Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Removal of Tweed

December 28, 2015

William de Blasio
Mayor of New York City
City Hall Park
New York, NY 10007

Dear Mayor de Blasio:

The purpose of this letter is to request that you issue an executive order to remove the name “Tweed” and prohibit its use when referencing any official or unofficial New York City building and/or designation, including but not limited to the New York City Department of Education headquarters, which is currently at the old New York County Courthouse at 52 Chambers Street, New York, New York 10007.

Since “Tweed” is an unofficial name/designation assigned to the old New York County Courthouse, no legal or legislative authorization may be required for you to remove “Tweed” from all city web sites, electronic, and printed communications for any reason other than historical references.

It is ironic that the deceased William Magear Tweed, a convicted felon, continues to be honored by the New York City government despite his noted criminality and corruption, when two of New York State’s highest ranked politicians were recently convicted on numerous counts of corruption-related charges.

Again, I respectfully request that you swiftly issue an order to prohibit and remove any reference to William Magear Tweed from New York City buildings, agencies and/or departments, including electronic and print communications.

Thank you.


Bernard Gassaway, Ed.D.
Former New York City superintendent and principal

c: NYC Borough Presidents
NYC City Council President
NYC Public Advocate
NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission
Various Media Outlets 

Friday, December 18, 2015

NYS Teacher Evaluation: Common Core Disconnection

NYS Teacher Evaluation: Common Core Disconnection by Bernard Gassaway

New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo has apparently reneged on a pledge he made in his 2015 State of the State Address. After calling the current NYS teacher evaluation system “baloney,” he vowed to toughen it by connecting student test scores to teacher evaluations. After nearly a year of receiving a political pummeling from parents, teachers and unions, he is now retreating from his pronounced position.

Cuomo’s Common Core panel has called for a two-year extension on tying testing results to a teacher evaluation system until 2018-2019. This delay will likely delay any appreciable learning and teaching opportunities for students and teachers. Perhaps Cuomo should retreat from using student test scores in teacher evaluations; but, should he delay all changes until 2018-2019?

A delay in revamping the teacher evaluation system would be a disservice to New York’s teachers, principals and students. Absent an effective evaluation system, teachers in too many cases will continue to believe their performance is proficient or highly effective. Teachers should not be blamed for developing a misguided perception of performance, given the lack of a sound evaluation system. Also, it is unfair to expect school leaders to measure teacher performance when they do not have a system that enable them to fairly and accurately measure teacher performance. Without an effective evaluation system, students suffer when ineffective teachers are not evaluated. It is difficult to convince teachers that they need professional development. It is also difficult to remove them if they refuse to accept needed help.

Cuomo’s major blunder was attempting to tie student Common Core testing results to teacher evaluations. He gave the teachers’ unions a gift. He started a fight without sufficient weaponry. In response, the teachers’ unions unleashed a powerful assault on Cuomo’s proposed policy. In hindsight, this was a relatively easy win for unions because everyone knows that standardized tests are flawed. Educators have known this for decades. However, it only became intolerable when Cuomo attempted to connect flawed testing results to teacher evaluations. Apparently, Cuomo’s distinguished Common Core panel agrees.

The teachers’ unions should be applauded for fighting the good fight. It is hard to argue with a winning strategy. The unions have successfully fought off any flawed attempts to strengthen teacher accountability. Unions are able to rely on an ill-prepared NYS department of education officials that lack vision and courage.

One might ask, “Where are the NYS department of education officials (including NYS Board of Regents) vis-à-vis teacher evaluation?” Cuomo’s appointment of a panel to advise him on Common Core and teacher evaluation was a strong vote of no confidence to state education officials.

Interestingly, state education officials appear to take a back seat to Cuomo’s failed leadership on education. This amounts to years of tough talk and poor results. In other words, nothing has or will change—the status quo will continue.

Here’s what we know. Without a valid and reliable teacher evaluation system, teacher practice may not improve significantly. The biggest losers in not having an effective teacher evaluation system are the students. The common core to any learning community is effective teaching.

As Cuomo prepares for his 2016 State of the State Address, he should acknowledge that education is the largest crack in his leadership armor. He also should acknowledge that his failure to lead in the area of education contributes to the decades of school failure that he reportedly abhors. In short, Cuomo is as much of the problem as the teachers and principals he so freely criticizes. Cuomo must stop passing the buck. It must stop at his desk. He should not give another speech of broken and unfulfilled promises.

Bernard Gassaway
Former NYC principal and superintendent
@Drgassaway (twitter)
© December 2015

History of Rejecting Failed Approaches - Gassaway, Bernard BGHS

Gassaway Rejects Restart Model And Possibly Millions in Funding for BGHS
BGHS Principal Bernard Gassaway says current funding model will do little to improve his school

By C. ZAWADI MORRIS (Patch Staff) June 1, 2011 

It appears that the millions of dollars earmarked to save Boys and Girls High School may be in jeopardy.
One reason is due to stalled negotiations between the teacher’s union and the City around how to best implement teacher evaluations, which will greatly impact the way teachers are hired and fired. But until an agreement is reached between the two parties, the State will hold the money.
The second reason has to do with the school’s principal Bernard Gassaway. In a letter he released to Bed-Stuy Patch this morning, Gassaway presented a resounding objection to Restart – the school reform model under which the money would be awarded – insisting that most of the $3.5 - $6 million grant that may come with Restart would be restricted primarily to professional development.
Gassaway has long stated a preference for the Turnaround (Transformation) Model as the most viable approach for student improvement at Boys and Girls, as it would grant him authority to replace teachers he deems ineffective.
"Money alone is not the answer," said Gassaway. "I have espoused that of all the models being offered, Turnaround would give us the best chance to speed-up the reform of Boys and Girls High School. While I defend all efforts to keep Boys and Girls High School open forever, I do not defend the right of incompetent staff to remain with children indefinitely.”
Boys & Girls High School has ranked as one of New York State’s lowest performing schools for the last two years, and less than half of its students graduated in 2010. In December, the city narrowly spared Boys & Girls from complete closure. 
The Restart Model is one of four improvement plans outlined by the Obama administration in its education initiative designed to improve struggling schools, better known as Race To The Top.
The Department of Education’s reaction to Gassaway’s stance squarely addressed the stalled negotiations surrounding teacher negotiations, which have imperiled the funds’ allocation, but also made clear of DOE’s intention to implement the Restart model.
“We have been in near constant consultation with the State Education Department about our intentions to use Restart, and our plan is consistent with the law, so it’s unfortunate that the State would change the ground rules at this late juncture,” Deputy Chancellor at the New York City Department of Education Marc Sternberg said.
“We agree with the State about the need for a rigorous and meaningful teacher evaluation system, but thus far we have not been able to reach an agreement with the teacher’s union, and that means we are likely to miss out on more than $125 million in federal funds to improve these schools.”
Still, while negotiations remain on the table regarding teacher evaluations, Gassaway has taken a hard stance on the conditions of the funding:
“I know in my heart and soul that the recent decision of the DOE to move forward with the Restart model is not the best option for Boys and Girls High School,” Gassaway said. “In the end, any model that we adopt must allow school leadership to aggressively address staff incompetence.” 
Tom Dunn, director of communications at New York State Education Department, said the department had no comment in regards to Principal Gassaway’s position.