Monday, August 18

News, local and other

It's safe bet that most readers saw yesterday's New York Times magazine cover story, detailing the vast educational experiment underway in New Orleans. In a similar vein, today at noon, Mayor Michael Bloomberg will announce the opening of 18 new charter schools, which are subject to stringent oversight (read, lots of student testing to measure achievement) but not obliged to meet city-mandated curriculum guidelines -- or or bound by union rules, as most charter school faculties aren't UFT members.

Some schools, like the KIPP charters and Excellence Charter School of Bedford Stuyvesant, have great reputations, while others flounder and struggle. We'd love to hear from readers whose kids attend charter schools; are you happy with what and how your kids are learning? What's happening in your child's classroom?

And in the spirit of behind-the-headlines illumination, see this tiny AP item. Teachers in a Texas district get the official ok to pack heat in the classroom -- ostensibly, to discourage school violence. Anyone else get awfully nervous at this kind of news?


Anonymous said...

The article about the overhaul of New Orlean's education system was fascinating. That city's situation is not quite analogous to NYC schools, as we are, by no rational metric, as homogenous a community as New Orleans. With 1.1 million students in the NYC system, our needs, as our children and families, very diverse. However, the administration as well as the future leaders of the DOE should take to heart the guiding principle of Paul Pastorek, the current superintendent of the Louisiana's state education department. The following passage from the NYT article sums it up and we should all give this a lot of though.

"Pastorek is the deep thinker. Since taking the job, Pastorek has immersed himself in theories of education, consulting with scholars from Seattle to Toronto to London. His conclusion, more than a year into his work, is that fixing a public-school system is not at its root a question of curriculum or personnel or even money. It is a question of governance. It is simply impossible, Pastorek has come to believe, for a traditional school system, run from the top down by a central administrator, to educate large numbers of poor children to high levels of achievement. “The command-and-control structure can produce marginal improvements,” he told me when we met last month at a coffeehouse on Magazine Street. “But what’s clear to me is that it can only get you so far. If you create a system where initiative and creativity is valued and rewarded, then you’ll get change from the bottom up. If you create a system where people are told what to do and how to do it, then you will get change from the top down. We’ve been doing top-down for many years in Louisiana. And all we have is islands of excellence amidst a sea of mediocrity and failure." (from pg. 4 of the online version)

Not all charter schools are thriving. But those that are, are doing a great service for the children and community they serve. However, charter schools are not the great panacea for what ails NYC schools. We can't have a system of lottery-only schools, most of which are designed to serve struggling kids. We need zoned schools and districts to have greater say in how to teach their community. Why can't neighborhood schools assess the needs of their community (including how much acceleration and remediation their children need), craft a plan and put it into action? If they are thriving (yes, by meeting state and city standards, not all of which have to be determined by tests that are designed to assess basic competency and not excellence. We need to assess schools for excellence, which is much harder to quantify).

I'm a public school parent as well as someone who was educated in NYC's public schools. I did fine for myself and want the same for my and everyone's kids. We need to be part of the debate, which means thinking about, and speaking up on this site and in other forums about the bigger issues. I know we all get bogged down in our own needs: admissions, test scores, problems at schools, but we all need to move beyond ourselves. So here's a shout out to all the parents who are quick to post comments on some issues such as G&T policy, pre-K admissions (and more, these were the latest issues), but nothing else. Speak up. If we don't complain about the big issues, our own specific needs will never fully get served.

Anonymous said...

Hi, was anyone able to attend the information fair the DOE held on Saturday? I had to work (like MANY parents) and could not attend. Does anyone know if the information dispersed at this meeting will be posted on the DOE website?

helen said...

The info fair on Saturday, if we're thinking about the same event, was a family fun afternoon/PR event in Central Park; any official information presented there should be posted on the DOE site, but we didn't attend so can't say for certain -- anyone else out there have 2c to chip in? many thanks -