a new era

Starting a new era, Betty Rosa named Regents chancellor as Tisch steps down

PHOTO: YouTube / TCICollegeNY

Former Bronx superintendent and principal Betty Rosa was elected chancellor of New York’s Board of Regents on Monday, ushering in a new era in state education policy.

Rosa, who has been endorsed by leaders of a campaign to boycott state tests, has been a vocal critic of many of the sweeping policy changes that have changed education in New York over the last several years, including the rollout of the Common Core learning standards and a new teacher evaluation system. The board has already begun backing away from these policies, and selecting Rosa signals that the Regents are ready to continue that shift.

“We as a board must move away from what was so-called, as people like to label it, reform,” Rosa said, just before the vote, which was 15-0, with two abstentions. Rosa chose a different term for her mission: “I say welcome to the transformers.”

Rosa takes over for Merryl Tisch, who transformed the chancellorship into a visible, and highly influential, position. Tisch oversaw state policy after New York won a $700 million Race to the Top grant and came to represent the set of controversial reforms that accompanied it, including the rigorous learning standards and new teacher evaluation system.

[Read more: Rosa, new head of New York education policy: As a parent, ‘I would opt out’]

Pushback to some of those changes have grown in the last few years. Last year, they fueled a testing boycott movement that spread to 20 percent of students statewide.

Tisch, who announced last fall that she would step down this month, acknowledged the shifting sentiment on Monday. But she said she was confident that she had made the right choices for New York students, and that she trusted the next incarnation of the board.

“They’ll find their own way. They’ll rebalance,” Tisch told Chalkbeat after the vote. “But I think it’s really hard to walk away from all of this.”

As chancellor, Rosa will have significant sway over a new direction. The board is currently overseeing an overhaul of the state’s learning standards, constructing new teacher evaluations, and revamping graduation requirements. Rosa’s new job will require her to help the board reach consensus on these issues.

Rosa has spent time as a student, educator, and superintendent in some of New York City’s poorest neighborhoods. Born in the U.S., she spent her early childhood in Puerto Rico before moving back to New York, where she learned English in school.

As a principal in Washington Heights, she ran a community school that worked to provide extra resources for students. She then became superintendent of District 8 in the Bronx, and eventually superintendent of the entire borough. As superintendent, she became known for equalizing resources between the wealthier and low-income schools in her district and for starting a high-performing middle school.

“Having served with her when she was a superintendent in the Bronx, I know she recognizes that schools – like the students who go to them – are unique, and she pioneered individualized strategies to raise student achievement,” city schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña said in a statement.

The board also selected Regent Andrew Brown, an attorney from Rochester, as the board’s next vice chancellor.

power players

Who’s who in Indiana education: Sen. Dennis Kruse

PHOTO: Shaina Cavazos and Sarah Glen

Find more entries on education power players as they publish here.

Vitals: Republican representing District 14 and parts of Allen and Dekalb counties. So far, has served 13 years in the Senate (current) and 15 years in the House. Kruse began his career as a teacher in 1970, spending five years in the classroom. Once he left education, he became an auctioneer and got involved in real estate.

What he’s known for: Kruse has served as Senate Education Committee chairman for eight years. While he is a less vocal advocate for choice-based education reform measures than his House counterpart, Kruse is a staunch conservative who has pushed — with varying levels of success — for incorporating more religion in public schools.

Career highlights: In 2011, Kruse was the author of Senate Bill 1, a massive bill that established the state’s formal teacher evaluation system. He has also consistently supported bills seeking to improve school discipline, before- and after-school programs and teacher preparation. This year, Kruse has authored bills dealing with school start dates, contracts for district superintendents, school employee background checks and testing.

On religion in schools: Kruse and fellow Sen. Jeff Raatz introduced a resolution this year that, according to the National Center for Science Education, has the “teaching of evolution” as “the specific target of the bill.” Previously, Kruse has put forward other legislation that would encourage the teaching of creationism and the recitation of the Lord’s Prayer at the start of the school day, but none of the bills passed. In 2015, Kruse was also a co-author of the controversial religious freedom bill.

On toeing the party line: Despite his conservative politics, Kruse doesn’t always line up with the will of his party. Republican leaders this year are calling for making the state superintendent an appointed, rather than elected, position, but Kruse won’t back the switch. Instead, Kruse has said he believes in elections and that people should get to make choices about their representation.

For that reason, some have speculated that’s why the senate’s version of the bill bypassed his education committee and instead was heard through the elections committee.

Who supports him: Kruse has received campaign contributions from Hoosiers for Quality Education, an advocacy group that supports school choice, charter schools and vouchers; K12, one of the largest online school providers in the country; and Education Networks of America, a private education technology company.

Legislative highlights via Chalkbeat:

Bills in past years: 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017

Also check out our list of bills to watch this year.

seesaw

Tennessee required more recess, but teachers now say it’s too much

PHOTO: Jon Zlock, LEAD Public Schools
Nashville students play during recess at a charter school operated by LEAD Public Schools.

For years, Jamie Petty’s sixth-grade students didn’t have recess — a problem, he thought, since research shows that recess keeps children healthy and focused.

Then Tennessee’s legislature passed a requirement last year that students through the sixth grade get a minimum of two 20-minute periods of non-structured physical activity at least four days a week.

Now play time is overtaking valuable class time, says Petty, a world history teacher at Normal Park Magnet Middle School in Chattanooga. He said one daily period of recess should suffice.

“Physical activity is so important for the kids, and we definitely want that,” he said. “But at the same time, we have to protect instructional time, too.”

Lawmakers have heard similar concerns from educators across Tennessee since the school year started.

“We passed a bill, and it was a fiasco,” said Rep. Bill Dunn.

The Knoxville Republican wants to rein in recess in Tennessee schools. On Wednesday, his bill to do so was approved by a House education subcommittee. Instead of daily mandates of three 15-minute periods for kindergarten and two 20-minute periods for grades 2-6, the bill would institute weekly requirements of 130 minutes of physical activity for elementary schools and 90 minutes for middle and high schools.

Lawmakers hope the change will give schools more flexibility to fit recess into their schedules.

Dunn’s bill also would allow recess to include “structured play.” Last year’s legislation said students must have “non-structured” play, meaning teachers can’t organize sports or games.

Teachers argue that both kinds of play have value.

Kennisha Cann, a literacy coach with Hamilton County Schools, occasionally leads students in games to get the wiggles out. “Kids need to learn how to follow directions, take turns, how to socialize with other children,” she said.

Either way, many educators are happy that the legislature is recognizing the importance of recess.

“Standards are so much harder now,” said Pat Goldsmith, a school psychologist at Chattanooga’s Red Bank Elementary Schools. “Students really need that break.”