Perdido 03

Perdido 03

Saturday, January 4, 2014

What Shael Polakow-Suransky Should Do Now

I wondered in a post yesterday if Shael Polakow-Suransky might continue on at Tweed even though a new administration has taken over that is supposed to be at odds with many of the education reform policies Polakow-Suransky developed and/or implemented as deputy chancellor.

Carmen Farina told a reporter from Capital NY that she has made no decisions on personnel yet, but Norm Scott has a fabulous idea for what should come next in Shael's career trajectory:

Shael taught in the system for years and certainly can reclaim his teaching license and show everyone how it's done.

To which another commenter added:

What a great idea, Norm. I would like to see Herr PS conferring with one student in a class of 32 or so, while the other 31 children are actively engaged in independent activity.

It really is a great idea - let expert Shael show us all how it's done, Danielson-style.

And why not start at one of those schools that Bloomberg, the feudal lord Shael served these past years, wanted to close?

Come one, Shael - take Norm up on it.

Go back to teaching and show us how a highly effective expert teacher practices his craft.


  1. We already know how poorly he would be in the classroom. Remember this?

    1. Great point, Chaz! I had forgotten about that. I'd like to see SED Commissioner King show us how it's done too. Tisch too. And of course Walcott and Klein. Could be like a reality show - no one would watch it but me, but I think it would be a ton of fun!

  2. Diane Ravitch posted a bit a while back proving that Mr. Suransky was willing to tell outright lies to defend bad education policies and that student needs were farthest from his primary concerns

    1. Thanks for the link - Shael is a self-serving functionary of the corporate state. He'll land on his feet no matter what happens, I a certain. Still, I hope it's as far away from NYC schools as possible.

  3. At the last (and hopefully final) release by the New York City Department of Education of school Progress Report grades Shael Polakow-Suransky, the current Chief Academic Officer, who has so far continued to maintain his position under the new administration, told the New York Times “you can see that some schools are beating the odds consistently.” As with so much of the propaganda that came out of Tweed under Bloomberg one wonders “is this true?”

    The numbers reveal that this is a lie. Since Progress Report grades began 7 years ago, 26 high schools earned an “A” every year. What do these schools tell us about what it takes to “beat the odds” under the school grading system valorized by Suransky? 25 of the 26 schools are screened schools or selective schools. So the trick seems to be: don’t accept any students with academic challenges, don’t accept students with special needs, and definitely don’t accept students who have struggled with school in the past.

    It is clear that this is part of a pattern of lies and misrepresentation by Suransky about the Progress Reports. A letter to the New York Times that Suransky wrote last year turns out to be chock-full of half-truths and outright falsehoods. In the letter, he attempted to defend the grades two very similar schools in the Bronx received. One, PS 30, got an A. The other, PS 179, got a F.

    Suransky claimed that “the city’s Independent Budget Office recently found that progress reports do a better job controlling for student demographics than any other system in the United States.” Here is the link to the report . A quick search will demonstrate that the report says no such thing. In fact the report concludes that although “the peer group methodology is an improvement compared with other approaches, the method of calculating the continuous metrics on which final progress report scores are based may not fully control for confounding variables. All other things being equal, a school with a higher percentage of black and Hispanic students or special education students is likely to have lower performance and progress scores than other schools. (page 12)”

  4. Suransky insisted that looking at the math scores of the two schools the “difference in student progress is huge and has great consequences for students’ chances of graduating ready for college, justifying the schools’ respective grades.” This too is not true. In 2 of the past 3 years students at the F-rated school had a higher Math proficiency average score than the students at the A-rated school.

    What about the percent of students scoring “proficient” or above on the math exams? Here too, in 2 out of the 3 prior years, the F-rated school had a higher % of students scoring a level 3 or 4 on Math than the A-rated school. Looking at the same math score data broken down by grade level we see that the F-rated school had a higher % of 3rd grade students scoring a level 3 or 4. The F-rated school also had a higher % of students scoring at levels 2, 3, or 4 in both 3rd and 4th grades. The A-rated school had a higher level of math growth among 4th and 5th grade students in 2010-11, but this is by no means consistent as in other years the F-rated school did better. However PS 179, the F-rated school, saw more growth among their 3rd graders in 2010-11 than did PS 30.

    This data does not support grading PS 30 an “A” and PS 179 a “F.” The only significant difference is PS 30’s growth for 5th graders. But to quote the IBO report Suransky misquoted earlier the “student progress sub-score is less stable from year to year” than other elements of the Progress Reports (page 7). Meaning that the “great consequences” for “students’ graduating ready for college” that Suransky predicted are, entirely unsupported by evidence.

    If we look at other factors that might be important to measuring the quality of a school, such as the rate at which students are suspended or the rate at which teachers are retained, we find that PS 179, the F-rated school, comes out slightly ahead of PS 30, the A-rated school. The school rated as failing suspends many fewer students than the A school. The school rated as failing retains more of their teachers than the A school.

    Student suspension rate: PS 179= 1% in 2008-09 and 4% in 2009-10. PS 30=11% in 2008-09 and 5% in 2009-10.
    Teacher turnover rate: PS 179=12% in 2008-09 and 14% in 2009-10. PS 30=21% in 2008-09 and 18% in 2009-10.

    These two schools also provide evidence that the city’s grading scheme penalizes educators who teach students with special needs. PS 179 educates 5% more students with special needs than PS 30 (25.7% as compared to 20.7%). For this PS 179 was rewarded by the city with an “F.”

    Random fluctuation in test scores is certainly not sufficient justification for an F grade, despite Suransky's claims. In fact since Suransky wrote the letter the F-rated school proceeded to get an “A” in 2011-12 and a “B” in 2012-13. The A-rated school got a “B” in 2011-12 and a “B” in 2012-13 (with an “F” in the performance subcategory).

    The Progress Reports were developed with the intent of penalizing educators and closing schools. Such a grading system only perpetuates inequality of educational opportunity. Thankfully Mayor de Blasio has promised to end this nonsense. Suransky, who attempted to perpetuate this nonsense needs to go. He has no place in a de Blasio administration.

  5. A comprehensive review of Shael's career showed that he was behind two failed schools, lied many many times about the data behind the progress report and couldn't even manage to develop Common Core curricula although he had a staff of over 700 at Tweed