“I am Oz, the Great and Terrible,” spoke the Beast, in a voice that was one great roar.

the-wizard-of-oz-44297“Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain!”

― L. Frank BaumThe Wonderful Wizard of Oz

About two years ago, Linda Darling Hammond, the noted educator and researcher and her daughter Kia videoed a list of attributes education should have for WISE Services, the not-for-profit I work for. Included in her list was that:

A learning experience should:

  • Be inspiring, authentic and driven by a student’s passion, interests, and desire to learn
  • Provide real critical thinking and problem solving situations
  • Develop the abilities to learn how to learn and the soft skills necessary for that
  • Teach goal formulation and self assessment
  • Be transformational

Similarly, a 4-year, 2014 study found eight conditions vital to every successful school climate for teachers. These are the same conditions that I had when I worked at Adlai Stevenson High School in the Bronx during the 1970’s and early 1980’s.

They are:

1. Belonging – A sense of community where all participants are considered valuable, active, and therefore they contribute to the life of the school so that collaboration replaces a culture dominated by individual competition. 

2. Heroes –Highly motivated teachers who set and meet high aspirations, make contributions beyond the “call of duty”, and form meaningful relationships with others in the school with mutual respect and commitment to one another.

3. Sense of accomplishment – Staff effort, perseverance, and citizenship are recognized and appreciated thus increasing the motivation, hard work, and dedication necessary to persevere through difficult tasks.

4. Fun and excitement –  Interesting, challenging, enjoyable work that improves engagement and effectiveness

5. Curiosity and creativity – Questioning, creativity, and exploration are encouraged, while mundane routine is limited.

6. Spirit of adventure – Healthy risks and making mistakes are encouraged knowing there is much to be learned from any consequence.

7. Leadership and responsibility – Teachers are trusted to have a voice in their classrooms, departments, and the building as a whole.

8. Confidence to take action – Teachers intrinsically have desire and confidence knowing they are trusted to be successful and make a difference.

How can these be accomplished under the Cuomo regime in New York State? His regime has brought huge curriculum changes, drastic budget manipulations, and a heavy increase in common core based standardized testing, restrictions, and mandates.

Governor Cuomo and his “rubber stamp” legislature have ignored Hammond’s points on learning, the conditions necessary for a successful school climate, and other findings that administrators, teachers, parents, and students all know make great schools work, even under the toughest funding conditions.

The governor’s vendetta against teachers who did not support him in the election has ushered in legislation that increases the weight of standardized tests in evaluating a teacher from 20% to 40% to now 50% with the knowledge that even at 20% the process was flawed. He does this as Congress contemplates reversing field on all of the Race To The Top mandates?

This retribution actually affects students even more than teachers.

We know the obvious results. There will be less real teaching and more test prep time. There will be a loss of curricula choice and more test score improving activities.

But, maybe there will be new high school courses too. Consider these possibilities:

  •             “Physical conditioning and nutrition for test-taking”
  •             “Music to study standardized tests by”
  •             “Doodling as a study guide”
  •             “The history of standardized testing in democratic societies”

You get the idea.

Based on these laws, what are the eight vital conditions Governor Cuomo has created for his version of a successful school climate for teachers?

In my opinion, they are:

  1. Fear of job loss
  2. Pavlovian response to rewards
  3. Reliance on data driven drivel
  4. Robotic use of non educator produced materials
  5. Worker bee mentality
  6. Love of uniformity and conformist conditions
  7. In step marching ability
  8. Being seen and not heard

Who will suffer most from the loss of successful school climates and as a result, our best teachers who resign or retire early?

We all know: Children!

The real question facing us today is who should be responsible for improving our children’s education?

“Carlson’s Law” is a term to describe autocracy and micro management (as we see in New York State) in the workplace.

  • “Innovation that happens from the bottom up tends to be chaotic but smart.”
  • “Innovation that happens from the top down tends to be orderly, but dumb.”

Who is dumber than Governor Cuomo and his allies?

God, help us all. The all-powerful Wizard has spoken.