TIMELINE: DISTRICT 2, NEW YORK CITY
Anthony Alvarado, a former English teacher and superintendent in New York City’s District 4 is named to lead District 2. The district covers an area of Manhattan stretching from Chinatown to Hell's Kitchen, near Times Square to the Upper East Side; half of its 22,000 students live in poverty and 20% are immigrants for whom English is a second language. Compared to the other 32 districts in New York City, District 2 ranked 10th in reading and 4th in math.
Source: Elmore (1997), “Investing in Teacher Learning”
Late 1980s - early 1990s:
Improving literacy instruction is the professional-development priority during the early years under Alvarado. The district looks to outside experts and became involved with Lucy Calkins at Teachers College, Columbia University.
An enormous amount of time and resources is invested in improving literacy instruction. The core of the district’s Literacy Initiative is the “Balanced Literacy” program, a framework for teaching reading and writing in the elementary grades.
Source: Elmore (1997). D’Amico, Harwell, Stein & van den Heuvel (2001), “Implementation and Effectiveness of a District-wide Instructional Improvement Effort”
During the first four years of Anthony Alvarado’s tenure, he replaces 20 of the 30 principals in his district, setting the stage for a change in the role of the principal from building manager to instructional leader. Alvarado focuses on attracting, selecting and managing talented people as a key element of his district improvement strategy.
Source: Elmore (1997)
Diane Snowball, a visiting scholar at Columbia University, is an authority on literacy from Australia, a country that boasts the highest literacy rates in the world. Alvarado hires Snowball’s consulting company A.U.S.S.I.E. to improve the literacy in his district. Snowball and her staff developers work individually and with groups of teachers on literacy instruction.
Source: Education Week 11/03; Newsday 3/1/92;
Alvarado and his team develop the Professional Development Laboratory in which an experienced educator within the district is designated as a Resident Teacher, agreeing to allow other visiting teachers observe his/her classroom for a three week period of intense study and supervision.
Source: Elmore (1997)
The powerful AFT local, the United Federation of Teachers (UFT), though skeptical at first, becomes an ally. The union comes to agree that the decisions Alvarado made were done for sound educational reasons, not a desire for power. Their longstanding relationship with Alvarado and belief in his strategy to improve instruction gives him the backing he needs to initiate change in his district.
Source: The American Prospect 9/99-10/99; JS interview with Joseph Coletti 5/28/02
To improve accountability, Alvarado and his two deputies make regular visits to the schools in the district in order to monitor progress. Both deputies spend at least two days per week at schools, visiting classrooms and discussing specific school issues with principals. They also make at least one formal school review each year. Alvarado tries to visit each school at least once a year.
Source: Elmore (1997)
District 2 implements their Standards Initiative, the core of which involves setting clear, public expectations for both teaching and learning in four subject areas: English Language Arts, Mathematics, Science and Applied Learning. The district’s standards are based on the content standards developed by national organizations in the various disciplines.
Source: D’Amico and Stein (1999), “The Role of Performance Standards in the Enactment of Literacy Instruction”
Alvarado’s team of district leaders and principals are expected to actively evaluate their staff. Many teachers that do not agree with Alvarado’s strategy are transferred to other districts in the city and new teachers are carefully selected. The UFT changes its staffing policy to help place teachers in District 2 schools that are in line with the district’s philosophy. Under the union’s school based option staffing and transfer plan, the overriding criteria becomes educational qualifications rather than seniority, with school committees in charge of making the hiring decisions. While this staffing option had previously been available to special theme-based schools, the union opens it up to all sites and District 2 takes advantage of it. By 1998, approximately 50% of the teachers have been replaced during Alvarado’s tenure.
Source: JS interview with Joseph Coletti 5/28/02; Elmore (1997)
The district turns its attention to math, hiring a full-time math consultant to work on professional development with teachers. The district also adopts the mathematics curricula, TERC’s Investigations, for the elementary grades. It will take three years to expand the math initiative district-wide.
Source: D’Amico, Harwell, Stein and van den Heuvel (2001); Elmore (1997)
Due to complaints from teachers in District 2 about the extra work forced on them, lack of respect for their professional opinion and the pressure to comply with Alvarado or risk being pushed out, the UFT officially solidifies its partnership with the district. They issue a statement to teachers indicating in no uncertain terms that the reforms reflect shared goals and philosophy between the UFT and District 2. The union tells teachers that they will be treated respectfully and their rights will be upheld, but they also expect teachers to act as professionals.
Source: JS interview with Joseph Coletti 5/28/02
State legislation in New York City gives more control to the schools chancellor, removing power from the city’s 32 local school boards. The move largely insulates local administrators and principals from the political winds, but there is some concern that it comes at the expense of local independence.
Source: New York Times 12/24/96
District 2 begins to focus on improvement at the middle school level and also create standards to be used in assessing student work.
Source: Elmore (1997)
Alvarado and his team develop the Aspiring Leaders Program (ALPS) to recruit and train new candidates as principals from the ranks of teachers, professional developers/coaches and support staff within the district. They also create the Distinguished Teachers Initiative, identifying excellent teachers and placing them in schools with the highest need to mentor teachers that show potential.
Source: Burney and Elmore (2000), “Adult Learning and Mentoring in Community School District 2”
By 1998, Alvarado’s last year as District 2 superintendent, 73% percent of the students are reading at or above grade level, up from 56% a decade earlier; in math, 82% are at or above grade level, up from 66% in 1988. Alvarado leaves District 2 for position with the San Diego school district.
Source: HPLC Technical Report (2000)
The District 2 board names Deputy Superintendent Elaine Fink as Alvarado's interim and then permanent replacement. Fink continues Alvarado’s strategy and also spearheads the development of Focused Literacy Schools, targeting the lowest performing schools with an intense combination of professional development in literacy and instructional supervision.
Source: New York Times 6/16/98; Burney and Elmore (2000)
Shelly Harwayne, deputy superintendent in District 2 and a former principal, is hired to replace Elaine Fink when she resigns to go work with the San Diego school district. In her role as superintendent, Harwayne reassesses some of Alvarado and Fink’s strategies in an effort to continue to improve the district’s effectiveness. She also expands the district’s support circuit to include family and community members.
Source: Burney and Elmore (2000)
Mayor Bloomberg is given unprecedented control over New York City’s education system. Along with selecting the chancellor, the state legislation gives the mayor the power to appoint eight of the 13 members of the new board of education, which is limited to setting policy and approving the budget. Mayor Bloomberg names his appointed board members on July 18. The presidents of the city's five boroughs name the rest of the board members.
Source: Education Week 8/02
Mayor Bloomberg names Joel I. Klein to be the first mayorally appointed chancellor under the new governance system for the New York City schools. A native New Yorker and a graduate of the city's public schools, Klein will run the nation's largest public school system.
Source: Education Week 8/02
Klein hires John F. Welch Jr., the executive who turned around General Electric, to play a major role in a new training academy for school principals. The program, called the Leadership Academy, will be modeled on the management training program that Welch created for General Electric. Klein hires Sandra Stein, a Baruch College professor with experience training school administrators, as the program's academic dean.
Source: New York Times 1/03
January 16, 2003:
Mayor Bloomberg announces his plans to reorganize New York City’s education system, eliminating the 32 local districts and school boards, replacing them with 10 regions that will focus on instruction. Under this new structure there will be 10 top superintendents – one for each region – who will oversee 120 new local instructional supervisors. The local instructional supervisors will be responsible for roughly a dozen schools apiece. Six operational centers will take over school budgeting, technology, personnel and administrative functions to reduce duplication and free up superintendents and principals to focus on instruction. With this new system principals will all have control over their own budgets for the first time. Bloomberg also proposes to move to a standard curriculum, put a parent coordinator in almost every school, and reduce class sizes in middle school English classes.
Source: New York Post 1/16/03; New York Times 5/9/03
Both the UFT and the Council of Supervisors and Administrators respond positively to Bloomberg’s restructuring plans.
Source: New York Post 1/03
Bloomberg and Klein name their new team of 10 regional superintendents to run the city's 1,200 schools. Shelly Harwayne, is assigned to Region 9, an area that includes the schools in her former District 2 as well as some other schools.
Source: New York Post 1/03
UFT President Randi Weingarten plans to withdraw the union's support of Mayor Bloomberg's education reforms, claiming educators have been mistreated and kept out of the loop on issues that affect them.
Source: New York Post 5/03
Region 9 Superintendent Shelly Harwayne announces she is retiring.
Source: New York Post 7/03
With a newly reorganized education system, Bloomberg also implements his plan to move to a standard curriculum in reading and math for all grade levels. The curriculum applies to about 1,000 of the system's 1,200 schools where half or more students failed proficiency exams and where a hodgepodge of differing reading and math programs are used. The other 200 schools are given more leeway as high performing schools. Schools are also assigned math and English coaches to help train teachers.
Source: Newsday 8/03; New York Post 1/03
UFT President Randi Weingarten says the city should have been better prepared for student overcrowding this year. The union plans to file grievances for overcrowded classrooms. Schools Chancellor Joel Klein brushes off the union's complaints saying overcrowding is an ongoing problem and that the Department of Education is committed to enforcing rules about class size by giving schools additional teachers and other resources.
Source: Daily News 9/03
In a victory for the UFT, a judge ruled that a referendum for creating a panel on class-size reduction must appear on the November 4th ballot.
Source: New York Post 10/03
Anthony Alvarado, former District 2 superintendent, serves on a commission to study where extra school funding should be allocated. The commission, appointed by the City Council, recommends that much of the money the New York City public schools are hoping to receive from Albany under a recent court order go toward raises, incentives and training for teachers.
Source: New York Times 5/05
Mayor Bloomberg and Schools Chancellor Joel Klein are pleased with reform results, particularly the controversial promotion policy which has forced third- and fifth-graders to bear down during the school year or undergo serious remediation over the summer. Math and reading scores for students in the third, fifth, sixth and seventh grades are up. According to figures released by the Department of Education, the number of fifth-graders passing the city math test rises to 53.7 percent from 38.5 percent in 2004; the number of fifth-graders passing the English test rises to 68.8 percent from 49.3 percent last year.
Source: New York Post 6/05