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.