Tuesday, September 29, 2015

De Blasio’s Plan to Lift Poor Schools Comes With High Costs and Big Political Risks

On September 16, NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio gave a major speech on his educational philosophy and initiatives. In it, he proposed many good things: a requirement that, within 10 years, all of the city's public schools will be required to offer computer science to all students (a partnership between the city, the NYC Department of Education, the New York City Foundation for Computer Science Education (CSNYC), the AOL Foundation and Robin Hood), a goal to increase the four-year high school graduation rate to 80% from 68% today (albeit by 2026), and (per the NYT article below):
There was $75 million a year for second-grade reading specialists. Advanced Placement classes got $51 million. Every eighth grader can take algebra thanks to $19 million. And $15 million was proposed to provide more than 16,000 students with dedicated counselors from sixth through 12th grade.
A few quick thoughts:
·         Overall, it's hard to get truly excited about the plan, but it does move in the right direction, even if marginally.
·         The good things here underscore the reason so many of us fought for mayoral control of the schools in the first place. De Blasio is responding to pressure to raise the bar – and the pressure is coming from all sides, which is kind of fascinating. The graduation rate and college-ready rate targets he set are the direct results of this pressure. More AP class offerings in high schools? Finally!
·         He even tried to throw reformers a bone:
Mr. de Blasio did try to inoculate himself against critics who adhere to Mr. Bloomberg's education approach. In contrast with the Bloomberg administration, the current mayor opposes closing schools that perform poorly, except as a last resort. While Mr. Bloomberg was on a constant, and largely unsuccessful, mission to fire teachers he considered subpar, Mr. de Blasio has had a more amicable relationship with the city teachers' union.
But he said on Wednesday that his administration had "helped 660 educators find their way out of the New York City school system," from April 2014 to April 2015. Asked to elaborate, the Department of Education said that the number included teachers who had been fired or denied tenure, and who resigned while facing disciplinary action.
"This shows we are willing and able to make the change that's necessary," Mr. de Blasio said. "Where it's needed, we will replace school leadership or staff to transform a school if they cannot improve with our tailored and targeted support."
·         de Blasio's proposals lacked any courage or boldness. For example, there's nothing about supporting successful charter schools (surprise!). I can almost see him thinking, "I have to do SOMETHING, but what can I do that won't piss off the unions?" Universal Pre-K, while a great accomplishment, is safe and was started before his tenure. This year's focus on computer science and extended AP courses also seems like a no brainer – fundamentals that people have been clamoring for and have started initiating on their own (some of the Bronx elected officials just did an event that focused on extended STEM partnerships in Bronx schools exclusive of the mayor). Lastly, the mayor's programs will not be fully implemented until 2026, which means even the youngest children in NYC schools today will be lucky to see any benefit (10 years is not an accepted implementation window for these types of programs).
·         In case there was any doubt about de Blasio's true colors, see the invitation below for an event that took place on Sept. 10th, in which de Blasio co-hosted a screening for a new film entitled: "Hedge Fund Billionaires vs. Kindergarten Teachers: Whose side are you on?"

De Blasio's Plan to Lift Poor Schools Comes With High Costs and Big Political Risks
NYT, SEPT. 16, 2015


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