Friday, July 15, 2016


This post is a direct reaction to NYC Educator who yesterday wrote a piece that was fairly critical of PROSE schools. Here is his opening paragraph:

Politico just did a feature on the PROSE schools. After reading it I have no idea why they are an improvement over the SBO feature of the standard contract, which allows schools to change class time, rearrange schedules, and basically do whatever they need to achieve their unique goals. I also see no advantage whatsoever in allowing the program not to sunset at year's end. What it it turns out to be a disaster?

NYC Educator then cites Carmen Farina pointing out an extreme example of a PROSE school that allows 40 students in a class. NYC then correctly points out that the contract, in contradiction to media perception, does not favor teachers very much.

I am in no way an expert on PROSE schools. I can't even remember that it stands for Progressive Redesigned Opportunity Schools of Excellence. The title is ridiculous and the program is in some ways a public relations ploy to show that the UFT is flexible concerning the contract. However, as someone who has worked in a PROSE school the last two years, I can say that the program can be used to enhance what was already a truly progressive school.

Middle College High School at LaGuardia Community College had a very collaborative working relationship between administration and teachers long before it was a PROSE school but as a PROSE school, MCHS has been able to go even further in that direction.

The school has altered somewhat the absolutely awful teacher evaluation system. There are teachers who are doing other things besides having the dumb Danielson 1,2,3,4 checklists being filled out for their Measures of Teaching Practice portion of their rating. Next year, the school intends to expand on this. I doubt this would be possible as a simple School Based Option.

Teachers in Middle College are Department Chairpersons. I can say, hopefully without offending any of the assistant principals I worked for at Jamaica, that the last two years I have sat in on some of the most engaging department meetings in my long career. Having a teacher run them has freed people to open up and truly speak freely. I am not saying that we didn't speak openly at Jamaica; it is just different when a teacher is leading the discussion. The assistant principal is only there occasionally at MCHS and the tone doesn't really change when he comes in.

In addition, MCHS approved a very progressive governance system that truly empowers the staff. I don't think this would be easy to do under the School Leadership Team structure in non-PROSE schools.

There has to be a 65% affirmative vote for PROSE. When MCHS takes a secret ballot vote on PROSE initiatives, the results are usually unanimous.

My experience is just one anecdotal but if there is a truly inspirational principal and a staff that buys in, PROSE can work.


Anonymous said...

Farina just tweeted, new social studies curriculum, equity, civil rights, tolerance...As the black kids are showing themselves to be such wonderful human beings and students, as every other word out of their mouths is "nigga."

Anonymous said...

Not you again. Go away Mr racist.

Anonymous said...

It's about as useful as when the he as lth teacher tells them to use protection. Or motel to smoke. Or that it costs $250K to raise a child. Think about where that $250K comes from when one of our students gets pregnant 1, 2, 3, of 4 times.

Anonymous said...

That was health teacher

Anonymous said...

Same place as your bloated salary.

Harris L said...

Sorry to interrupt the snotfest that has descended onto a James' intelligent and useful blog.

I read Arthur's piece. I'm not an expert on whether SBOs are better/worse than PROSE agreements. I've been out of teaching for three years now. But I support any flexibility that gives staff and administration to work together to respond to the particular needs and challenges of any community school. I've heard the particular anecdote that Arthur references many times and have no way to know how common that experience is in NYC schools. I think that the contract provision that set up PROSE contained relatively comprehensive and intelligent controls to review PROSE proposals and to review their effectiveness.

We who oppose education reform need to be able to offer reasonable counter-proposals that provide schools with flexibility and protect the membership.

I would be interested in more than anecdote v. anecdote but I also am not reflexively opposed to reasonable changes in school governance.

Now back to the snotfest...

ed notes online said...

We don't oppose educational reform but ed deform - I became a real reformer in my 3rd year as a teacher in 1970. The system has always been top down and therein lies the problem. James points to a non-top down system in his schools where teachers are leaders and partners. He identifies the key - a forward looking principal - of which there are too few. If she leaves I give the conditions in his school 10 minutes before they deteriorate. Other PROSE schools have manipulating principals who pack the schools with newbies who will vote the way the principals want. The essence is how principals are chosen. In the pre-Bloomberg days they were chosen by dictatorial local supes. Teachers have never played much of a role and they are best qualified to pick people who can run the school. But that will never happen especially with a union that doesn't fight for a bigger role for teachers in that process.