Teachers College begins research on cross-sector collaboration

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On my mind frequently and this study will seek to address :

“Through a literature review, a national scan of projects, and case studies of the three cities (Buffalo and two others that we will select by the end of year), we hope to understand more about past efforts, document the scope of current initiatives, and look for answers to questions such as:”

  • How do collective impact projects meet the challenges of getting started, and then move to meet the challenges of staying alive and becoming “business as usual”?
  • What implementation approaches seem to make best use of individuals’ motivations and talents?
  • How do organizations with sharply different cultures and circumstances work together and resolve conflicts?

A lot of cross-sector collaboration happening in education… though there is a fine line between collaboration and privatization of a non-exclusive public good.  Citizen Schoools,an education non-profit in Newark that I used to work in is a good example. The organization partners with high-needs , low-income public middle schools. Also PENCIL comes to mind. With  so many organizations following this hybrid model of public/private arrangements calls for a standard and governance norm or best practice, this study is a good place to gather that data.

More example my professor shared in my Non-Profit management class:

Housing Works

Department of Sanitation

New York state has more inequitable allocation of education funds than other states?

Great radical run down on the reality of educational opportunity from the Campaign for Education Equity. They say zipcode is indicative of school quality…



Myth #1: Schools and school districts have enough funding to provide all of their students with a quality education in spite of state funding cuts.

REALITY: The fact is that no one in state government—not the governor, the legislature, nor the state education department—has examined what impact the state cuts to education have actually had on children and schools. But independent research shows that state cuts to education have detrimentally affected children throughout the state and have disproportionately hurt districts in low-wealth areas that serve large numbers of children from low-income households. Because of inadequate funding, many schools throughout are unable to provide basic state-required educational resources like books, required course offerings, and technology to all of their students. This means that the requirement in the state constitution that all students be provided the opportunity for a sound basic education is being widely flouted.

Myth #2: Students won’t benefit from additional funding.

REALITY: With adequate funding, schools will be able to provide students with the full range of resources that are constitutionally required but are not currently offered in many schools because of limited budgets. Benefits to students will include: additional textbooks so students no longer have to share in class and can take books home after school; smaller class sizes; repaired and upgraded computers for student use; required tutoring and other supports for students who are struggling academically; restoring advanced science and math classes; honors and AP classes; art and music programs; physical education classes; foreign language classes; career and technical education; school librarians; field trips; internships; school government; school newspaper; and sufficient guidance and college counselors.

Myth #3: Schools and school districts could provide all of their students a quality education with their current funding—they just need figure out how to “do more with less.” 

REALITY: Neither the state government nor the state education department has produced any evidence to support this claim. Moreover, they have not provided schools and school districts with any guidance or models to show them how they can meet constitutional requirements and new state mandates with less money.

Myth #4: New York State is fully meeting its school-funding obligations under state law.

REALITY: Foundation aid for schools statewide is currently almost $4 billion below the level the state legislature itself determined in 2007 was necessary to provide all students with the opportunity for a sound basic education. In 2009, the state froze the level of state aid and deferred full payment of the constitutionally required amounts. Starting in 2010, each year it has reduced the amount of foundation funding by imposing a “gap elimination adjustment” that it has claimed is necessary to help eliminate the “gap” between available state revenues and state expenses. Currently this “gap elimination adjustment” is over $1.6 billion.

Myth #5: The state doesn’t have enough money to increase education funding.

REALITY: This year, the governor has announced that the state has a budget surplus, and the governor has announced that he intends to use the surplus to cut property taxes and various business and estate taxes by about $2 billion instead of providing the school aid that students have been promised and that the constitution requires.

Myth #6: Governor Cuomo’s 2014-15 executive budget proposals provide a big funding boost to schools. 

REALITY: The governor’s $608 million proposal for basic school operations would provide only a 2.91% increase in school aid this year. Just to meet mandatory cost increases and avoid more cuts in staffing and programs, school districts will need at least a 3.7% increase, according to the Education Conference Board. Under the governor’s scheme, New York City would receive a 2.76% increase, Syracuse would receive a 1.74% increase, and Buffalo would see only a 1.72% increase.

Myth #7: Gov. Cuomo helped New York fix its school-funding problems by establishing an education reform commission charged with “evaluating education funding, distribution of State aid, and operating costs” and examining “the unique set of issues faced by high-need urban and rural school districts.”

REALITY: In its final report that was issued in January 2014, the governor’s New NY Education Reform Commission was silent on these issues, saying that it was unable to make any recommendations regarding the critical funding issues because of  “their complexity, the wide variety of views surrounding them, and the limitations of time and resources.”

Myth #8: New York spends more on education than any other state and gets poor results. 

REALITY: According to the January 2014 issue of Education Week’s “Quality Counts,” New York is fifth highest in per capita spending, adjusted for regional cost differences, and its overall achievement levels are higher than 29 other states and the District of Columbia. More importantly, New York’s high average spending masks the fact that the state contains some of the highest spending and highest achieving school districts in the country, but the distribution of education spending is more inequitable than in most other states, and vast numbers of students throughout the state are not being provided a meaningful educational opportunity.

Myth #9: The governor and the legislature can shift the blame to schools or school districts.

As a matter of constitutional law, it is the state, and not local schools or school districts, that is ultimately responsible for ensuring that students receive appropriate educational services; if student achievement is not at desired levels, legally the fault lies with flawed state policies and inadequate state actions.

Children of the Common Core

Children of the Common Core

Image by Nick the Rat

The interview day was fast approaching, I haven’t interviewed in a while so this was a good opportunity to reflect on where I came from and where I wanted to go.

I was scatter brained in the days leading up to the interview, with poor time management I wasted post work hours searching for a new suit.
After trying on 3 suits each with its own shortcoming a.too cheap looking, b. too tight c. damaged zipper on the pants that slid open at the slightest movement. I almost had a panic attack and was upset with myself that I wasted time. I went home to meditate.

That night I prepped a smoothie for the following morning, my smoothie kick has been going well. Preparing 13 zip loc baggies in one shot makes it so much easier to make.The next morning I was pretty chilled out as I got onto the train and listened to the wheels screech below as the Q train made the infamous sharp turn over Coney Island Ave and ran down Brighton 11th street. The sun was rising and I felt the butterflies settle as I reviewed my talking points on a one pager. Soon the interview from hell would reveal itself.

“Screechhh! “… moments later a muffled announcement unapologetically declared a slew of train delays. If you live in NYC you know the announcements are seldom comprehensible, most times they resemble the muffled cacophonous sounds of the adult characters on Charlie Brown. I bounced from the B to the Q a few times to try my luck. Inevitably, I arrive 45 minutes late, drenched in sweat underneath all those winter layers, I freshen up and swap my comfy walking shoes for my patent leather interview heels.

As I enter, 3 other candidates are feverishly  clicking away at laptops around a small conference table. I jump in to complete a realistic “prioritization task” quite similar to what my day to day “firefighting” often looks like. Obviously I would ensure an absent teacher has coverage for his/her class before embarking on some philosophical discussion about the school dress code for a student whose precious do-rag was confiscated. We all must appease parents sometimes.

After completing the tasks, I chatted with the other candidates. Upon inquiring what school they had previously worked in they turned out to be Seniors in college. I naturally felt out of place, either this role was not for me or – I should not be applying to entry level positions with candidates more junior than me. I felt like the old maid in the candidate pool.

I brushed it off and got ready for the mini “tour” where the guide, the office manager- a bright eyed millenial boasted how the “graduation rate” was 100%. Yes, cherry picking and expelling those who can’t keep up can result in that.  OH lord. I couldn’t take any more, I wandered off on my own for a bit  in the “no excuses” zone and was uncomfortable with what I saw. While the environment seemed rigorous and not a single detail was overlooked I did not feel the joy from these students. Second graders walked silently down the hallway in a straight line , not even a single murmur nor a smile for that matter ! I won’t be completely biased here, I did observe a strong student teacher relationship where a student smiled and quietly hugged a teacher on the way into a classroom.

The schedule was scrupulously planned and the “data driven” ideology was evident via daily attendance rate posters plastered  all along the hallway. Laminated posters praising the most recent “Word Wizards”  who were on track to meeting the “reading goal” held a prominent spot on a bulletin board. The quantitative measure tallied the amount of books and individual words a grade level had read in total.One poster read ” 6th graders have read 460 books and 17,745,103 words.” Cultivating the love of reading in the K-8 years is wonderful, I have no qualm with that, but I don’t recall excessive quantifiers vis a vis my reading when I was in elementary school.  Are the students’ reading experiences enjoyable or a source of anxiety are they thinking”This is the 100th word I have read!”

My exploration continued into a 1st grade classroom where the teacher repeated verbatim from the corresponding part in a highly structured lesson plan. Students learned shapes and the ones that got something wrong had a towering figure above them draw a giant “X” in red. I remember learning about proximity as a teaching fellow and getting down to the same level as the child to show respect and relay empathy and understanding.

A towering figure, if you are 5 years old, that has got to be stressful! I just don’t know how else to say it , it seems like it goes against social emotional teaching and the concept of the whole child. Was I in a corporate reform outfit churning out middle managers who would only ever ask “How high?” students who memorized the right things but could not produce independent thought nor evaluate and think critically at the end of the day? Sure, they may have ready all those books that were on the list of approved curricula by Bill and Melinda and Arne but what kind of adults would they become? Children of the Corn, children of the common core.

I’ll wrap up this overdue rant – I did not feel the joy of learning and realized that the grass is not always greener. I need to develop and change gears sooner or later in my career but for now I know that I am at a school that I would send my own child to with no hesitation. These kids are joyful and learning at the same time, what more can we ask for ?