need to lay off the cookies. But it would usually not be considered appropriate to make weight a condition of employment. Same with tests. A test may be perfectly valid and informative in measuring the skills it purports to measure, yet the outcome may be used for an irrelevant or inappropriate purpose. Thus, in forming opinions about tests, we should ask two questions: first, is the test a fair tool for measuring what we want to measure, and second, are we using the results in a reasonable way?

Like almost all states, New York requires that students take state proficiency tests. These tests are designed to measure mastery of concepts and material that are embodied in the state’s learning standards. These standards are the official statement of what students in the state should fairly be expected to know and be able to do at particular grade levels. New York’s Board of Regents has adopted a set of
28 learning standards for grades 3-8, for seven subject areas: Mathematics, Science and Technology; English Language Arts; Social Studies; Languages Other than English; Health, Physical Education and Family Consumer Sciences; The Arts; and Career Development and Occupational Studies. You can see the standards here:

The standards give rise to a set of core curricula, which add depth to the standards and provide more specificity about exactly what should be taught at each grade level:

The state’s testing program is “designed to evaluate the implementation of the learning standards at the student, school, district, and state level.” New York’s tests are developed by CTB/McGraw Hill, one of the largest commercial test developers. (CTB/McGraw Hill also develops various forms of the Terra Nova test, which is one of the most commonly used standardized tests in the country.)
Test developers begin by fashioning a pool of questions that they believe will measure students’ mastery of the learning standards. Typically the tests contain a mix of multiple choice and what we call “constructed response” (or short answer) questions. Depending on the test, there may also be “extended response” (or long answer) questions. Care is taken to develop multiple choice questions that measure skills and understanding, rather than memorized answers. Constructed response questions in math often ask students to illustrate the concepts and processes involved in finding the answer.

The questions are reviewed from several perspectives, including readability at grade level; alignment to the learning standards; contexts that are appropriate; and clear and concise language. Based on the recommendations of the review committees, the test questions are accepted, revised, or rejected, and an approved pool of questions is created. These questions are then field tested, in order to determine how they work with real kids. Based on field testing, some items may be discarded. After the questions are field tested, range-finding meetings are held to establish guidelines for scoring each question. Committees of teachers participate in selecting sample papers that exemplify each score point. These anchor papers form the basis of the scoring guide that will be used in scoring the operational tests.

Tests are then “normed” and “scaled”. Norming is simply the process of giving the test to a sufficiently large, representative group of students to see how they do. Scaled scores convert raw scores into a scoring pattern that fits a normal curve. Because scaled scores represent equivalent levels of difficulty, scaled scores allow comparisons among different test forms or across years.

New York City Schools administers state tests in English Language Arts and Mathematics in grades 3 through 8, Social Studies in grades 5 and 8, and Science in grades 4 and 8. (The results of the annual English Language Arts and Mathematics tests allow us to see the year-over-year growth in achievement that we talk about when we refer to “value-added” student achievement growth.) There are a number of other tests for specialized situations such as English as a second language or competitive high school admissions.

Another important test taken by New York students is the National Assessment of Educational Progress, often referred to as NAEP or "the Nation's Report Card.” (A previous weekly reader discussed New York City’s outcomes on this test.) NAEP is a “nationally representative and continuing assessment of what America's students know and can do in various subject areas.” Since many states develop their own tests, the NAEP is seen as a way to compare educational outcomes across states and cities. In 2005, ten urban school districts, including New York, participated in the NAEP “Trial Urban District Assessment” in
reading, mathematics, and science at grades 4 and 8. New York City compared favorably to other urban districts in many ways. You can see all the results here:

And now for the fun part: here are a couple sample questions from the 4th and 8th grade NAEP math tests, along with a link to more, as well as a link to sample questions at the 4th and 8th grade levels for the state mathematics tests. See what you think:

Sample question 4 is a multiple-choice question in the algebra content area. This question asked students to infer a rule and find the next term in a sequence. The terms in this sequence are the squares of consecutive odd numbers.
1, 9, 25, 49, 81,...
4. The same rule is applied to each number in the pattern above. What is the 6th number in the pattern?

A) 40
B) 100
C) 121
D) 144
E) 169
60 percent of eighth-graders answered this question correctly.
For more NAEP questions, go here:


For sample state questions, go here:

12-05-06 Teachers IV (Research)

I was in several meetings this week where the following question came up in one form or another: what do we know about the relative effectiveness of the teachers that we select? The answer often began with “well, Jonah says. . . ,” which then prompted the predictable question “who’s Jonah?” I realized that it might be nice make sure everyone knows: “who’s Jonah?” and to take the opportunity to update you on recent research findings about New York teachers.

Jonah is Jonah Rockoff, a professor of economics and finance at Columbia Business School. He is one of a group of researchers with economics backgrounds and fluency in advanced statistical models who have examined the relative effectiveness of alternative certification and traditional pathways recruits here at the DOE. These researchers also include Douglas Staiger, an economics professor from Dartmouth, and Thomas Kane, a professor of education and economics at Harvard. Here are their websites, if you’d like to take a look:




Kane, Rockoff and Staiger used a sophisticated statistical model (remember the Weekly Reader that discussed “value-added” models that identify gains in student achievement?) to compare the effectiveness of the DOE’s alternately certified and traditionally credentialed teachers. They concluded that:

“On average, the certification status of a teacher has at most small impacts on student test performance. However, among those with the same certification status, there are large and persistent differences in teacher effectiveness. This evidence suggests that classroom performance during the first two years, rather than certification status, is a more reliable indicator of a teacher’s future effectiveness.”

Here’s a link to the entire paper:

K:\Pool\Leigh's Weekly Reader\KaneRockoffStaiger2006.pdf

Jim Wyckoff and a group of researchers affiliated with the SUNY Albany and Stanford University have also examined the effectiveness of DOE teachers from various pathways. They, too, found only relatively small differentials among pathways, which varied by grade and subject. They concluded that the more important inquiry lay in determining attributes that, irrespective of pathway, make for effective teaching:

“The current analysis does not address a number of important policy questions. We find substantial variation within pathways of teachers’ ability to increase student achievement. What accounts for these differences? How do the measures of teacher qualifications, such as certification exams scores, quality of institution and performance in undergraduate and graduate education as well as area of certification affect teachers’ ability to enhance student learning? From the perspective of teacher preparation, what attributes of preparation are most important in increasing student achievement? . . . . We want to understand what accounts for the substantial differences among teachers, even within pathways, in their abilities to influence student achievement. We are in the process of exploring answers to these questions.”

Here’s are links to the entire paper, to Wyckoff’s website, and to the SUNY/Stanford research group:

K:\Pool\Leigh's Weekly Reader\WyckoffetalPolicy.pdf

Vicki and Peter are working with Jim and this group of researchers as they explore more fully the questions they have raised.

The findings from New York are consistent with a body of research emerging from other districts. This research is beginning to drive national policy discussions. The best, most provocative paper that ties much of the research together and discusses implications for policies regarding teacher credentialing, hiring, and tenure was done for the Hamilton Project at the Brookings Institution, co-authored by Kane, Staiger, and Robert Gordon, who is now at the DOE advising the Chancellor.

In this policy paper, Gordon et. al reaffirm that “teachers vary considerably in the extent to which they promote student learning, but whether a teacher is certified or not is largely irrelevant to predicting his or her effectiveness.” They go on to point out that “while certification status was not very helpful in predicting teacher impacts on student performance, teachers’ rankings during their first two years of teaching does provide a lot of information about their likely impact during their third year.” Based on this evidence, they recommend that barriers to entry into the teaching profession be reduced, and that tenure decisions become much more rigorous and include safeguards against tenuring those teachers who have proven to be least effective. If you were going to read only one education policy paper this year, I suggest that this be the one:

K:\Pool\Leigh's Weekly Reader\200604hamilton_1[1].pdf

If you want more or don’t have the patience for educational research papers, here are a couple interesting short summaries of current research on teacher effectiveness:

K:\Pool\Leigh's Weekly Reader\iesboardsept2006.ppt
(a powerpoint presentation by Katie Haycock of the Education Trust that takes a wide ranging look at this research and what we need to do with it, presented at the national conference of a department of the US Department of Education)

http://www.harvardmagazine.com/on-line/110620.html (an interesting brief article in Harvard magazine)

It’s a great time in education, as we grapple with what we know and what we can find out about the characteristics of those who can really drive student achievement growth in our schools and classrooms. Stay tuned

11-21-06 Teachers III

More on teachers this week.

As you know, New York City teachers must be certified to teach by the state of New York. There are two primary certification pathways. The traditional way to become a teacher is through a university teacher training program. A typical program would be a masters degree program in education, specializing in elementary, middle or secondary, perhaps with a further specialization in a subject area. To become certified, you must be recommended by your college or university and pass several standardized tests. For example, to become a middle school teacher, you might satisfactorily complete a degree in middle childhood education, and then pass the Liberal Arts & Science Test, the Secondary Assessment of Teaching Skills, and a multi-subject Content Specialty Test.

Education scholars (surprise!) have differing views about teacher education programs. Arthur Levine, the former head of Teachers College at Columbia University, co-authored a paper this year that concluded that many of the nation’s education schools “have inadequate curricula, low admissions and graduation standards, faculty disconnected from the K-12 schools, and insufficient quality control.” Here’s the one page press release that describes the report:

K:\Pool\Leigh's Weekly Reader\LevineEdTeachers_report_0906[1].pdf

Education schools were quick to disagree with the Levine report. The head of NCATE, the voluntary accreditation body for schools of education, had this to say:
“Perhaps most disturbing is the report’s implicit elitism. The author deplores the fact that the majority of teachers in America are prepared at less selective institutions. We might all wish that elite institutions would produce a more significant share of America’s teachers but, given the economics of higher education and the teaching profession, that has never occurred in the past, nor does it appear likely to happen anytime in the foreseeable future.” Here’s his response from the NCATE website:


Another frequent writer about teacher education is Linda Darling-Hammond. She has a new book, Powerful Teacher Education, which profiles a number of teacher education programs she finds particularly effective, including New York’s Bank Street. One of her short articles on teacher education is here:


The DOE is the national leader in developing teachers through alternative certification pathways. These pathways allow career-changers to start teaching immediately, while earning the master’s degree that leads to a full teaching license. Here are a couple websites that describe our main routes to alternative certification. If you want some inspiration, check out the testimonials from program participants.

New York City Teaching Fellows (the primary program through which we recruit alternatively certified teachers):


Teach for America (a national program from which we draw teachers):


The New Teachers Project (this is the non-profit organization that runs the day-to-day operations of our Teaching Fellows program)


We know that teachers matter. What we don’t understand very well is exactly how effective teachers differ from ineffective teachers, and what types of teacher training programs best prepare teachers to be effective in the classroom. One thing that is exciting about being in education now is that there is so much great research going on, including here at the DOE, to hone in on great teaching. More about that another week.

11-14-06 Teachers II

This week’s topic is Teachers, Part II. Last week, I began with the observation that any parent will tell you that the quality of teaching is the most important part of any child’s school experience. Interestingly, we’ve only recently developed the research tools in education to support this common sense notion.

For a long time, statistical studies in education found that the effects of socio-economic status were so strong a determinant of educational achievement that it was easy to conclude that schools really couldn’t make much of a difference. The famous Coleman report from 1966, for example, concluded that: “only a small part of [student achievement] is the result of school factors, in contrast to family background differences between communities.”

In the past 10 years, however, these results have been called into question. For example, statistical researchers have developed much more sophisticated techniques for identifying factors that lead to academic achievement, irrespective of socio-economic status. These techniques allow us to look past socio-economic status and begin to isolate what matters in schools. And guess what? It turns out that teachers matter a great deal. The primary vehicle for making this determination has been a research technique that has come to be known as value-added analysis. Rather than measuring students’ absolute achievement levels, value-added analysis measures how much each student has grown academically over the course of a school year. Value-added analysis allows you judge students’ actual growth compared to the growth that would be expected based on similar students, irrespective of the students’ starting point. This analysis can be done at the classroom level, which reveals the learning growth caused by individual teachers. Using value-added analysis, a number of large scale recent studies have shown that the quality of the individual teacher matters a lot. (By the way, the DOE’s accountability initiative will use a type of value-added analysis as one component of determining school quality.)

Value-added analysis shows statistically what parents have known all along. For example, a well-known study in Tennessee found that for low-achieving students, teachers in the bottom quintile produced academic gains of about 14 percentile points during the school year. Teachers in the top quintile, on the other hand, produced gains that averaged 53 percentile points. This same study showed that elementary students who had 3 bottom quintile teachers in a row grew by only 29% over the three years; those who had 3 top quintile teachers in a row grew by about 83%. Even more striking, the effect of three bottom quintile teachers in a row seems to persist well after the student is assigned to more effective teachers. It is very hard for a student to recover from three ineffective teachers in a row, no matter how effective the teacher to whom they may subsequently be assigned. Numerous other studies, using varying types of value-added methodologies, show similar results.

If you want to know more about studies of teacher effects, including the one above, here’s a nice, if a little dated, report from the Education Trust.

K:\Pool\Leigh's Weekly Reader\Haycock Good Teaching Matters.pdf

This is pretty geeky stuff, but it’s very important. Once we can reliably identify teachers who produce greater than average growth over time, we can begin to discover what they do differently from other teachers. Indeed, just such a project has been underway in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Based on multiple years of value-added data, a local foundation identified teachers who produced top quartile growth. They then did an extensive study of those teachers, resulting, among other things, in a series of tapes that captured their teaching techniques. You can see the results of this research and a description of the tapes here:


Good teachers matter. Next week, a little more about the daily lives of teachers, and a few perspectives on teacher education.

11-08-06 Teachers

This Weekly Reader is about teachers. As most parents are quick to tell you, what matters for kids’ learning is what happens in the classroom every day.

The DOE currently has almost 77,000 active teachers. About 7,000 new teachers were hired for the start of this school year. About 2,200 of those came through alternative certification programs. These programs, which are the largest and most innovative in the nation, bring into our schools highly qualified people who have usually done other things before deciding to teach. Most of teachers we source teach in critical shortage areas like math and science.

The DOE this week reached tentative agreement on a new contract with the UFT, the bargaining unit for teachers, which will significantly raise teachers’ salaries. The agreement raises salaries over two years so that by 2008 a new teacher will start at over $45,000 and the most experienced teachers will make over $100,000. Another important provision of the new agreement, which was a priority for Betsy, is a peer review program that will pair tenured teachers who are rated unsatisfactory with an independent outside reviewer who will provide assistance and assessment. The contract still must be ratified by union vote. Here’s a good news article about the contract:


Teaching is a complex art that calls on a broad range of skills, which have to be deployed wisely and with discretion. Betsy recently introduced me to a new long essay, called John Adam’s Promise, by Jon Saphier, a masterful teacher educator who has a wonderfully nuanced view of teaching. (Some of you may know him from his work with Rick DuFour, another hero of the teaching profession for his work on professional communities.) I’ve attached to this newsletter a short executive summary. It is really good, worth looking at. The entire essay can be found here, if you want to download it:


John Adam’s promise, by the way, was that the government would take responsibility for making good education available throughout the country, to all citizens, because the preservation of democracy depended on it.

More on teachers next week, but I have to circle back to principals again. As you know by now, my view is that they are the force that causes good teaching to occur, by selecting, coaching, and developing teachers, and by organizing the school to support good teaching. Over the past couple weeks, I asked for descriptions of why it is important for those of us at Court Street to understand principals’ jobs. Thank you to everyone who took time out of a busy day to think about this question. I have picked four descriptions that I love. Each looks at the question very differently, and all of them are wonderful.

Number 1 wrote:

Children's laughter is not heard here (at Court St.). Their triumphs and defeats do not follow us home. Yet we are as responsible for them as every principal in every school. Principals are the foundation and we are the ground that supports them. To support, one must first understand. So we learn from every source available and we listen when principals call out for guidance. For every principal we help, we help a school filled with children.

From Number 2:

Schools are where the action is and principals run schools. Understanding principals’ jobs offers us a 360-degree view into the world of schools. To fulfill our service oriented role, we must see and understand this view.

Number 3 contributed:

It is important for us to understand principals’ jobs because they are responsible for the kids in our schools, which are the primary reason for our employment. We should specifically understand the various roles a principal serves every day, so that we can help our principals become the most effective educators, motivators, and problem solvers in today’s society.

And from Number 4:

Understanding principals’ jobs is a key factor in driving DHR support levels for these school-based CEOs. Not understanding their responsibilities and challenges diminishes our work in achieving DOE’s strategic and operational initiatives. DHR serves a key function to the Chancellor. The current drive toward empowerment and accountability requires strong support for principals in order for DHR to be a strong contributor to the DOE.

We will have a fabulous lunch for five. No telling what will come out of that

10-30-06 Academic Achievement

This week's Weekly Reader focuses on academic achievement. I think it's important to know something about student achievement, because no matter what our job title, that’s our job. Everything we do, whether it’s hiring teachers, reporting school opening statistics, or redesigning processes, is done so that kids can learn. And the good news is that New York’s kids are learning, although we still have a long way to go.

This week the Chancellor announced the results of state mathematics tests for kids in grades 3-8. Yet again, New York’s kids outgained kids from across the state. For a complete summary of the results and how they compare to statewide results, go here:


Although state test results are meaningful, one of the difficult things is that all the state test are different, so that it’s hard to know if a kid who is proficient in New York would also be proficient in California, for example. The primary way of comparing performance among states is the test known as NAEP, or national assessment of educational progress, which tests samples of kids in all states to allow for national comparisons. In recent years, there has also been a NAEP test given in selected urban districts, so that districts like New York can compare themselves to districts with similar challenges. The last results were in 2005, and New York compared very favorably to other large urban districts. To see the results, start with the link below. You can easily navigate from there to see other results and even some sample questions. (By the way, it’s really fun to look at sample questions…..with all the controversy about standardized tests I think it’s illuminating to look at some actual questions and ask yourself whether they seem to be fair assessments of what we would want kids to know.)


Finally, for some reading on student achievement from a policy perspective, take a look at the recent report from the Education Trust, one of the leading forces for educational change in the country. In “Yes We Can: Telling Truths and Dispelling Myths About Race and Education in America,” the Education Trust presents compelling evidence of what we already knew: that all kids, no matter what their race, can be held to high standards. The report describes a number of primarily African-American schools and districts that are shooting the lights out in terms of performance, and presents the results of a study that shows that, when you control for socio-economic status, children of color on average arrive at school slightly more ready to learn than other children. Yet again, evidence that there can be no excuses when we fail to educate kids. The Education Trust is a widely respected player in the field of education policy, and their website is a great place to learn about current issues in school reform and closing the achievement gap. Better yet, their reports are blessedly short and always have a summary.


Don’t forget to send me articles of interest, and let me know what you’d like to hear about.


11-1-06 Principals II

This weekly reader is “Principals, Part II.” There are two reasons for talking about principals two weeks in a row: first, I wanted to see if I could get some more entries into my “why is it important for us to understand principals’ jobs?” contest. The winning answer (in 50 words or less) wins not just fame and glory, but a great lunch in the Brooklyn fine dining establishment of your choice. You don’t even have to go with me. We’ll just call it lunch for two. Live a little…..send me your entry by Monday Nov. 6.

The second reason is that over the next several years, the DOE will focus increasingly on empowering principals and holding them accountable for results. The clearest articulation of this change is in the Chancellor’s speech to the AMA, found at:


It’s worth reading again, even if you’ve already read it, because it describes so powerfully the culture change that the Chancellor believes is essential to realizing his vision of every school in New York being a school to which we would send our own kids.

To support principals well in the world the Chancellor envisions, we will have to understand their jobs and accountabilities, and be able to imagine the kind of human capital planning and support a system of empowered and accountable schools might need.

For example, starting this year, all schools will receive a quality review done by Cambridge Associates, an organization with extensive experience reviewing schools in the UK and here. The reviews will assess schools on more than 20 quality indicators, and the conclusions from these reviews will be made public. Here are a few examples of quality statements upon which schools will be rated:

---“Staffing decisions are driven by the needs revealed by student data and by the focused plan the school has developed to improve each student’s and group of students’ outcomes”

---“Leaders, faculty and staff are selected based on their high expectations for student performance and progress and based on their commitment and capacity to use data, compare outcomes within and across classrooms and schools and develop and revise plans and methods to improve performance and progress.”

--“Teachers are accountable for improving instruction and student outcomes. They plan and differentiate their instruction based on the needs revealed by student data and by the focused plan the school has developed to improve each student’s and groups of students’ outcomes.”

Food for thought, isn’t it? How could such leaders, teachers and staff be recruited, selected, placed, and supported, as educators and as employees? What action plans, accountabilities, research, and reporting would have to be in place here?

Of course, New York is not the only school district to move in this direction. In the first weekly reader, I included links to some information from Edmonton and Houston, two districts that have moved quite far in empowering principals to control their own school budgets. Here’s a link to download an interesting (and short) Rand report that discusses the new emphasis on giving principals more control over the decisions that affect their schools:


Many of you likely know this quote from T.E. Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia):

“All men dream, but unequally. Those that dream at night in the dusty recesses of their minds awake the next day to find that their dreams were just vanity. But those who dream during the day with their eyes wide open are dangerous men; they act out their dreams to make them reality.”

I love working in dangerous places.

10-23-06 Principals

The Weekly Reader this week focuses on principals. Like the Chancellor, I believe that effective principals are the essential ingredient for successful schools, especially in urban settings. How often do you find a great urban school with a mediocre principal?

Last week’s Daily News featured an article about one of our Empowerment School principals, who described how she has been able to shift her time from paperwork and meetings to classrooms and instruction:


What does the DOE expect of principals? More and more, the job is defined as “instructional leadership.” Here’s a definition of instructional leadership, from our Leadership Academy’s website:


And to see what you can earn doing all that, here’s the salary schedule:


New York principals and assistant principals are members of the Council of School Supervisors and Administrators. Jill S. Levy, the union president, announced this week that she was stepping down when her term ends on Jan. 31. The union website is below, if you’d like to take a look (remember that you can see almost all union contracts on the union websites, if you want to read them):


There is no shortage of scholarship and writing about principal leadership. On the basis of my own research and reading, I can sum it up in one sentence: Good principals effectively manage the school for learning. Good principals come with every type of background, personality and style, but what they all seem to have in common is the ability to develop and manage school people, structures, and processes for student achievement. The link below is to a description, from the Maryland state school improvement website, of “indicators for effective principal leadership.” I like it, especially the inclusion of “systems thinking.” In my view, in an environment as complex as a school, if you are not a systems thinker you are going to have significant trouble accomplishing big goals.


Why is it important for us at Court Street to understand principals’ jobs? Best answer in 50 words or less wins lunch with me, your choice, anywhere in Brooklyn Heights.

Weekly Reader Introduction 10-04-06

This is Leigh’s first “Weekly Reader.” Each week, I’ll include something about what is going on here in New York City schools, something of interest that is happening in another district, and something about planning, analysis or organizational management. Read it if it interests you, and feel free to forward it to others who may be interested. Please send me articles and ideas for inclusion.

This week….

New York: As you know, this year marked the beginning of a new emphasis on school accountability. Here is a link to a Powerpoint presentation that describes the accountability initiative in detail. The presentation includes a copy of the quality criteria by which all schools will be evaluated in 2006-07.


Another District: One of the hot topics in this and many other urban districts right now is the extent to which schools can and should control their own budgets, becoming purchasers of services from central office providers. Two districts that have been leaders in this approach are Edmonton and Houston. I think Edmonton devolves about 80% of its total budget to schools and Houston devolves about 65%. If you are interested in seeing more from these districts, the first link below sets out Edmonton’s guiding principles that govern this decentralized approach. The second is a 2001 policy paper describing the decentralization initiative in Houston. The Houston paper specifically discusses funding based on weighted student averages and the move from using average teacher salaries to using actual teacher salaries in setting school budgets.

http://www.epsb.ca/policy/ae.ar.shtml (Edmonton)

http://www.houstonisd.org/vgn/images/portal/cit_7634/12071DecenRef0901.pdf (Houston)

Planning and Organizational Management: I’m a fan of Jim Collins’ book Good to Great, and I’ve been rereading it in preparation for my role here. The link below is to Jim Collins’ website, which contains a number of short audio clips describing the factors that characterize great organizations. I especially like the ones dealing with “Good to Great in the Social Sectors” and “How Do You Stop Doing?”


And One Last Thing: OK, I said three but it’s my Weekly Reader. Something that describes the culture I’ve seen here so far….for the poets among us: