Archive for April, 2006

28th April
2006

First Published in The New York Sun, April 28, 2006

By Andrew Wolf

In a county with of one of the nation’s sickest economies, the Bronx president, Adolfo Carrion, Jr., has come up with a plan to jump start one local industry segment, the borough’s restaurants. Mr. Carrion is utilizing a tactic that is not unfamiliar to the Bronx Democratic Party machine: he is trying to “fix” an election.

The election in question is the annual Zagat survey, the poll that asks those dining at restaurants which ones they like or dislike and why. Mr. Carrion and his government-funded “Bronx Tourism Council” (yes, there is such a thing), are distributing thousands of cards in the borough’s restaurants urging people to vote for their favorites. Prominently featured is the fact that casting a vote earns you a free copy of the local Zagat guide. (more…)

27th April
2006

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

By Andrew Wolf

The resignation of Carmen Fariña as deputy chancellor for teaching and learning comes as no surprise to city education insiders. Rumors have been swirling for weeks that she was leaving her post, having risen as far as she could in the Department of Education hierarchy. It has been clear in recent months that the direction of the department has drifted away from changes in pedagogy and more toward restructuring and new management techniques.

Those close to Ms. Fariña have suggested that she initially took the job with an understanding that Chancellor Joel Klein would be moving on during Mayor Bloomberg’s second term and that she would be able to end her long career in the city schools as chancellor. This, apparently, is not in the cards. Mr. Klein appears to be here for the duration, while Ms. Fariña is thought not to be a favorite of the mayor. Because she is comfortably beyond retirement age, she may make more in pension benefits than she would get in her job. (more…)

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…)