Archive for April, 2004

30th April

First Published in The New York Sun, April 30,2004

By Andrew Wolf

The schools chancellor, Joel Klein, is being buried alive on the testing issue, a matter he and I agree on. 
In a wire to principals Wednesday, now widely distributed on the Internet by friend and foe alike, Mr. Klein correctly suggested that “our third graders were treated badly by the anti-test ‘activists’ who obtained and shared the test with the media or spread misinformation about it.” 

    The chancellor is absolutely right.Objective testing is the only way we can evaluate the progress of individual students and, by extension,their teachers,their schools,and even Mr. Klein himself. 
    Back in October, when testifying before the Assembly and Senate education committees in Albany, Mr. Klein paraphrased a column of mine written three weeks before.  (more…)

23rd April

First Published in The New York Sun, April 23, 2004

By Andrew Wolf

The Bloomberg administration’s school curriculum choices are based on the ideas of an Australian, Brian Cambourne, a professor of education at Wollongong University at New South Wales. Sol Stern discussed Mr. Cambourne, his ideas, and his politics at length in an article published in the autumn of 2003 in City Journal, “Tragedy Looms for Gotham’s School Reform.” 

    Many of the ideas imposed by the now departed deputy chancellor for teaching and learning, Diana Lam, emanate from Mr. Cambourne’s theories, which are widely followed in his home country. Rarely considered is just how the most at-risk children are faring in the schools Down Under, taught using the methods now mandated here in New York.  (more…)

16th April

First Published in The New York Sun, April 16, 2004

By Andrew Wolf

On Monday, the acting deputy chancellor for teaching and learning, Carmen Fariña, held an informal press briefing, the kind of thing we have come not to expect from the Department of Education. 

Decisions regarding the education of our children have been made largely in secret, and the interaction between the educrats and the public scripted by public relations gurus,both on and off the city payroll. Ms. Fariña has now joined in this effort. 

    An apostle of “progressive” education theology, Ms. Fariña would not concede how dismal a failure the city’s instructional decisions have been. No, there is nothing wrong with the curriculum, she said. We just haven’t sold it right.  (more…)

13th April

First Published in The New York Sun, April 13, 2004

By Andrew Wolf

Riverdale parents are suggesting that a disputed school facility might be used as a charter school that would give local parents the ability to opt out of the city’s unpopular “unified curriculum.” 

    Two weeks ago, the announcement that the Bloomberg administration is planning to put a new high school in the basement of the luxury Whitehall apartment building caused a firestorm of controversy in the northwest Bronx community. (more…)

9th April

First Published in The New York Sun, April 9, 2004

By Andrew Wolf

The secret effort by officials of the Department of Education to open a new middle/high school in the center of the Riverdale community in the northwest Bronx demonstrates what is wrong with the “reform” that has put the mayor in charge of the schools without oversight. With no consultation with anyone in the community, this “stealth school” is being set up in the basement of a luxury apartment building,space previously used as an annex to the local schools across the street. A student body to fill it is being recruited miles away in the South Bronx. 

    The proposed school is named the “funmathschool,” and its program is a mix of math games and tricks, along with a dose of left-wing political indoctrination. This project comes from the midlevel educrats of Region One, known for their hostility to Riverdale and its educational aspirations, rather than from City Hall or Tweed. Every other similar new school in the Bronx will be in an existing high school. Only Riverdale has been targeted with a freestanding new school. It will be a measure of the political astuteness of Mayor Bloomberg whether he listens to the pleas of a community that supported him in the last election, or risk its ire at the polls when they deliver to him the “accountability” over the education issue that mayoral control implies.  (more…)

2nd April

First Published in The New York Sun, April 2, 2004

By Andrew Wolf

  It is unfortunate that the debate over education has come to a case of money, the commodity that has proven time and time again to have little effect on improving the performance of the most at-risk students. 

This is not to say that increasing the amount of money well spent on our schools won’t help. Perhaps it will. But as a society, we have demonstrated a knack to throw good money after bad, and then shake our heads when the outcomes don’t match our expectations. Maybe what we need are new ideas. 

The myth that money will solve all educational ills was popularized by Jonathan Kozol and discussed in an article in City Journal by Sol Stern as “America’s Most Influential — and Wrongest — School Reformer.” Mr. Kozol’s writings, often filled with inaccuracies, exaggerations, and deception, have driven the court cases like the successful case brought by the Campaign for Fiscal Equity in New York State. This case has shifted the discussion away from “What works?” to “How much will it take to make the programs we know don’t work perhaps work better?”  (more…)