Imagine an alternative history of the United States in which each generation confronted with an extraordinary challenge just decided to opt out. Instead of a New Deal, FDR could have just told everyone it was OK to give up. Dec. 7 might be a day that will live in infamy, but Japan had a powerful military and Hawaii is so far away. And does it really matter if the Soviet Union beats us to the moon — rocket science is hard.
The opt-out movement is the latest manifestation of a culture of instant gratification that stands in stark contrast to the work ethic that built our nation. And just like your favorite reality TV star, opting out may seem flashy and pretty right now, but it lacks any real substance, and it's not going to age well.
Driven by anger at education reforms included in this year's state budget, there's a movement afoot in Albany to encourage parents to keep their children home from school, rather than sit for state tests. This blind rage may generate headlines for adults looking to settle political scores, but it comes at the expense of students.
Read more at Times Union.
There is little dispute that our schools are in need of fundamental reform, but few leaders have been willing to take on the special interests and deliver the changes needed. This year, Gov. Cuomo stepped into that void.
In the budget that passed this week, he made good on his promise to be the voice of students in Albany. The reforms that were included will improve our schools and help children learn.
Study after study has shown that the single greatest factor in improving outcomes for students is teaching quality. The new rules are based on this principle.
Teacher tenure based on proven effectiveness. The most notable achievement this week deals with the teacher-tenure system. Long considered a third rail of education politics, Gov. Cuomo stood up to the special interests and won.
New York is now one of just 12 states to award tenure after a minimum of four years, up from three.
In addition, a teacher must be rated effective for three years to qualify. This might seem like basic common sense — because it is. It also represents a profound shift in how education policy is made in Albany.
Protecting students from ineffective teachers. The process to get rid of abusive teachers has been streamlined, an enormous step in protecting kids.
Hearings to remove incompetent teachers are now limited to 90 days, down from an average of 830 days. And a district can suspend without pay an employee charged with misconduct that constitutes physical or sexual abuse.
Plus, a child no longer has to face an attacker in person and can now testify via closed circuit TV instead.
Read more at New York Post.
I was shocked not long ago to get an email bulletin from the PTA at my daughter’s elementary school, PS 321 in Park Slope, Brooklyn, attempting to rally parents against annual state testing of our kids. Now, the head of the state teachers union — a group that should be supporting rather than undermining education standards — is leading a crusade in support of this so-called opt-out movement.
Whether it’s at a high-performing school like the one my daughter attends or at a struggling school, the push to stop kids from taking tests that measure their annual progress threatens to increase the already troubling disparities in our public education system.
Parents who want to hold the school system accountable — and especially my fellow parents of children of color — should raise their voices in opposition to the heads-in-the-sand brigades.
You might remember a similar effort last spring, when there was a movement to encourage parents — mainly in wealthy suburban areas — to keep their children home during testing periods.
Every anxiety any parent had ever had about public education was wrapped up into what became a very passionate public debate about standardized testing and new, higher standards. The state Education Department doesn’t officially track these numbers, but in New York City, 1,925 students were reportedly kept home in protest last spring — up from 356 the previous year.
Read more at New York Daily News.
Tenicka Boyd, lead organizer for Students First discusses her desire for improving all schools, not just charter schools, her support of Gov. Cuomo's education reforms and her willingness to work with teacher's unions to achieve her organizations goals.
Watch Tenicka's interview at City & State.
Teachers play an important role in our children's success. This is something we all can agree on. But in New York State, public schoolteachers are managed by laws that hurt our kids' chances at success. My own daughter's education has suffered because of rules that don't make any sense.
My daughter has attended both public charter and traditional district schools in East New York, which has allowed me to see the differences in opportunities presented at each school.
When my daughter reached the fourth grade, our family moved from the Brownsville-East New York border into the heart of East New York, where she was placed into a district school. Shortly after, her grades took a noticeable dip. I spoke with her teacher, but I received simple excuses. Things became so bad that Tanasia had to repeat the fourth grade.
Read more at amNewYork.
"The moral crisis in New York education is that a quarter million students are trapped in persistently failing schools. New York State spends the most per student on education in the country and only gets mediocre results. Rather than just throwing money at the problem, we need fundamental reforms that improve the quality of school choices and classroom instruction."
-- Jenny Sedlis, StudentsFirstNY Executive Director
The 50-year city educator says some of her major accomplishments in her inaugural year include new contracts for teachers and principals, the rollout of universal pre-K and the creation of 128 community schools with added social services. She has also had a few bumps, including her controversial decision to revoke offers of city space from three charter schools.
CHANCELLOR'S REPORT CARD
The New York Daily News asked Mayor de Blasio and a spectrum of city education leaders to give letter grades to Chancellor Carmen Fariña for her performance in her first year in office. Here’s what they said:
Jenny Sedlis, executive director, StudentsFirstNY: D
Instead of following the successful reform blueprint, the mayor and chancellor have attacked high-performing charter schools, put ineffective teachers back in the classrooms of our most vulnerable children, reduced instruction time by 2½ hours per week and failed to put forth a substantive plan to address failing schools.
Read more at New York Daily News.
The de Blasio administration said on Friday that it would require the entire staff at two of New York City’s lowest performing schools to reapply for their jobs next year, the result of a deal with the teachers’ and principals’ union that came just before a state deadline.
The plan, affecting two Brooklyn schools — Boys and Girls High School in Bedford-Stuyvesant and Automotive High School in Greenpoint — is a different approach to achieving a familiar goal. During the Bloomberg administration, many low-performing schools were closed and then replaced by smaller schools with new programs, and new staffs. In this case, the existing school remains, but the staff may not.
Mayor Bill de Blasio has been criticized, mainly by charter schooladvocates, as being too slow to come up with a plan for failing schools. Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s policy of closing schools created space for charter schools, but Mr. de Blasio has shown little desire to enact such measures.
The deal came just days after Mr. de Blasio announced his own approach to helping 94 persistently low-performing schools, one rooted in the philosophy that schools’ troubles were not a fault of the staff so much as students’ circumstances, and that those circumstances could be ameliorated. That plan includes spending $150 million to add staff members to the schools, extending the academic day by an hour and turning them into so-called community schools that offer mental health, vision care and other social services.
The two Brooklyn schools, which are among the 94, need further measures because they are on a state list of “Out of Time” schools, which have performed so poorly for so long that they require more extensive changes. Only 5 percent of seniors at Boys and Girls were considered “college ready” last year; at Automotive, it was 8 percent.
Read more at The New York Times.
I was shocked this week to read the news that parents and community leaders are being shut out of the effort to turn around Boys & Girls High School.
Chalkbeat reported that a representative from the NYC Department of Education met with school leaders to push them to endorse a draft plan for the school that they weren’t given time to review or even an opportunity to provide feedback on.
Sadly, this just adds insult to injury for our community. We want the Mayor and Schools Chancellor to take action to address the crisis at Boys & Girls High School, but so far all we’ve gotten from them is a lot of empty rhetoric. It’s time our neighborhood got a real plan – not a half plan developed in secret and rushed pass us without discussion.
Read more at The Brooklyn Reader.