Archive for January, 2003

31st January

First Published in The New York Sun,  January 31, 2003
By Andrew Wolf

Little more than two weeks after Mayor Bloomberg’s blockbuster Martin Luther King Day education speech, things are starting to unravel. Both the structural and instructional aspects of the plans advanced by the mayor and the schools chancellor, Joel Klein, have come under fire. I have learned that top city officials are scheduled to attend a summit meeting up in Albany on Monday to smooth things over with angry members of the Republican state Senate majority.

The city officials will be traveling north to address what the city’s five Republican senators say they perceive as an attempt by the mayor to do an endrun around the legislature regarding the fate of the community school districts. When the law was passed last year to give the mayor control of the city’s schools, the fate of the community school districts was deliberately not addressed. The law provided for the legislature to appoint a panel to make a decision on that matter; the panel has been formed, has held hearings, and will report by February 15. But the mayor has already gutted the community school districts and created 10 new “super districts,” combining the existing districts in groups. Mr. Klein has even gone so far as to appoint the 10 regional superintendents who will lead these new entities. (more…)

24th January

First Published in The New York Sun, January 24, 2003
By Andrew Wolf

There were really no surprises Tuesday as Chancellor Klein announced his curriculum initiatives. Since Mr. Klein brought on Diana Lam as his deputy for instruction last August, the shape that the “new” curriculum would take has been apparent. But that doesn’t make it any less disappointing.

What was released bears a striking resemblance to what she put in place at her last two jobs in San Antonio, Texas, and Providence, R.I. There is a “progressive” educational establishment in the country that has dominated instructional decisions in this country for decades, and Ms. Lam represents it. (more…)

17th January

First Published in The New York Sun, January 17, 2003
By Andrew Wolf

Mayor Bloomberg could go down in history as having done for the city’s schools what Mayor La Guardia did to revive the city as a whole back in the 1930s. Or yesterday’s big speech on education could mark the beginning of a disastrous political debacle for the businessman-turned-mayor. As usual, the devil is in the details.

The mayor painted a lot of broad strokes when he gave his speech Wednesday morning. His serious tone was right on target. But his plan was devoid of detail. In terms of organizational structure, the creation of 100 or so local networks directly supervised by “local instructional supervisors” is right on the money. Less clear to me is what role the 10 “regional superintendents” will play. Most importantly, however, as Sol Stern of the Manhattan Institute has pointed out, Mr. Bloomberg proposed these far-reaching changes without the usual whining for more money. (more…)

10th January

First Published in The New York Sun, January 10, 2003
By Andrew Wolf

Despite some of the abuse that has been heaped on Joel Klein in this column from time to time, it is not hard to see that the new schools chancellor has made real progress — despite his ear too often being bent by the city’s educational establishment, led by the universities and foundations.

Mr. Klein and Mayor Bloomberg have already made a difference, if only in that they have shaken up the most calcified and entrenched bureaucracy in the city. Even when they have proceeded clumsily, such as leaking the principals’ report cards to the press before informing the principals themselves, they have let everyone in the education establishment know that the bad old days are finished. (more…)

6th January

First Published in The New York Sun, January 6, 2003
By Andrew Wolf

A group of New York City’s most senior mathematics professors have urged Chancellor Joel Klein to abandon the use of what they term “defective” math curricula in the public schools.

The letter, sent to the Mr. Klein on December 17, comes as the city Department of Education considers standardizing its programs as part of the “Children First” initiative. That plan is to be released this month.
“Support for [the] defective curricula will profoundly damage the career opportunities of New York City children, the viability of mathematics and science programs at many CUNY colleges, and the economic infrastructure of New York City,” the eight veteran professors charge.

3rd January

First Published in The New York Sun, January 3, 2003
By Andrew Wolf

Recently, 2,117 students representing 673 school teams gathered in Atlanta, Georgia to take part in the National Scholastic K-12 Grade Chess Championships, sponsored by the U.S. Chess Federation.

The results of the tournament were particularly gratifying for Middle School 118 in the Bronx. Each of the three grades in the school finished “in the money” (teams competed only among others in the same grade). Their sixth grade squad finished first in the nation, the seventh graders finished second, and the eighth grade entrants finished third. That is a remarkable showing from a virtually allminority school located in one of the city’s poorest neighborhoods.

In fact, this was by far the best showing of any New York middle school. And many of the best schools in the city were represented at the tournament. These included the well-regarded schools of District 2 (located for the most part on the east side of Manhattan) such as P.S. 6, P.S. 116, P.S. 124, P.S. 158, P.S. 183, the Manhattan New School, the New York City Lab School, and M.S. 104. The Hunter College Campus School fielded one of the largest teams at the tournament, and many private schools such as Dalton, Horace Mann, Spence, Collegiate, and Ramaz also participated. (more…)