The end of 2017 brought the announced retirement of Carmen Fariña as New York City School Chancellor. Regarding her replacement, Mayor Bill de Blasio, according to Chalkbeat, “emphasized that he is not looking for someone to shake things up but rather wants someone who will follow through on the course that he and Fariña set out.”
Remember those issues which enraged parents in 2017, and the failing initiatives that the administration is expanding? Look forward to more of that in 2018.
Last March, I wrote about why you do not want me on your Community Education Council. I’m not arrogant enough to believe I know what’s best for every child in the NYC school system. On the other hand, I am more than arrogant enough to offer my suggestions to the next NYC Schools Chancellor about changes I would make if I were in his/her shoes. So, here they are!
RAISE SCHOOL STANDARDS
According to NYC-favorite NPR, studies assert that over 50 percent of children in a given classroom are performing above grade level. Additionally, there are not enough high schools to accommodate all the students who would benefit from an accelerated education, while a Bronx district is experiencing success teaching all children as if they were “gifted.”
Clearly, the NYC public school education bar is set way too low. Students in other countries are starting algebra in 4th grade while, in NYC, even the “gifted” ones have to wait for middle school. Kids in some NYC private schools are composing multi-page research papers while even parents of children who won the lottery for placement in accelerated citywide public schools are coming to me for help transferring, lamenting that their kids aren’t being taught to actually write.
It would not cost the Department of Education (DOE) a single penny more to raise standards across the board. They wouldn’t even need to develop a new curriculum. Just move the one they already have several grades down. Sure, Common Core has their opinion about what American kids should be doing academically at what age. But we’re New Yorkers. We pride ourselves on doing better. We can catch up with the rest of the world.
GET RID OF GIFTED & TALENTED PROGRAMS
Carmen Farina and I agree that NYC should get rid of G&T programs. One essential difference: She wants to do it because she believes children learn better in mixed-ability classrooms. I want to get rid of age-based grades altogether, G&T and General Ed, and let students progress at their own pace. Not only would this solve the problem of a lack of G&T seats for all kids who qualify, it would also allow parents to hold back children whom they don’t think are ready for formal education, and accelerate those who are. It would return educational choice to parents — not bureaucrats.
And, let’s not forget what’s truly important. This shift would not cost the DOE an extra penny.
CHANGE HOW TEACHERS GET HIRED
This past July, a pair of contrasting teacher staffing issues erupted in the same week. First, charter schools requested that they be allowed to design their own teacher training programs and certify their own teachers. Second, the DOE announced they would be compelling principals to hire teachers from the Absent Teacher Reserve pool, i.e. teachers who lost their jobs, failed to find new ones – but were still being paid to do nothing.
I’ll be honest. The idea of an Absent Teacher Reserve pool boggles my mind. The argument is the teachers might have come from schools that closed, so losing their jobs wasn’t their fault and why should they be punished by a withdrawal of salary?
In my previous life, I worked in television. If the show I worked on got cancelled, I lost my job. It wasn’t directly my fault; other people contributed. But no one suggested I should keep getting paid. I can think of no other profession that comes with such a fail-safe.
Since, in this case, the pool does cost the city millions of dollars that are not going towards educating students, I’d pull the plug, ASAP. Yes, teacher tenure laws, be damned.
Certification is a different issue. In March of 2017, the NY Board of Regents voted to make their teacher certification exam easier, arguing “we already know that our licensure candidates have a Bachelor’s degree which… means that they already have basic literacy and communication skills.”
Couldn’t that be applied to all teacher candidates with a Bachelor’s degree?
Under such desperate circumstances, why not allow teachers without state certification, but with STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) degrees into the classroom?
Oh, and just to see what would happen, make them accountable for their students’ results. STEM folks tend to feel comfortable with being assessed via quantifiable metrics. Plus, if they are let go for poor performance, they don’t expect to keep getting paid.
These are my suggestion for changes the new Chancellor should make as soon as they take office. What are yours?
Tell us in the Comments!