Reformers or pretenders?
We will know very soon.
The New York State Education Department late last week unveiled its recommended education reform package for the Regents to adopt this week at its monthly meeting (see also Chalkboard discussion).
By New York standards, this is boldness, particularly on the teacher preparation, school turnaround, and charter school agenda. The Regents must follow through on these proposals and approve this agenda without hesitation for two primary reasons:
1) New York will substantially improve its competitive chances for up to one-half billion or more federal Race-to-the-Top dollars awarded by the Obama Administration to states that have reformed their education systems. Numerous other states have enacted reforms, or are poised to do so in order to compete for this funding. Across the country, states are raising their charter caps and enhancing their funding, removing the data "firewall" for teacher tenure, and imposing greater teacher accountability. States like Colorado and Florida already are well-positioned; other states like California, Wisconsin and Michigan are on the move to enact reforms by January.
2) The Regents to their credit asked for these kinds of measures by their unanimous appointment last July of David Steiner as the state Education Commissioner. With the package of reform proposals unveiled for tomorrow's meeting, he has followed through on his reputation as a bold reformer. Were the Regents expecting less?
Not according to Regents Vice Chancellor, Milton Cofield, who was co-chair of the commissioner search committee, when he described the appointment this way: "In David Steiner the Regents have selected a bold and provocative education reformer."
Indeed, the Regents eschewed any thought of conventional shyness when they appointed Steiner (here) knowing, for example, that he was the author of more than 100 journal articles, papers, reports and chapters on education reform.
Subsequently, at numerous public forums this fall, Chancellor Merryl Tisch assured audiences that the state would have an "aggressive" Race to the Top application and cited the appointment of Commissioner Steiner and his team that she was serious. That is what is now before the Regents to approve.
Regents At a Fork in the Road - Do the Right Thing
It's now on Chancellor Tisch, Vice Chancellor Cofield, and Regent Anthony Bottar, the other co-chair of the commissioner search committee and chairman of the Regents committee on Elementary, Middle, Secondary and Continuing Education, to follow through and deliver their colleagues on the Board of Regents to approve this reform package - all of it.
That would be a major step forward, and spur the state legislature--which needs plenty of spurs--to follow suit by enacting reform measures in time for the state's submission of its Race to the Top application next month.
Failure by the Regents to rise to the occasion this week and approve Commissioner Steiner's education reform package would show they were unserious, and merely posturing with their changing of the guard at State Ed.
Regents approval of these reforms for Race to the Top would show they can rise above anti-reform political pressure coming from the usual suspects, and that they mean business about improving education for New York's children.
for The Chalkboard
Disclaimer: The Chalkboard is hosted by the New York Charter Schools Association (NYCSA) as a place where members, public education advocates and others can view and respond to informed commentary on timely public education and charter school issues. The views expressed here are not necessarily the official views of the NYCSA, its board, or of any of its individual charter school members. Anyone who claims otherwise is violating the spirit and purpose of this blog. To comment on anything you read here, or to offer tips, advice, comments, or complaints. please contact TheChalkboard.