Nell Scharff and New Visions

Who’s Afraid of Nell Scharff?

 (cross-posted at Schools Matter)
Now, if you’ve read The Atlantic‘s piece on the “writing revolution” (I’ll review this in another post) you may have picked up on the name Nell Scharff, but you may also have just paid her no attention.  She is introduced in the piece and identified in this way.

Her [New Dorp principal] decision in 2008 to focus on how teachers supported writing inside each classroom was not popular. “Most teachers,” said Nell Scharff, an instructional expert DeAngelis hired, “entered into the process with a strongly negative attitude.” They were doing their job, they told her hotly. New Dorp students were simply not smart enough to write at the high-school level. You just had to listen to the way the students talked, one teacher pointed out—they rarely communicated in full sentences, much less expressed complex thoughts. “It was my view that these kids didn’t want to engage their brains,” Fran Simmons, who teaches freshman English, told me. “They were lazy.”

Scharff, a lecturer at Baruch College, a part of the City University of New York, kept pushing, asking: “What skills that lead to good writing did struggling students lack?” She urged the teachers to focus on the largest group: well-­behaved kids like Monica who simply couldn’t seem to cobble together a paragraph. “Those kids were showing up” every day, Scharff said. “They seem to want to do well.” Gradually, the bellyaching grew fainter. “Every quiz, every unit test, every homework assignment became a new data point,” Scharff recalled. “We combed through their writing. Again and again, we asked: ‘How did the kids in our target group go wrong? What skills were missing?’ ”

I’ll confess that I was compelled to look her up because I thought, Hey, I might be able to call myself an “instructional expert.”

Scharff can be, and should have been, more accurately and honestly identified.  She is Director of The Center for Educational Leadership (CEL) at Baruch College (a CUNY school).  That is, she is not “just” some expert and she is not “just” a lecturer, and it’s likely that the Principal was “ordered” to accept whatever program Nell wanted to experiment with.  I am always confused as to why there seems to be a conspiracy to NOT reveal the whole of what these folks are, where they come from.  Who would care if she was identified as the Director of this very “interested” organization?  Nell is the iceberg’s tip.  Hitting her reveals what’s submerged in the waters of command and control.

What is the CEL?

We define leadership as the collective capacity to continually improve the sphere of student success, the number of students for whom current practices are working. The Center for Educational Leadership (CEL) promotes research, training and the development, testing and spread of effective practices that serve this end.

CEL is grounded in the Scaffolded Apprenticeship Model of school improvement through leadership development (SAM), which was co-developed by Liz Gewirtzman and Nell Scharff Panero at the Baruch College School of Public Affairs in collaboration with New Visions for Public Schools.  The model—piloted in 2005 and refined based on evidence from formative evaluation and practice-based research over six iterations—forms the basis of Baruch’s current school leadership certification program (SAM Citywide) and building- and district-level school improvement initiatives in NYC, Boston, Oakland and beyond.

What is a Scaffolded Apprenticeship Model of school improvement?

The heart of the model is a highly scaffolded process that guides teams to identify a learning gap for struggling students; analyze how instructional systems produce it; and act in iterative evidence-based cycles to remove the identified constraint.  This process—particularly the requirement that teams diagnose and track improvement in a targeted skill gap for specific students—develops the practices and habits of mind necessary for continual improvement.  After teams have internalized these skills and habits along with SAM’s inquiry process, they lead other colleagues to learn them. 

Sounds something like a cult organization; perhaps they train a “cadre” too.  Is it too perfect that there is a ready comparison to make between the other kinds of “cells” that our owners have inserted into our imaginations as “sleeping” among us?  The enemy appears, as usual, to be “us.”

What is “New Visions for Public School?”

  • initiated a highly successful school improvement model that links leadership certification to increasing student performance, certifying 180 school leaders by 2012.
  • launched the Urban Teacher Residency, a teacher recruitment, preparation and retention initiative based on the medical residency model.
  • pioneered a principal mentoring program and mentored more than 600 principals in their first year of service.
  • created new data tools for students, parents and teachers to measure progress toward graduation.

This is a very determined and very organized and very well-funded organization.  New Visions was founded in 1989 by this man, Richard I. Beattie, who I can only assume runs much of the world from his bio at his law firm, Simpson, Thatcher & Bartlett

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Richard Beattie is Chairman of Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP where he specializes in counseling boards of directors and non-management directors on governance issues, investigations and litigation involving corporate officers and other crisis situations.  He also specializes in mergers and acquisitions and leveraged buyouts.  He has participated in some of the larger and more complex financial transactions, including J.P. Morgan Chase & Co.’s $58 billion acquisition of Bank One Corporation, the merger of America Online and Time Warner and the merger of WellPoint Health Networks with Anthem Inc.

The Cult of the Leader is still alive and well as Richard Beattie and all his chums continue to bilk the citizens of all “productive” capital they can…only now that human capital is Jack & Jill–some crowns gotta get broke.

Here are the other officers of “New Visions.”

Roger Altman, Co-Chairman:

From Wikipedia:

Altman is listed as a member of the Steering Committee of The Bilderberg Group, a controversial group of influential business and government leaders who meet annually behind closed doors under a media blackout to discuss world issues. In 2009, Altman was on the list of Bilderberg conference attendees in Greece.

From Forbes:

Co-Chairman, co-founded Evercore Partners in 1996 and served as our Chief Executive Officer until May 2009. Since May 2009, Mr. Altman has served as our Executive Chairman. Mr. Altman began his investment banking career at Lehman Brothers and became a general partner of that firm in 1974. Beginning in 1977, he served as Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Treasury for four years. He then returned to Lehman Brothers, later becoming co-head of overall investment banking, a member of the firm’s management committee and its board. He remained in those positions until the firm was sold to Shearson/American Express. In 1987, Mr. Altman joined The Blackstone Group as vice chairman, head of its merger and acquisition advisory business and a member of its investment committee. Mr. Altman also had primary responsibility for Blackstone’s international business. Beginning in January 1993, Mr. Altman returned to Washington to serve as Deputy Secretary of the U.S. Treasury for two years. Mr. Altman is a trustee of New York-Presbyterian Hospital, serving on its investment committee, and also is vice chairman of the board of The American Museum of Natural History. He also serves as chairman of New Visions for Public Schools. He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and a director of Conservation International.

Robert (Bob) L. Hughes, President:

Bob Hughes has spent his career at the nexus of business, government and the media. He is a versatile executive with successful experience in both the non-profit and publicly traded sectors.  Bob has spent the last 20 years in the healthcare sector, first at the Massachusetts Association of HMOs as president and CEO, and later at Brockton Hospital as vice president of marketing and planning. He gained valuable health policy, management and operations experience that he is able to bring to bear on almost any complicated, seemingly intractable management concern.

Before MAHMO, Bob worked in marketing and investor relations for Cullinet Software, then the world’s largest, independent mainframe database company with a market capitalization of $1 billion. Before moving to Cullinet, Bob spent nearly 14 years at the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation, a non-partisan research and policy “think tank” focusing on state management and fiscal issues.

The long list of funders contains the usual suspects.

The Cult of the Leader is still alive and well as Richard Beattie and all his chums continue to bilk the citizens of all “productive” capital they can…only now that human capital is Jack & Jill–some crowns gotta get broke.

Do spend a little time reading this and marveling at the “gonneggtions” (Gatsby’s Meyer Wolfsheim).  I think it’s time we all stop pretending we have a “chance” in this.  Wolfsheim rigged the 1919 series, “because he saw an opportunity.”  Reason enough, more than enough.  I feel like sometimes we’re all “addicted” to “America” the way so many folks are addicted to so many chemicals and so many “neurochemically” stimulating “entertainments.”  We all KNOW the truth–the House always wins.  Your meager “victories” are only allowed to keep you believing in the Green Light at the end of Daisy’s pier.

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