Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Commissioner finalists: Angélica Infante-Green

We have three finalists for Commissioner of education

Jeffrey C. Riley, superintendent/receiver of the Lawrence Public Schools
Angélica Infante-Green, deputy commissioner, Office of Instructional Support P-12 in New York State Education Department
Penny Schwinn, chief deputy commissioner of academics at the Texas Education Agency

Next up, Angélica Infante-Green, who is on Twitter, though she hasn't tweeted since November.

Infante-Green tells her education story as follows:
I was lucky enough to go to public school in New York City. We lived on the edge of two very different neighborhoods. If you didn’t have money, you went to a school down the hill. And the kids whose families had money went to another school up the hill. Once my parents understood the difference between the two schools—that the school “up the hill” could provide many more opportunities—they did everything in their power to get me into the better school. 
It’s common in the Latino community that girls have to do a lot of work around the house in addition to going to school, but my parents never had me do that. They placed a high value on education, and their expectations of me were to focus on school and get good grades. 
So beginning in middle school, I got a well-rounded education where instruction was solid, the arts were alive, and expectations were high. I had the chance to go to a specialized high school for math and science, which led me to major in architecture in college. I didn’t become an architect though; I joined Teach For America and became a teacher, and I’ve never looked back.
As she says, after getting an undergraduate degree in architecture, she entered education as part of Teach for America, teaching in New York City Public Schools in the South Bronx, intending to then go to law school. Instead, she continued to work for the New York public schools. It appears she has spent her entire career in New York education, moving within the New York City Public Schools before moving to the New York State Education Department.
She is also cited as an alum of Bloomington Head Start.

Per her New York State bio, from teaching, Infante-Green became a dual language project director, indicating a path that seems to have followed much of her career; she has said that she speaks to her children only in Spanish. She comments in this interview that part of her reason for seeking leadership was frustration with policies that impacted the classroom as a teacher.

She was school director at the Early Childhood Center at George Washington High School, before becoming a regional instructional specialist.
She served as Executive Director of the Office of English Language Learners for New York City Schools.

As a parent of a son with autism, she is adamant in referring to children receiving special education services as follows:
"So you will never, ever, ever hear me say 'disabled children'. What does the suffix 'dis' mean? Can't! I'll be dammed if someone tells me my kid can't do something, so the language I will use moving forward is differently-abled," stated Green.
In 2013, she became Associate Commissioner for the Office of Bilingual Education and Foreign Language Studies for New York State. She was interviewed shortly thereafter by the state bilingual educators, and I'd recommend reading the entire interview. She said (among much else):
...so every time I think about the decisions I am making, I think about my kids, “Is this something I would want for my children? Is this something that I really think is valuable?”...I struggled with taking this job because I would be removed from things and I worried about that a great deal. But I also see now that I'm here, next week it will be my third month, that there's a lot of work to be done to be able to help people who are actually doing the work; they are the ones who are really moving the agenda... Instead of looking at [English learners] as a deficit or what they don’t bring to the table, we need to change the way people look at them and see that these kids bring more to the table than other kids do...The second [part of] the vision is really, truly, having bilingual education for everyone, not just for English language learners.
As I said...go read it.
She had an intriguing conversation around English Language learners and standardized testing in 2015. After agreeing that the tests were useless in showing anything for kids who were learning English, but arguing they should nonetheless take the tests:
Ms. Infante-Green revealed that NYSED had sent in a waiver request to the US Department of Education, asking if they could exempt English Language Learners from the test for at least two years after they enter this country, instead of only one year, which is the mandate now. She said that they really wanted to exempt such students from the ELA exam for at least three years, but didn't think they could possibly get such a waiver.
She was among those overseeing a ramping up of services in New York state to English learners.
She has been active in presenting on dual language literacy and special education throughout her career. See this presentation from 2015 on fostering success in English Language learners, for example. In 2016, she said the following when asked about multilingual education:
But, as New York State Education Department Deputy Commissioner Angelica Infante-Green put it, “Sometimes when people don’t listen to the research, you’ve gotta put it into practice. You’ve gotta help them along. But you’ve also gotta provide resources and support.”
Nor are those two things at all separate; serving on a panel last year, she:
stressed that dual-language programs shouldn’t only be reserved for traditionally high-achieving schools but should be offered in special education and low-performing schools, as well.
She most recently was part of Chief for Change's "Future Chiefs" recognition; she was quoted as saying:
“Until every parent can just send their child to that local school [and know they’ll receive a great education], the work isn’t done,” she said.
She is also listed as a "Network Member" on Education Post.

In September, she jointly wrote an editorial advocating for the Dreamers, saying in part:
Instead of playing political games with students’ lives, our leaders in Washington should come to our schools and see the impact their decision is having. Hear how quickly students’ conversations shift from “how was your summer” to “are you going to be safe?” Meet with the school counselors who should be helping students figure out what they want to achieve this year, not how much they stand to lose. 
Come see how every day that a solution is delayed makes our schools a place of fear and uncertainty instead of a haven from which to learn and grow.

will update as necessary; Penny Schwinn is here 

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