Posts Tagged ‘Department of Education’

1st November
2008

First Published on the Public Advocate’s Corner October 29, 2008

By Andrew Wolf

Shortly after I began writing a regular column for The New York Sun six-and-a-half years ago, the mayor was given control of the New York City public schools. During that period I have written around two hundred columns on the schools, most of which discuss various aspects of mayoral control.

I am by nature a skeptical fellow, and the story of the educational “reform” that has taken place since then has given me much to be skeptical about. Unfortunately, last month the Sun published its final issue, so now is as good a time as any to reflect on this remarkable story that I have followed since the beginning.

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29th August
2008

First Published in The New York Sun, August 29, 2008

It is now just 10 months before the expensive experiment that is mayoral control of Gotham’s public schools is set to expire. And as parents ready their children for the start of classes Tuesday, the news has been released that the average S.A.T. scores have declined here once again.

There was no press extravaganza. No Power Point presentations, no top officials, union leaders at their side, beaming as the results were outlined. No, troubling test results turn out to be an orphan.

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20th June
2008

First Published in The New York Sun, June 20, 2008

By Andrew Wolf

Unmarked vans from a private courier service were sent out last week by the Department of Education to deliver the news to lucky families whose children were admitted to the gifted programs around the city. Now comes news that the results undermine the whole rationale of the Bloomberg administration for restructuring the popular programs.

A front-page story in yesterday’s Times told the tale. After a second round of restructuring last year failed to increase the numbers of minority children, a third attempt was undertaken this year. Only children scoring in the top 5% of a nationally normed I.Q.-type test were to be admitted to the programs.

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6th June
2008

First Published in The New York Sun, June 6, 2008

By Andrew Wolf

The issue of mayoral control of the schools is due to end at midnight on June 30, 2009. If the state legislature and governor fail to act, the current Department of Education will disappear and revert into the old Board of Education at 12:01 a.m. the following day.

This is unlikely to happen, but what is likely is that there will be changes in the law that will rein in some of the mayor’s powers over the schools. In getting to an improved governing structure for the schools, there is likely to be much debate. Both an honest debate and some real reform would be a good thing.

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2nd May
2008

First Published in The New York Sun, May 2, 2008

By Andrew Wolf

Herman Badillo is too much of a gentleman to use his speech accepting the Manhattan Institute’s Alexander Hamilton Award last week to attack the Department of Education over the half-hearted implementation of Mr. Badillo’s pet program to end “social promotion” in our public schools. But the elder statesman still made his point clear, reminding all present that this pernicious practice still lives.

During the years bridging the administrations of Mayors Wagner and Bloomberg, Mr. Badillo’s opposition to the practice of passing students on from grade to grade regardless of their academic achievement has been consistent. Since that time, we have gone through dozens of institutional restructurings of our school system, some major, some minor, most irrelevant.

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18th April
2008

First Published in The New York Sun, April 18, 2008

By Andrew Wolf

Mayor La Guardia was famous for his insistence on high levels of integrity on the part of the police. In those days, long before computers and CompStat were even dreamed of, lore has it that precinct commanders made themselves look good by “assigning” complaints to “Detective McCann.”

Detective McCann was slang for the precinct’s garbage can. With the departure of LaGuardia from City Hall in 1946, official tolerance of crime grew, along with the political power of organized crime figures such as Frank Costello. So to paint a rosy picture of the deteriorating situation to a concerned public, Detective McCann became busier than ever.

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11th April
2008

First Published in The New York Sun, April 11, 2008

By Andrew Wolf

In the midst of the state financial crisis, the governor and legislature still found funds in the budget to increase education spending across the state by a record $1.75 billion dollars. School spending has long been at the center of a key public policy debate, one that was “resolved” by a settlement of the long standing Campaign for Fiscal Equity lawsuit.

That lawsuit began as an effort to create a uniform funding formula that would insure that New York City schoolchildren would get a “fair” share of total state spending. It morphed into debate as to just how much public spending it takes to provide a quality education.

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4th January
2008

First Published in The New York Sun, January 4, 2008

By Andrew Wolf

On Tuesday, elementary school pupils in the city will sharpen their number two pencils and sit down for two or three days of the state’s English language arts test. The following Tuesday, it will be the turn of middle school students.

The stakes couldn’t be higher. Not so much for the students, since only a small proportion in only some grades are held back, despite the city’s policy of “ending” social promotion. The real pressure is on the principals and teachers to “perform.”

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7th December
2007

First Published in The New York Sun, December 7, 2007

By Andrew Wolf

It isn’t often that I hear the name of my old junior high school on the radio, but on Wednesday morning I was greeted by the news of its impending demise.

Despite test scores that, while not stellar, were not even near the bottom of the pack, Chancellor Klein announced that P.S. 79 is being “closed.” Closing is less drastic than one would think. Most of the educators will keep their jobs. What will change is the number of the school or schools that will reside in this venerable old building.

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30th November
2007

First Published in The New York Sun, November, 30, 2007

By Andrew Wolf

Two seemingly unrelated news stories intersected the Thursday before Thanksgiving, and the result was a public relations disaster for the Department of Education. But things might have been worse. Coverage of a troublesome third story, which happened simultaneously, seems to have fallen through the cracks.

When the Department leaked word of a squad of lawyers hired to find ways to dismiss low performing teachers, led by a former prosecutor, the story quickly grabbed attention. That such a legal effort had been underway for years with mixed success didn’t dampen the enthusiasm of reporters.

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