Is Tony Alvarado On His Way Back To New York?
A Traveling Salesman for School Reform
By JOSEPH P. FRIED [NY TIMES, May 16, 2004]
Anthony J. Alvarado is no longer a field commander in the campaign for educational reforms, but he is still spreading the gospel according to Alvarado.
It goes like this: To teach children effectively, you must teach teachers effectively - and constantly - about how to teach children effectively.
From the 1970's to the 1990's, Mr. Alvarado was known in New York City for his teacher-training innovations and other reforms as superintendent of two public school districts in Manhattan, first in East Harlem and then in a district running from Lower Manhattan to the Upper East Side.
To be sure, he was even more widely known in the 1980's for a dark time between his district-chief stints. In April 1983, he was named the city's schools chancellor. In May 1984, he resigned amid charges of professional and other misconduct stemming largely from his financial affairs.
Prosecutors investigated his acceptance of more than $80,000 in loans from subordinates while he had headed the East Harlem district, as well as accusations that he had failed to report more than $125,000 in income on his tax returns.
Mr. Alvarado admitted to "horrendous" judgment in having borrowed from subordinates but insisted there had been no quid pro quo for the loans. He denied having sought to evade taxes.
The investigators found no basis for criminal charges, and he picked up the pieces and went on to his second district-chief job, from 1987 till 1998. Then he became chancellor of instruction, the No. 2 official, in the San Diego school system.
Mr. Alvarado has been out of that post now for 15 for months. Changes he made in San Diego - including systems for coaching teachers and sharp increases in student instruction in reading and writing - made him a lightning rod in that city. Many teachers and their union questioned some changes and accused him of imposing them without proper consultation.
But the criticism was not why he resigned, Mr. Alvarado said recently. "I thought I'd made the contribution I wanted to," he said from his San Diego home, "and there was no reason to continue" until his contract ended at the end of this year.
These days, he said, he travels the country as an educational consultant, providing, among other things, "feedback to school systems about their professional development methods."
Any desire to be a front-line commander again? "At this point in my career," Mr. Alvarado said, "the answer is no."
But....his partner in the District 2 "miracle" - the implementation of TERC math and whole language - Carmen Farina, is now Deputy Chancellor, and she may be preparing to have Mr. Alvarado return to finish his work. He left his position as Superintendent for improprieties.
In addition, his District 2 "math miracle" has been found to lack any scientifically sound foundation by the National Academies in their recent report.