It's teacher hunting season!

Saturday, September 12, 2009

De Blasio, sensible choice for parents and teachers disappointed in Bloomberg and Klein's disreputable record in education

Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Education Chancellor Joel Klein have done a disservice to New York City Education.

The mayoral control plan has not been good for education.
There is too much hype on the question of mayoral control. In other cities, mayoral control has not produced an improvement in performance. Boston, Massachusetts has had a decade and a half of mayoral control. Yet, this has not corrected the negative patterns of performance in the city schools.

The question of mayoral control in New York City has had too much hype. The high schools graduation rates have not improved under Klein. Under his administration, guidance staff have encouraged the worst performing students to go elsewhere for concluding their education. Honest administrators will concede that, once the drop-outs and the transferees to GED programs, commercial / technical "colleges" and other "private schools" are excluded from the pool of students, the graduation rates look more like 80% for traditionally failing high schools in the city. Yet, these administrators concede, the schools have fifty percent failing rates, as before the Klein administration and the trend of breaking up traditional high schools.

Alas, you have to google for Columbia graduate student studies or for Comptroller William Thompson's posting, to learn of the mishegas of the deception of graduation rates under Klein.

Klein has refashioned the school system to something more than a free market system, whereby schools must all compete against each other; the active threat is that if they do not perform under the kooky formula of the subjective report cards, the new Department of Education will close down the school. The children must apply to schools, not just to high schools, as they did, pre-Klein, but to elementary schools.

This free market free-for-all has worsened an already ill-founded system of shuttling children all over the city. In the past you might see high school-aged children going to selective high schools or private high schools. Now we see elementary school-aged children commuting on trains and buses to schools. This is not a green policy. We have elementary schools in every neighborhood. Children should walk to their neighborhood school. They should not be adding to an already strained public transit system. Furthermore, it is not the best judgment to send young children alone onto subways to neighborhoods alien to them.
And now, the competition game has been imposed onto tender-aged pre-kindergarteners. The city is now making admission to kindergarten a competitive system. Those students not "smart enough" or not applying for admission early enough, are closed out of a guaranteed kindergarten spot. Bloomberg and Klein's accountability test mania has been imposed onto kindergarteners and first graders. This is ridiculous! Children at that age are just beginning to learn how to hold a pencil; this age is too young to impose on them the routines of bubbling scantron circles. The 2009 to 2010 New York City school-year began with an unresolved crisis: huge numbers of kindergarteners are without school assignments.

Teachers have had to transition from instruction time to test prep time. Many students are astute to the questionable value of the displacing teaching for test-prep. When students protest, teachers quell them by telling that this is not their choice, but "this is something we have to do."

Community schools are being closed down or are being forced to share space and other resources for private ventures under the ruse of charter schools. This pattern is negatively impacting minority and low-income neighborhoods disproportionately. Witness how wide-spread this is in Brooklyn and the Bronx, and how this trend has not touched Staten Island or northeastern Queens.

The breaking apart of schools in lower socio-economic neighborhoods has particularly hit older teachers and teachers of color. The ranks of the Absent Teacher Reserve ("ATR") teachers are full of such teachers. There is a large potential class action lawsuit if the city dismisses these teachers and if the union, the United Federation of Teachers (the UFT), does not unilaterally defend these teachers.

Consultants have been hired to impose experimental, unfounded education techniques upon teachers; and consultants have been hired to run the myriad of number-crunching computer programs of the myriad tests imposed on teachers and students. Many of these consultants are pulling salaries in excess of $100,000. These consultants as a rule, are hired in a no-bid, secretive fashion. Such bids are supposed to be done in a competive, open-bid fashion.

Thus, concerned parents and educators are looking for a quality public advocate to hold the Napoleonic dictatorship of Bloomberg and Klein.

William de Blasio, while not perfect, is the best choice for public advocate, particularly on the issue of questioning the actions of Bloomberg and Klein.

Now, onto a voice of criticism against some of this madness
On May 6, 2009, as a city councillor, Bill de Blasio demanded that Klein meet with parents of kindergarteners that were wait-listed out of their zoned (NYC jargon for neighborhood) schools. Wait-listing is something that is supposed to happen with private programs, not with public schools.
He asked that parents call, write and email joint letters with the quest for a meeting with schools chancellol Klein on this crisis.
The press release for his demand, "Bill de Blasio Launches Campaign to Demand Answers for Public School Parents with Wait Listed Kindergartner," posted on his website
, read:
“Public school parents are being held in a state of limbo by the Department of Education. As a parent with two children in New York City public schools I can personally speak to the frustration parents feel when we are completely shut out of our children’s education."
. . . .
Hundreds of parents in New York City were recently informed that there were “not enough seats available in the zoned schools at this time to accommodate all the zoned applicants" and, as a result, their children have been wait listed at those schools. While the DOE has assured parents that it will "work with families and schools to place every child seeking a Kindergarten seat in the New York City public schools," the fact remains that parents across the City have been left with no information regarding where their children might end up in the fall.

He has issued a multi-point plan to have more transparency into the New York City Department of Education. As part of his proposal, "Strengthening Our Public Schools, August 2009," he has proposed establishing a parents' bill of rights, cornerstones of which would be respectful two-way communication between the Department of Education and the parents of the city's schoolchildren, and full transparency into budget and academic data.
See Gotham Schools' August 25, 2009 report on de Blasio's proposal for a link to the full proposal.
From GothamSchools::
If elected, de Blasio will hold monthly education hearings in each borough, make even more school data available online, and convene a “Commission on the Future of Education.”

He will post data on the numbers of students that relied on "credit recovery" programs to "earn" their high school diplomas; this punctures Klein's smoke and mirrors about supposed increases in graduation rates. (Bloomberg and Klein have cheated their task, they have cheated the public. When you rely on "pushing out" over-age, repeater, or low-performing students, with too-few-credits; when you create so much test pressure on schools and administrators, cheating and fudging on Regents and other New York State tests ensues; when you do these things you show a lack of self-confidence in an honest performance. Like the reality shows, you show that appearances and show takes precedence over the hard, unglamorous tasks of real, honest work. You are showing a bad example for your city employee underlings and the children of New York City.)

De Blasio has diverged from Bloomberg's head-in-the-sand approach to the swine flu crisis, which was marked by opposing school closings amidst a snowballing spread in New York City, before it spread to elsewhere in the U.S. Highlights of his four point Swine Flu Community Outreach Plan, issued early in the crisis, on May 29, 2009 included:
All school closures related to swine flu must be announced before children leave at 3:00PM. If late closure is unavoidable, the Department of Education (DOE) must immediately set up a multilingual phone tree and hotline in order to communicate with all parents by phone within 24 hours.

The Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) should host town hall information sessions in all five boroughs and at community board meetings of neighborhoods where schools have been shut down

It is curious that openness and democracy are presumed valorized principles in our government. Yet, the professional media, too many academics and too many liberal activists have turned a blind eye to the whole-scale trampling upon the public's wish for open, honest discussion about the dramatic and often questionable practices of the Department of Education under Chancellor Joel Klein. Councillor de Blasio is to be lauded for his diverging from the blind adulation of Klein and the new direction of public education in the city. He is to be rewarded with a victory in Tuesday's primary election for Public Advocate of New York City.

The media have been blind to Bloomberg's Napoleonic approach to school governance. Bill de Blasio has not been a new-comer to recognizing that Bloomberg's style runs against our idealized national traditions.
As GothamSchools noted on February 3 of this year,
He said that he saw a “chilling effect” on public discussion after Bloomberg passed a social promotion ban in 2004 by firing two school board members who intended to vote against him. Did the panelists think that an empowered school board would prevent bad decisions have happening? he asked.

“I just have a feeling that if I locked Bloomberg in a room and asked him, ‘What’s the best system of rule?’ he’d say autocracy,” De Blasio told me afterward. “I thought we moved past that a long time ago.”

Bill de Blasio has integrity. Now wonder his endorsements for public advocate come from organizations ranging from "The New York Times" to Ed Koch, Fernando Ferrer, Mario Cuomo, Steve Buscemi, the Working Families Party, SEIU, the Uniformed Firefighters Association and the United Federation of Teachers.

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