Archive for November, 2002

29th November

First Published in The New York Sun, November 29, 2002
By Andrew Wolf

Two events in the past year have given new hope for the public schools here in New York and throughout the country. It was hoped that mayoral control of the Board of Education (now renamed the Department of Education) would mark the beginning of a new day of accountability. As I have pointed out on these pages over the past few months, little more than the name and address have changed.

The other cause for hope was the passage of the No Child Left Behind Act, which many hoped would result in an education system that would better respond to the critical needs of poor children who typically are among the lowest performing students.

In my column last week I enumerated a number of problems with this new law. Friends, we are just scratching the surface. (more…)

22nd November

First Published in The New York Sun, November 22, 2002
By Andrew Wolf

If a zebra is a horse designed by committee, then the No Child Left Behind Act is a well-intentioned attempt at reform that is fast becoming a monster born of Congressional compromise. This new law, passed with so much promise, has become a nightmare of regulation and red tape. And there’s plenty of blame to go around. Congress needs to address the problems with the new law in the next session, and our state and city need to take steps to make the most of the current law.We don’t have time to waste. Children are being left behind.

We have heard a lot lately about how few parents in the “failing” schools have exercised their right to request a transfer into a better schools. School 483, and did a shoddy job of it. We have some bad schools, but not that many. Ironically, many of the worst didn’t even make the list. (more…)

19th November

First Published in The New York Sun, November 19, 2002
By Andrew Wolf

For eight years the former president of the Bronx, Fernando Ferrer, had an obsession. That obsession wasn’t (so far as I know) a woman, nor was it rebuilding his decaying borough. Rather it was a visceral hatred for Mayor Giuliani.

Mr. Ferrer never had a good word to say about Mr. Giuliani, never mind that when Rudy took office in 1994, the city had reached rock bottom. The coffers were empty, crime was at an all-time high, and nearly a million and a quarter New Yorkers were on Welfare. Taxes had zoomed out of control and the menacing visage of the squeegee man became our municipal symbol, driving away visitors and residents alike.
When Rudy left City Hall eight years later, welfare rolls had diminished by more than half, crime had declined to levels not seen for nearly 40 years, taxes were
down, and the squeegee men but a distant and distasteful memory. The city’s finances had become a bit shaky, but this was largely due to 9/11 and the national economic downturn.

15th November

First Published in The New York Sun, November 15, 2002
By Andrew Wolf

Schools Chancellor Joel Klein is a native New Yorker, so I can’t for the life of me understand why he is so gullible and naïve. New Yorkers are supposed to be smart enough to realize when we’re being taken for a ride. But Mr. Klein is acting like he just got off the Greyhound bus carrying his cardboard suitcase.

The city’s educational establishment, the “University-Institutional Complex,” has him identified as sucker number one. Thus far, no matter how many times they try to scam him, he seems all-too-eager to come back for more. This past Tuesday’s “Parent/Community Engagement Meeting” in the Bronx was a case in point.

Ten of these meetings will be held, ostensibly to find out what parents are thinking. The goal is to get feedback from 5,000 parents. But the question is, which parents will be heard? (more…)

8th November

First Published in The New York Sun, November 8, 2002
By Andrew Wolf

Next week, parents of students in New York’s public schools will get together for parent-teacher conferences, which are held twice a year. You may help your kids with their homework, you may drag them off to museums, and make them watch every Ken Burns documentary on PBS — but even the most active and knowledgeable parent may not realize just what is going on in their child’s classroom.

A recent study of fourth and eighth grade teachers sponsored by the Manhattan Institute, and conducted by the Center for Survey Research and Analysis at the University of Connecticut, reveals much about how teachers view their profession. (more…)

1st November

First Published in The New York Sun, November 1, 2002
By Andrew Wolf

In two states next week, voters will take into their own hands the direction of their schools on a critical instructional issue — bilingual education. It’s a shame that it has to come to that. After all, shouldn’t these issues be left in the hands of educators? Maybe so, but the nation’s educators have abdicated leadership in this and many other areas.

Consequently, voters in Colorado and Massachusetts are following in the path of California and Arizona, using the initiative and referendum processes to try to rid themselves of the scourge of bilingual education. And those states are the lucky ones. Here in New York, a state lacking initiative and referendum, we continue to compromise the education of our children. Last week, Richard Rothstein, writing in the New York Times, was critical of educational decisions being made at the polls. He cited the secretary of education, Rod Paige, to maintain that decision-making on bilingual education should only take place at the “point of instruction” — meaning at the school and teacher level. (more…)