Monday, November 25, 2013

Kathleen Cashin’s record as an educator, administrator and on the Board of Regents

This is the second in a series we are doing, examining the record of individuals whose names have been mentioned as potential Chancellors.  Our first column summarized the record of Andres Alonso.  The following was compiled by Peter Dalmasy, Class Size Matters researcher. Full disclosure: Regent Cashin, along with Regent Rosa, received a “Skinny” award from Class Size Matters in 2012.

Kathleen Cashin has a Bachelor of Science Degree in Education from Brentwood College, a Master of Science Degree in Education from Brooklyn College and a Doctorate from Fordham University.  She taught at Holy Innocents School and P.S. 299 in Bushwick during the 1970s. Beginning in 1982, she served as principal at P.S. 193 in Midwood for sixteen years.

She then served as Superintendent of District 23 in Brooklyn.  About her record there, she recently said that “We were successful in Brownsville because it was the parents, the teachers and the principals who were all pushing the same agenda…If we taught a writing program in the schools, the parents were taught it at a retreat.”

She was appointed Regional Superintendent of the now-defunct Region 5 from 2003 until 2007, encompassing Districts 19 and 23 in Brooklyn and District 27 in Queens. In 2003, 33.2 percent of the students in Region 5 in grades 3-8 could read on grade level and 34.6 percent were proficient in math. Three years later, 50.6 percent read on grade level and 56.9 percent were proficient in math. No other region that had been below 40 percent crossed the halfway mark in either subject, according to the New York Times.  Cashin explained, “We had extensive student writing everywhere...We had children reading books over and above what was required.” 

In 2006, the New York Times noted that Dr. Cashin preferred principals who came up through the system over graduates of the chancellor’s Leadership Academy, which focused on recruiting candidates from other professions.  It also reported that Dr. Cashin made the union a partner, using the UFT to help train teachers instead of using outside vendors.

Cashin left her position as Region 5 Superintendent in 2007, when regional superintendents were eliminated, and became CEO of the Knowledge Network Learning Support Organization. She stayed in that capacity until February 2010, when she became Clinical Professor of Education at Fordham.  She explained that she resigned as network leader because she could only offer advice but no direction. She said, “[We] did the best we could with the hand we were dealt [but] couldn’t effectuate the change that needed to be done.”

In 2011, Cashin was appointed as the Brooklyn member of the Board of Regents.  In an interview when she was appointed, she said she wasn’t overly concerned about the need to weaken tenure or make it easier to fire teachers. She said, “My preference would be support, support, support. I’m not worried about how to get rid of someone — I was always able to do that, tenured or not. My concern was how do you bring your teachers up to a new level.”  She also said that the Bloomberg policy of principal empowerment did not always work to improve schools: “You become empowered when you have teachers and principals working together. Not by your title.”

Cashin added that: “Curriculum is critical, to do in depth, and to do extremely well on what you do. You can’t cover everything. Then you water down your effectiveness.” She said that there was too much test prep:  “I think that the focus is on the preparation for the assessments,” she said, referring to standardized tests. I am concerned about that. Very.”
As a Regent, Cashin has been an outspoken critic of the implementation of Common Core standards, the teaching evaluation system and emphasis on high-stakes testing. She has said, “Accountability is essential, but when it is in the primary position, it causes all sort of unusual and extraneous behavior…” referring to cheating, changing grades, “credit recovery” and teaching to the test.
In May 2011, she was one of only three Regents, along with Betty Rosa and Roger Tilles to vote against the new teacher evaluations system, based 40% on assessments. In November 2011, she and Regent Rosa were the only two members of a subcommittee to vote against relaxing rules to eliminate the roles of designated members on the committee that helps determine special education services.
Cashin also led an ultimately successful effort to keep a highly regarded transfer school, Bushwick Community HS open, and visited the school several time in the winter of 2011-2012, bringing others along including Regents head Tisch, saying: “We must change the metrics to allow these schools to stay open.

In February 2012, she hosted a public hearing to call attention to the DOE’s practice of credit recovery, in which graduation rates were being inflated by allowing high school students to pass their courses even if they didn’t show up for class, by filling out a few worksheets or doing a cursory online program instead.

In April 2012, at a meeting of the Regents, she opposed a proposal to boost to 25% the portion of the teacher evaluation system based on state tests, explaining “Not everyone agrees about value-added. I’m very concerned about any extension of this approach.”
On a panel in October 2012, she spoke about the damage high-stakes testing was doing to the education system:

“We need accountability—it’s essential—but when it’s in the dominant position, it causes people to do anything and everything to reach a quantitative number…What I’m concerned about is that the social, emotional, [and] mental education is going down the drain, because we are desperate for test prep.”

On October 1, 2013,  she co-authored an article in Education Week, called “Remaking Schools as Socioemotional Places” that noted the negative impact on children of the test-based, punitive accountability system, as well as the isolation of online instruction: 

“What do children do in school when they are treated like objects to be shaped, controlled, and rewarded—or punished—for what they said or did, learned, or failed to learn? How can these children grow, be human, be happy, and become good adults? And how can teachers thrive and survive if they, too, are not treated with dignity, and humanity, by their students, colleagues, and administrators?

How can students engage in the learning process if they feel isolated, a condition that affects many students and teachers alike? For teachers are often working in isolation. And students, when they stare at computers all day, are hardly interacting with teachers or peers.

Tragically, many schools are becoming test-preparation factories where the human, interpersonal side of learning gets lost in the urgent routine of identifying test needs, problems, and distractions from achievement, for the sole purpose of improving “test results.” Often, this tendency comes in tandem with computer-based learning rather than the more personal pupil-teacher relationship. …

We believe that cutting costs, constricting classroom life to memorization and test preparation, and replacing human contact with online interaction hurt the growth and learning of the whole child, turning education into a “bucket to be filled” and not “a fire to be kindled,” to paraphrase a famous saying.”

On October 21, 2013, Cashin released a statement to the press, criticizing the   state’s implementation of Common Core standards and suggesting that the Commissioner should better heed the concerns of parents and teachers:

“The teachers have been telling us for years that parts of the Common Core are not developmentally appropriate. We did not listen to them. The Common Core is not a papal encyclical nor is it infallible. The best curriculum and the best standards are always pliable, more like a living document, rather than something that is static and fixed. We need to listen to our teachers and develop a committee of practitioners who can make appropriate changes in these standards.” 

The second issue of grave concern to me is setting the cut scores for the upcoming Regents exams. We do not want to repeat what we did on the 3-8 exams that demoralized our students, teachers and parents by setting the cut scores too high. I suggest we take an average of the last three years of the Regents exams and set the cut score near that average. We have not listened to parents, teachers and our children. We need to start listening to them and acting on their input. Only then will we win them back.”

The next day, at the Regents meeting, she questioned the usefulness of APPR, the new teacher and principal evaluation system:
We put all this time and effort and money to have 92 percent of our teachers [as] 'effective' or 'highly effective,' and almost 87 percent of our principals…What's going through my mind is: If we had put that toward [professional development], if we had put that toward supports, and not the 'gotcha' ... approach, would our children be better off?


Chaz said...

She may not be perfect but she gets my vote as Chancellor.

Diane Ravitch said...

I think she is terrific.

Diane Ravitch

Anonymous said...

My first choice would be Starr. He was the first to call for a moratorium on testing way before anyone else.

Also he is the only one with experience on a more fair and balanced teacher eval system called PAR which doesn't judge teachers by test scores.

If we want better teachers, this is the best route to go.

Chaz said...

Anon: 5:15

If you want better teachers then eliminate the fair student funding fiasco and give principals an incentive for their schools to pick up the many quality teachers in the ATR pool.

UrbanEd said...

There is a difference between calling for a moratorium on testing in a new eval and voting against testing before if made it into the eval. This lady is real deal educator from Brooklyn, NY. If I had a vote, she'd get it

Anonymous said...

If she turns out to be the next Chancellor, I hope that her influence will extend across the State. She sounds wonderful.

Anonymous said...

Cashin was known for heavy test prep and my way or the highway from her days as principal right through the day she left the DOE 3 years ago. Was there one policy of Joel Klein's she did not support in the years she was at the DOE when he lead it? She did not quit in protest but only left after Joel was through using her.

Anonymous said...

I disagree with what anonymous stated about the heavy test prep and the my way or the highway attitude. I taught in district 19 when she was superintendent and I could tell you she was very nice and supportive of my school. She knew everyone's names including the custodian and the lunch lady. She was always had kind and encouraging words to the students. She was well respected. After she left district 19 went downhill after the doe hired some shady guy that got fired.

Anonymous said...

It is good she was nice and knew everyone's name and was supportive. You don't respond on the test prep and pressure over tests. Did you get the memo with 50 ways to staple on bulletin boards?
To be accurate - Cashin was not a Dist 19 Supt but district 23 in Ocean-Hill Brownsville before the Regions. She was Region 5 Supt which included Dist 23, 19 and 27. After Klein eliminated the Regions the Superintendents were powerless and still are.

Anonymous said...

I have heard Cashin speak on multiple occasions and have always been impressed with her thoughtfulness and thoroughness. I have seen her push back at Chancellor meetings when others publicly embraced misinformed ideology and quietly said otherwise. Cashin understands teaching and learning and also has effective management skills - the two are a must. She also understands that you don't fire your way to success and that you support and then document. She also understands that there is hard work to do when it comes to learning. While I don't always agree with her, I always respect her. I cannot say the same for the current or former administration- who have spend more time rearranging structures and little time focused on instructional content. It is long past time for new leadership at NYCDOE. Andres will be a return to the past and Shael until very recently (when in need of a new job) was an architect and a champion of practices that have left children without the knowledge and skills they need to be successful.

Anonymous said...

She abandonded the Rockaways. She is all smoke and mirrors.

Lafayette Academy Middle School said...

She will be the best Chancellor NYC ever. She feels and she believes.

Unknown said...

Awesome mover and shaker gets the job done.
Ms B Philip DISTRICT 23

Anonymous said...

Dr. Cashin was my principal growing up in elementary school and she was absolutely fantastic. Looking back on my education, my elementary school was probably the most proficiently run and I have no doubt it was because of her heavy influence. The year I graduated and moved on to junior high school she moved on to her new Superintendent position. Her kindness, sincerity, and personability have always stuck with me. She was the first person to teach me how to shoot a layup in after school basketball class, and she was always easy to talk to when I had a problem. I know this may not speak to her policy decisions and so forth but as a person of high character I can say without question she is one of the best.