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21st April
2006

First Published in The New York Sun, April 21, 2006

By Andrew Wolf

In trying to assume total control of state government, Democrats are attempting a feat that hasn’t been accomplished by any party since the Republicans controlled the Assembly, State Senate, and the executive mansion during the Nixon administration.

If the Republican Party is to survive in New York, it will have to borrow from William Jefferson Clinton’s 1992 playbook: It IS the economy, stupid! (more…)

14th April
2006

First Published in The New York Sun , April 14, 2006

By Andrew Wolf

Earlier this week, Chancellor Klein unveiled a new system of accountability for schools, the first “reform” of the existing reform effort in our public education system. I have a particular interest in one aspect of the chancellor’s plan, the use of “value added” testing that measures increases or decreases in the performance of individual students. Schools can then be evaluated by how successful they are in moving children ahead. Current testing measures the performance of a particular grade against last year’s numbers. Since we are dealing with different children taking different tests, this data is not as useful. Last year’s test results marked a low point. Inflated scores raised questions over testing procedures. Most responsibility for the debacle can be laid at the feet of the State Education Department, seeking to avoid sanctions under the federal No Child Left Behind law. Such kindnesses make victims of children.The first step in helping a student is an honest assessment of academic shortcomings. Of all the ideas I have advanced on education topics in this space, “value added testing” is among the few that have resonated with the chancellor. I first wrote about this in October 2002, shortly after Mr. Klein assumed his post. For quite some time, he has been talking about this, so I’m glad to see he has come around. He is right conceptually, but his proposed implementation raises concerns. The problem is that Mr. Klein has no authority to supplant the existing state testing structure. This means additional rounds of city-administered tests on top of the already onerous state schedule. Parents are getting antsy over the huge chunk of their children’s classroom time taken up by test-related activities. Once the details emerge of Mr. Klein’s plan, expect an uproar by parents, led by the anti-testing lobby.

Ironically, a key figure in Mr. Klein’s own reform effort, Eric Nadelstern, who directs the expanding “Autonomy Zone,” is an icon of the movement against standardized testing. In a letter to the New York Times, Mr. Nadelstern once wrote, “Replacing the joy of learning with test anxiety simply hastens the premature end of childhood.” As principal of the International School in Queens, one of the first to be granted a state charter, Mr. Nadelstern led the school back into the public school system, because as a charter, the law requires standardized testing. Scandalously, this school, and a handful of others are still exempt from testing thanks to state educrats and legislators. (more…)

7th April
2006

First Published in The New York Sun, April 7, 2006

By Andrew Wolf

On Wednesday, the City Council approved the land use portion of the deal that promises to ultimately lead to the long-anticipated construction of a new Yankee Stadium and the retention of the iconic team in The Bronx.This caps over two decades of effort to retain the team.

Had the Yankees departed,the effect on the borough would have been akin to having the White House and Capitol building moved from Washington, D.C. It would have signaled the end of hope for better days for a borough that has been in steep decline for nearly half a century. A borough that has a population more than twice that of the nation’s capital, which is now home to a one-year-old baseball franchise, having twice previously failed to support a baseball team. (more…)

7th April
2006

First Published in The New York Sun, April 7, 2006

By Andrew Wolf

Parents of children on Manhattan’s West Side, many excluded from the gifted and talented programs at their home-zoned schools under new Department of Education rules, claim to have evidence that the system has been “rigged” to create “equity” for others at the expense of opportunities for their children. They say it is likely that they will turn to the courts for relief.

“I don’t understand why expanding opportunities for children perceived as ‘underserved’ must come at such a steep cost to the children of other communities,” one of a number of parents who are pressing this issue on the Upper West Side, Jennifer James, said. “This needn’t be a ‘zero-sum’ undertaking. The mayor and Chancellor Klein have failed to establish enough classes to serve all gifted children, and our children are being asked to pay the price.” (more…)

31st March
2006

First Published in The New York Sun, March 31, 2006

By Andrew Wolf

The current dust-up between Upper West Side parents and the city’s Department of Education brings into sharp focus a long simmering controversy over the education of academically advanced students. It doesn’t matter who is in charge, whether it is the mayor and his chancellor, or the old hybrid Board of Education, chosen by six different public officials. The same underlying philosophy prevails, guaranteeing that for middle-class parents, the New York City public school system is sure to break your heart.

A generation of educational ideological dominance by so-called “progressive” pedagogues has removed Gifted and Talented programs, once a fixture in nearly every school, from the vast majority. (more…)

29th March
2006

First Published in The New York Sun, March 29, 2006

By Andrew Wolf

Adding yet another layer of contention to an increasingly bitter dispute, new plans to apportion seats in programs for gifted and talented students on the Upper West Side of Manhattan could result in tens of thousands of dollars in busing costs in the district and perhaps millions citywide.

Following complaints from some minority parents that the gifted and talented programs in District 3 — the area covering the Upper West Side, Morningside Heights, and part of West Harlem — favored white children, the city Department of Education established new admissions procedures.The new rules no longer guarantee that children who qualify for admission to a “self-contained” gifted program, which typically begins in kindergarten, can go to their home-zoned school, even if their school has such a program. Instead, seats are assigned district-wide, based on test results. Assignment preferences for siblings, routinely granted in District 3,also have been eliminated. (more…)

29th March
2006

First Published in The New York Sun, March 29, 2006

By Andrew Wolf

Members on the City Council’s landmarks subcommittee yesterday heard conflicting testimony on whether the Fieldston community in the northwest Bronx merits historic designation.

Although the hearing drew so many people that there was standing room only, only a handful of council members attended. Many dashed between rooms so they could participate in a hearing on the Yankee Stadium redevelopment project being held simultaneously in another room. (more…)

27th March
2006

First Published in The New York Sun, March 27, 2006

By Andrew Wolf

Tomorrow, the City Council will hold hearings on the proposal to declare the privately owned Fieldston community in the northwest Bronx a “historic district.”There are many reasons why this shouldn’t be done, all of which are important but largely parochial in nature. Out of this local battle, I sense a larger problem: Are we allowing the “motherhood and apple pie” aspects of historic preservation to give certain professional interests a unique license to feather their own nests?

In the discussion of this issue, the merits of the developer and architect of much of Fieldston, Dwight James Baum, has become a topic of debate. A Riverdale resident and former city buildings commissioner, Charles Moerdler, called Baum a “hack.” (more…)

24th March
2006

First Published in The New York Sun, March 24, 2006

By Andrew Wolf

George Washington Plunkitt, whose life and philosophy were chronicled by journalist William L. Riordan (in part in the pages of this newspaper’s forebear), would approve of events in the Bronx in recent days.
Plunkitt was a New York political leader at a time when the men who ran government did so not from City Hall, or the Albany Statehouse, but from a building on East 14th Street known as Tammany Hall. Plunkitt was the Tammany District Leader of the 15th Assembly District, and conducted his business from a bootblack stand in the New York County Courthouse. He was born poor on the Upper West Side in 1842, and passed on 82 years later, a rich and powerful man.
(more…)

20th March
2006

First Published in The New York Sun, March 20, 2006

By Andrew Wolf

The frustrations of parents on Manhattan’s West Side with new rules governing admission to gifted and talented programs are beginning to draw the attention of politicians and other community leaders throughout the city.The attention goes beyond just the mechanics of the programs to the philosophy that governs them: Increasingly, it is seen as antagonistic.

Because of the new rules emanating from the Tweed Courthouse, the choices faced by West Side parents such as Jodi and Russell Divak are grim. (more…)

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