Archive for February, 2003

28th February

First Published in The New York Sun, February 28, 2003
By Andrew Wolf

In his Martin Luther King Jr. birthday speech on education, Mayor Bloomberg promised to put in place a reading program with a heavy emphasis on phonics. He did so because there is growing recognition among the public — a recognition that is now backed up by federal law — that the way children are taught to read must be determined by hard research rather than soft ideology.

Less than a week after Mr. Bloomberg’s speech, Schools Chancellor Klein announced a new uniform curriculum. He did this at P.S. 172 in Brooklyn, an admirable school that is achieving impressive results. The two programs announced, Everyday Mathematics and Month-by-Month Phonics, are both currently in place at P.S. 172. (more…)

21st February

First Published in The New York Sun, February 21, 2003
By Andrew Wolf

There is a battle looming between the mayor and the state legislature. No, not the one about the budget, though that one promises to be bloody. It is the fight over the loose ends left hanging by the legislature when they gave the mayor control of the school system last year.

The loose ends have to do with the relationship between the schools and the local communities. Since legislators represent local communities, this is of primary concern to them. (more…)

18th February

First Published in The New York Sun, February 18, 2003
By Andrew Wolf

Are you upset that your child’s school didn’t make the list of the 200 “top performing” schools that are exempt from using the city’s new uniform curriculum? As a famous sage once said, “Don’t worry, be happy.”

This is another misstep on the rocky road to educational reform for which our new Tweed Ring, the city’s new Department of Education, is becoming famous. Parents, teachers, and community leaders in schools not on the list are beside themselves. Schools that are “winners” are printing up celebratory t-shirts.
And just what is it that these parents think they are winning or losing? The
conventional wisdom says that being on the list gives a school the license to use any curriculum or program it chooses. Wrong. Being on the list merely gives a school the right to continue with whatever program they are using now. And while there are many programs in place throughout the city, most of them are distressingly similar.
If you think that a school on the list is free to choose to adopt the highlyregarded Singapore math curriculum, think again. Can a school on the list sign onto the rigorous, much-admired Core Knowledge curriculum? No.

14th February

First Published in The New York Sun, February 14, 2003
By Andrew Wolf

New York City may be in Code Orange in the War on Terrorism, but in the nation’s reading wars the Big Apple has moved into Code Red. The issue is what strategy New York will use to teach reading. Not only is the future of New York City’s more than 1 million school children on the line, but also the hundreds of millions of dollars in consultants, contracts, and professional development expenditures that drive the program.

There is a new Tweed Ring in the shadow of City Hall, with their hands deep in the taxpayers’ pockets.They practice a 21st-century form of “honest graft.” Persons and institutions with a financial stake in the current system are leading the charge to maintain the instructional status quo. (more…)

10th February

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

When Chancellor Joel Klein arrives at Lehman High School in the Bronx for tonight’s monthly meeting of the Panel for Educational Policy, hundreds of angry parents and community leaders will likely be waiting for him.

They are upset over the structural and personnel changes he and the mayor have proposed in shotgun fashion since the mayor delivered his Martin Luther King Jr. Day speech on education.

Initial enthusiasm turned to anger as parents learned the details of Mr. Klein’s plans. Parents are particularly unhappy with the replacement of the two superintendents who led the borough’s two highest performing districts with an unknown, mid-level bureaucrat. (more…)

7th February

First Published in The New York Sun, February 7, 2003
By Andrew Wolf

Back in the days when Chancellor Klein and I attended New York City’s public schools, desks were bolted to the floor, little boys wore ties to school, girls were forbidden to wear pants, and teachers stood in the front of the classroom and directed the lessons. Now I don’t miss the old-fashioned desks, nor do I think that the ties or the skirts had any impact on student achievement. But I do think that the old-fashioned teacher-directed methods did influence the success that so many of us enjoyed during the period that was indeed the “good old days” of New York City’s school system.

Today our schools adhere to the “child-centered” movement, which commands that children should direct their own education, teachers becoming mere facilitators. This is the predominant ideology in practice across the country today, including and especially in New York. And we have ample evidence that it hasn’t been working. (more…)