Archive for November, 2006

30th November

First Published in The New York Sun, November 30, 2006

By Andrew Wolf

By immediately involving the district attorney in Queens County, on one level, Mayor Bloomberg effectively handled the shooting incident there this past weekend. The reaction from the community, while angry, has been restrained. We haven’t, at least yet, seen the kind of sustained demonstrations we saw after the death of Amadou Diallo in 1999, nor the angry confrontations of the late 1980s that helped drive Mayor Koch from office.

On another level, however, the mayor and the city may pay a price. Mr. Bloomberg seems to have tilted too far in his criticism of the police, and has accepted the presumption that this is a crime by promoting the involvement of the Queens D.A. New York City police officers, who must make split-second decisions of life and death, may have a right to feel skittish. They are responsible for reducing crime to levels so low that Gotham is now considered one of the nation’s safest cities, only to see the mayor undermine their presumption of innocence when the chips are down. But despite this, the race baiters are regrouping and are seeking not just a special prosecutor, but also a federal investigation. (more…)

24th November

First Published in The New York Sun, November 24, 2006

By Andrew Wolf

If New Yorkers were hoping that on day one of Governor Spitzer’s first term everything would change, a close inspection of the membership of his transition committees — named last week — will surely quell their hopes, particularly regarding education.

If this education panel emerges as an influence on the new administration, expect education reform in the Empire State to lag. New York spends too much for meager results in its K-12 programs, pays lip service to academic standards, and is home to a state university that barely registers on the national academic radar screen. (more…)

17th November

First Published in The New York Sun, November 17, 2006

By Andrew Wolf

New York City received some negative news on Wednesday, when the results of a national science test were released. More than half of the pupils in the fourth-grade tested as “below basic,” a figure that by eighth-grade had ballooned to nearly two-thirds. The results are part of the Trial Urban District Assessment program of the National Assessment of Educational Progress. This test is designed to provide researchers and political leaders with data to guide public policy decisions.

While the scores everywhere are awful and should raise warning flags about how we teach science to American students, we can draw some local conclusions. The grades in science did not occur in a vacuum. They are, I believe, linked to other news we have covered here. (more…)

13th November

First Published in The New York Sun, November 13, 2006

By Andrew Wolf

The election news may not be all so dark for those on the right in the Empire State. Buried in the ruins of the statewide Democratic juggernaut — including the loss of three Republican congressional seats, slippage in the state Senate, and the general collapse of the Republicans’ party structure — is a possible nugget of good news.

It appears that the Conservative Party has narrowly beaten out the Working Families Party to keep Line D on the state ballot for the next four years. (more…)

10th November

First Published in The New York Sun, November 10, 2006

By Andy Wolf

Near the top of everyone’s to-do list for Governor-elect Spitzer is the issue of funding education. That is, the Campaign for Fiscal Equity lawsuit. Although he pledged a generous settlement while on the campaign trail, nobody knows better than the attorney general the validity of the arguments on the other side. As the state’s lawyer, he led, at least technically, the defense against the litigation. Mr. Spitzer is a smart man, so hopefully this experience has not been lost on him. More dollars do not translate directly into better educational outcomes.

If there are solutions to fixing what is wrong with education, the solutions will have to be found at the state level. Unlike most other industrialized nations, which have national educational systems and uniform standards, in America it is the individual states that are charged with running schools. All of the local school districts, including our own here in Gotham exist under the rules and supervision of the state Education Department. (more…)

6th November

First Published in The New York Sun, November 6, 2006

By Andrew Wolf

In the “gifted-and-talented free zone” that is the Bronx’s School District 10, the Department of Education has designated two schools as the sites for the first such programs here in a generation. Parents who might want to apply for these programs on behalf of their children need to look carefully at both schools involved, since under rules recently imposed by Chancellor Klein, there is no preference given to children living in the neighborhood, or to those with siblings in the school.

Instead, the decision as to which school a child will be admitted to will be based on the use of an objective I.Q. test and a subjective assessment by the child’s teacher. This policy is designed to promote “equity.” But parents and local elected officials increasingly see this as an effort to put middle class students of all races at a decided disadvantage. (more…)