eric nadelstern

An education U-turn

one barrier down

in the zone

pipeline problems

Pilot Principals

moving on

New York

Q&A: Klein disciple Nadelstern laments end of disruptive era

As Mayor Bloomberg’s term in office comes to an end in New York City, mayoral candidates have been quick to denounce many of his education policies. A recent poll found that a majority of residents disapprove of the outgoing mayor’s handling of public schools, and the current crop of candidates are unhappy with school closures and the school grading system currently in place. The Bloomberg administration can count Eric Nadelstern, former deputy chancellor for school support and instruction under Bloomberg and currently a professor of Practice in Educational Leadership at Teachers College, Columbia University, as one of its staunchest defenders. Nadelstern spoke to The Hechinger Report about his thoughts on the future of public education in New York City and his recent book 10 Lessons From New York City Schools, about his 40 years of experience working in public education. Question: There’ll be a new mayor in the city soon. Any trepidation that some of the policies you talk favorably about in your book might end? Answer: Sad to say, but I think they’ve changed already under the old mayor. I see networks being redirected away from school support to more central office compliance matters which disturbs me. I see the core curriculum being mandated in a way that was reminiscent of the old days in the way superintendents mandate curriculum rather than rolled it out in a way that creates a lot of options for schools on how to creatively engage around it or not if they choose to. And those decisions and policies trouble me. Certainly under a new mayor I think two main areas in greatest jeopardy are the issues of school closings that also creates the opportunity to open new schools as well as whether the non-geographic network structure may return to the old-time district structure headed by superintendents. Politicians in particular favor the old structure because they could exploit it to their benefit more easily. Q: What changes are you talking about?
New York

Almost all mayoral hopefuls say educator should lead schools

Mayoral hopefuls, from left to right, Christine Quinn, Bill Thompson, John Liu, Tom Allon and Bill De Blasio, discuss city education policies. When the five leading mayoral candidates were asked on Monday how they would select the next schools chancellor at a forum on city education policy, the presumed longshot had the most specific answer. Newspaper publisher Tom Allon, who recently switched his party affiliation from Democrat to Republican, was the only candidate to name names — and his shortlist contained an eclectic mix of people. He started with Eric Nadelstern, a former Department of Education deputy who is bullish on school closures and other Bloomberg administration policies, then moved to Hunter College President Jennifer Raab before naming Linda Darling-Hammond, a Stanford University education professor who has been critical of policies favored by the Bloomberg administration. To round out his list, he named John White, who became Louisiana's school superintendent not long after leaving the city Department of Education in 2011. Allon's list elicited laugher and whoops of surprise from the audience, as well as a disapproving remark from Comptroller John Liu, who was sitting beside Allon on the stage.  The forum was hosted by Manhattan Media, the company that Allon owns, with help from GothamSchools. (View the entire event.) The one thing all of people on Allon's list have in common is that they have experience working with schools and educators, which Mayor Bloomberg's three chancellors have not had. Bloomberg's first and longest-serving chancellor, Joel Klein, drew criticism because he had come from the corporate world, and most of the candidates were eager to say they would not make the same decision. Liu, Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, and former comptroller Bill Thompson all promised to choose an educator to lead the schools. City Council Speaker Christine Quinn was the only outlier. She said she did not think the next schools chancellor should necessarily have an education background.
New York

In a change, city is steering aspiring principals off the fast track

Realizing that its strategies for stocking the city's ever-expanding supply of schools with excellent principals have fallen short, the Department of Education is launching new programs aimed at slowing down the transition from teacher to administrator. The largest of the new initiatives is the Teacher Leadership Program, aimed at developing leadership skills in hundreds of teachers who are still working in the classroom. Other initiatives are meant to prepare leaders to handle the special challenges of running middle schools and to capitalize on the leadership skills of principals who are already in the system. And a foundation that helped the city underwrite a fast-track principal training program is now paying for educators to earn degrees in school administration at local universities. "Most of our principal training work that we've done historically is focused on that last year before you become a principal," Chief Academic Office Shael Polakow-Suransky said. "It's the last step in the process, and what we've come to understand is that there [are] a lot of steps that happen before that in someone's career. ... We want to begin to do that kind of training." The new programs represent a strong shift away from the Bloomberg administration's early approach to cultivating school leadership at a time when the city is losing about 150 principals a year, even as it has ramped up new school creation. Together with existing programs, they are set to produce 134 new principals and engage 300 teachers this year, according to the department.
New York

Former top official gives scathing review to DOE's current state

Eric Nadelstern heads the Children's First Network, which is set to expand. (Via Cody Castro) The city Department of Education is politically motivated, riddled with waste, and making policy choices that won't lead to improved student achievement. Those claims are frequently lobbed by longstanding critics of the Bloomberg administration's education policies. But now they are coming from a chief architect of the Department of Education's current structure: Eric Nadelstern, the number-two official until he retired in January 2011. Nadelstern designed the department's network school support structure upon the premise that principals should mostly be left alone, as long as they deliver performance results. When he left, Nadelstern said he was confident that his deputies would carry on the work they had been doing with him. But in a working paper about the network structure published late last week by the Center on Reinventing Public Education, a research group associated with the University of Washington, Nadelstern says the department has lost its way. Instead of thinking about what would be best for students, officials have considered what would be best for Mayor Bloomberg, he says. Rather than trusting principals to make the right choices for their schools, officials are mandating instructional changes. The department is frittering away federal funds centrally rather than distributing them to schools. And instead of using the network structure to support schools, the department is using a "ruthlessly efficient structure for micromanaging" them, he writes. All together, Nadelstern says the changes have him lying awake at night with worry. "A new mayor will probably mean a new chancellor. With equal numbers of superintendents and networks, it is not hard to envision how easily the city’s schools can be returned to a geographically organized system of local districts," he writes. The portion of Nadelstern's paper that assesses the Department of Education's current state is excerpted in full below, followed by the complete paper.
New York

Asked to talk teacher ratings' release, a panel skirts the topic

New York City's release of teacher ratings last month stoked fierce debate over the role of evaluations in boosting student achievement and about whether the public should be privy to their results. A panel discussion featuring former state education chief David Steiner; United Federation of Teachers Vice President Leo Casey; policy researchers; and Nick Lemann, dean of Columbia University's journalism school tackled those issues this afternoon. The panel, part of a two-day long symposium on testing, was billed as a conversation about whether to make teacher ratings public, as New York City did with caveats last month and New York State is poised, at least legally, to do in the future. But the panelists mostly skirted that issue, focusing instead on the bigger question of how current teacher evaluations can be improved upon — an issue that the state is grappling with as it rolls out new curriculum standards and prepares to impose a state-wide evaluation system. Eric Nadelstern, a former top city Department of Education official who spoke from the audience, was the only person to speak out in favor of the data releases — or address the matter head on at all. "Clearly the tests have to get better, but we can't wait until they do before we use them to determine whether or not the adults are doing good work," said Nadelstern, who led the city's effort to create report cards for each school. "However imperfect the data, if we're using it to make high stakes decisions about kids, shouldn't we make that data available to the students, to the parents and to the public?"
New York

Closure spurs talk of new strategy for struggling charter schools

Parents from Peninsula Preparatory Academy rallied against the city's closure decision outside Department of Education headquarters in January. Last month, as parents from Peninsula Preparatory Academy vocally protested the city's decision to close their charter school, Principal Ericka Wala quietly pursued an alternative. Wala discovered that a charter school in Harlem that had faced closure last year was saved when a different operator was allowed to take over its charter and management. Harlem Day lost virtually all of its teachers and got a new name and curriculum when Democracy Prep took over in 2011, but the students were allowed to stay. For Wala, the last point was the biggest draw: Peninsula Prep’s students are set to be sent back to neighborhood schools that mostly post lower test scores. "I was like, this is something we should explore," Wala said, even though it meant she'd almost certainly lose her job in the process. Both Wala and the school's board, led by Chair Betty Leon, told Recy Dunn of the Department of Education's Charter Office that they would resign if that's what it took to keep the school open. "We were willing to do whatever that would allow the school to continue to exist, in whatever capacity, so that there would be less disruption to the children," Wala said. Wala reached out to Seth Andrew, the founder and head of the Democracy Prep charter network, and asked him to consider taking over Peninsula Prep. Wala set up a time for Andrew to visit the school, but when he floated the idea to top city and state education officials they rejected it, according to a source who was briefed on the proposal.
New York

Santiago Taveras, public face of DOE, leaving for private sector

The city's first-ever community engagement czar is the latest in a string of high-level departures from the Department of Education since the departure of Chancellor Joel Klein. Santiago Taveras, deputy chancellor for community engagement, is leaving the department to become a vice president at Cambridge Education, the consulting firm that originally conducted quality reviews in city schools. Taveras is the third member of the chancellor's leadership team to resign since Cathie Black replaced Klein in November. Taveras, who worked for the city schools for 22 years, was deputy chancellor for teaching and learning from May 2009 until April 2010, when the DOE eliminated its teaching and learning division. He then became the city's first community engagement chief, managing the way the department explained proposals for policy changes, such as school closures, to the public. In recent months, he had become the voice of the department at public meetings, sometimes staying long after other officials to take questions and speak with parents and school leaders. A former principal, Taveras was one of the aides Eric Nadelstern name-checked as someone trained to pick up the slack after the former chief schools officer resigned in January. In addition to Nadelstern, whose position was eliminated after he left, the department also replaced finance director Photeine Anagnastopoulos, who quit the day after Klein announced his departure. The department is looking for a replacement for Taveras, according to the city's press release. Here's the city's press release:
New York

Nadelstern: "I have spent years training people to replace me"

After 39 years, Deputy Chancellor Eric Nadelstern is leaving the Department of Education just as new Chancellor Cathie Black is beginning her tenure. In a brief interview with GothamSchools on the day he announced his retirement, Nadelstern gave his take on why he's leaving and what he's leaving behind. What's the right greeting here?  Congrats? Well, it's congratulations and good luck. So why are you retiring now? And where are you off to? After almost 40 years I'm ready for new challenges. I've had a number of very interesting offers — public, private, not-for-profit — all around my area of expertise. I haven't decided yet, don't want to rush it. I may wind up teaching at a university...very strong offer along those lines. Had an offer from a state education department outside of New York...I'm sure when the time comes, my dance card will be full. In December you were telling people that you'd stay through the year. What changed? That was my intention. A couple of things really — I turned 60 in October, hopefully you'll have a chance to find out how reflective [you get] when you reach that milestone. I had a pension consultation recently and there were financial advantages to making the decision sooner than later. That and talking it over with my family thinking about the kinds of things in life after the DOE. It seemed like the right time. Does this have anything to do with Chancellor Cathie Black's arrival? It's completely independent. In the weeks I've worked with Cathie I've not only come to admire her, I've come to like her...There's an enormous amount to learn. I think in an earlier point in my career I [would have liked to work with her]. I think at this stage there are really other things that I'd like to do.
New York

Teaching division to disappear in latest DOE reshuffling

The Division of Teaching and Learning is set to disappear under the latest reorganization at the city's education department. The move is part of a slate of changes intended to streamline the department's organization, according to spokesman David Cantor. He called the changes, which include the creation of a deputy chancellor for community engagement position, "an organic next step" in the series of administrative shifts that have taken place under Schools Chancellor Joel Klein. The teaching and learning office, which is on its fourth leader since 2007, is getting folded into the Division of School Support, which contains the network structure that currently manages how schools receive administrative assistance. The new office will be called the Division of School Support and Instruction and will be headed by Chief Schools Officer Eric Nadelstern, giving him authority over the central piece of schools' business for the first time. "Obviously the aim is to make instruction as effective as can be, but I don't think anyone's going to see any kind of sudden shift in the way we go about teaching kids, and nor do we want that," Cantor said. "The point is just to help do what we're good at better." Under the changes, which will finish taking effect by July 1, the current head of teaching and learning, Santiago Taveras, will become the first-ever community engagement czar. Leaving behind his instructional past, Taveras will manage how the department presents to the public proposals that are set to come before the city school board, known as the Panel for Educational Policy.
New York

New accountability chief says he'll carry on Liebman's legacy

New York

DOE releases SSO performance data; let the crunching begin

One thing that went under the radar during the nonstop news cycle of the last few weeks is a sizable data dump from the Department of Education, which for the first time released statistical reports about the 11 organizations that support the city's schools. The reports went online last week to inaugurate the period when schools can choose which organization they want to affiliate with. The organizations, called School Support Organizations, or SSOs, have provided support services to individual schools for the last two years in place of the traditional school-district bureaucracy. This is the first time that the DOE has allowed schools to change the affiliation they originally selected back in 2007. The new reports include a chart (above) comparing the SSOs according to their schools' progress report scores, quality review evaluations, and principal satisfaction survey results. The result is the public evaluation that Eric Nadelstern, the DOE's chief schools officer who formerly ran the Empowerment organization, said back in January was being cooked up the department's accountability office. The comparison, which takes into account school data from the 2007-2008 school year, shows that the SSO run by the City University of New York did the best, followed closely by the Empowerment organization. The reports are available on the DOE's Web site only in PDF format, and there is a different one for each organization. A DOE spokeswoman told me that the department had not made available a database compiling the data, so I went ahead and made one, available here or after the jump. I also went one step further and added some calculations of my own, based on the DOE's data: The percent change in progress report and quality review scores from 2007 to 2008. Among my first impressions: Schools either improved their internal operations significantly between 2007 and 2008, or else they figured out how to look like they had improved, because the percentage of schools receiving top ratings on their Quality Reviews jumped in every organization. If you have more statistics knowhow than I do and some extra time on your hands (like during this school vacation), take a look and note what you see. Leave your observations in the comments.
New York

A DOE plan to personalize bureaucracy is making unions nervous

Eric Nadelstern heads the Children's First Network, which is set to expand. (Via ##http://www.flickr.com/photos/emilyshu/2980136053/##Cody Castro##) In a quiet project that has union activists gritting their teeth with concern, the Department of Education is once again moving to reshape its own bureaucracy — this time by offering about 300 schools the option to transform the way they manage basic back-office tasks, from busing to budget planning to monitoring medical vaccinations. The change, which principals are learning about this month and which is set to begin in September, would be the third time these schools have transformed the way they work with the system bureaucracy since Mayor Bloomberg took control of the schools in 2002. The way operational services are handled has already changed several times since 2002. When Bloomberg first took office, 32 individual district offices — plus separate offices for high schools, alternative schools, and special education schools — managed school operations. Those were replaced by six offices serving 10 regions after Schools Chancellor Joel Klein's first reorganization of the school system, and then by a single Integrated Service Center, with five borough branches, after Klein revised the structure again in 2006. During the 2006 reorganization, instructional services were also relocated, to a group of nine support organizations from which principals now choose one. The new format would further personalize services by expanding a model that's been quietly piloted for the last two years under the name of the Children First Network. Rather than leaning on the imposing ISC for help writing their budgets and managing paperwork-heavy responsibilities like special education, the 90 schools in the Children First Network bypass the ISC altogether. Instead, each group of about 20 schools — the configuration known in all of the citywide support organizations as a "network" — works with a team of 13 staff members who do the same tasks performed by the ISC, but on a smaller scale.
New York

School support organizations will be graded, too — and publicly

The organizations that schools can choose to affiliate with for bureaucratic support, like New Visions for Public Schools, the Knowledge Network, and the Empowerment network, are being graded this month for their effectiveness. The Department of Education's accountability office is writing the grades of the "school support organizations," and Chief Schools Officer Eric Nadelstern said the outcome will eventually be made public. "It will definitely be public before schools have to make the selection as to which SSO they want to affiliate with next year, so that parents and teachers and principals can make that decision on the basis of all sorts of factors," Nadelstern said yesterday. The school support organizations were created last year as part of an overhaul of the school system's bureaucracy. Rather than being forced to report to the superintendent in their neighborhood, schools can shop around among a set of support organizations to decide which bureaucracy they prefer. This is the first year that the support organizations will be graded, since they've now amassed a year's worth of a track record in student test scores. Nadelstern said that the accountability office, headed up by Columbia law professor Jim Liebman, is basing its grades on both schools' progress report cards and on their quality reviews, written reports about schools based on in-person interviews and observations. The report cards have come under heavy criticism for being statistically problematic, if not meaningless.
New York

Seeking to cut costs, the DOE will reorganize its own bureaucracy

Eric Nadelstern will take on expanded duties. (Via ##http://www.flickr.com/photos/emilyshu/2980136053/##Cody Castro##) A top schools official who spearheaded the Bloomberg administration’s efforts to allow private control of some public schools is leaving the Department of Education, in a reorganization that could save the department a significant amount of money — and might or might not signal a new direction for the school system. Schools Chancellor Joel Klein announced the change to school leaders in a conference call this morning. The official, JoEllen Lynch, oversaw the department’s transition to allowing schools to affiliate with private management groups like New Visions for Public Schools and CEI-PEA, in lieu of the traditional bureaucracy. The groups, known as PSO’s, were the closest that the Bloomberg administration came to emulating other urban school systems’ privatization efforts, like one in Philadelphia where for-profit management groups competed for control of public schools. Lynch’s office will be headed by another top schools official, Eric Nadelstern, who will maintain his current portfolio of schools affiliated with the Empowerment network. The reshuffling elevates Nadelstern’s position in the department, a promotion that could elevate his gadfly ideas, too. Officials are selling the change as a way to cut costs amid ballooning concerns about the city’s fiscal prognosis. But some people who work at PSO's are worrying the change could also be a signal that PSO's days are numbered, and that the Empowerment network Nadelstern champions as a very lean way to run public schools will overtake them.
New York

Villaraigosa's education team is at Tweed today

Mayor Villaraigosa of Los Angeles is sending his new education team to New York City this week (via Flickr) Yesterday, sitting at the Broad Prize lunch, I met Marshall Tuck, who, fresh off being Steve Barr's partner at Green Dot, is heading up a new effort by Los Angeles mayor Antonio Villaraigosa to take control of some public schools. (Villaraigosa tried to get control of all the schools, but he failed.) Turns out the MoMA lunch was just stop one on a whirlwind tour that Tuck and his team are taking around the city. Their main destination is Tweed Courthouse, where they are meeting with at least seven top Department of Education officials. Tuck's trip is an example of the "edu-tourism" that UCLA professor William Ouchi talked about earlier this school year at a CEI-PEA lunch. I just got off the phone with one of the people Tuck already met with, Eric Nadelstern, the CEO of the Empowerment network. Nadelstern told me that already this year Tweed has hosted visitors from Sao Paolo, Brazil; Guatemala; San Francisco, and Clark County, Nevada. He said the stream suggests DOE is "asking the right questions," but not necessarily that they have all the answers. "In a school system where four out of 10 kids aren't graduating, we can't get too complacent," he said. An interesting part of the schedule, which I've reproduced below the jump, is what isn't on it. Tuck is checking out a Rolodex of major initiatives (school support organizations, the accountability office, the Leadership Academy, Fair Student Funding), but he has not been scheduled for a briefing on the $80 million ARIS project to connect every classroom and parent with student test score data. UPDATE: Department of Education spokesman Andrew Jacob wrote to say that ARIS was a sub-topic in the tour; Jim Leibman discussed it as part of his accountability presentation, Jacob said.