I found Mayor Bloomberg's State of the City speech disappointing in its discussion of education.
While it is refreshing that he will provide additional city money for the schools, he has deliberately and consistently shortchanged most children by making them attend schools with large classes so that his showcase small schools can have significantly smaller than average classes. This in spite of the fact that as the test scores that he favors as a measure of success show that these same showcase small schools and charter schools perform on a par with or slightly worse than the larger schools.
And, the performance difference doesn't even allow for the fact that the favored small schools generally don't accept non-English speaking students (English Language Learners, in the jargon) or "Special Education" students who often score less well on tests. Nor does it allow for the fact that these schools have a double selection process. Once, because students must apply, and second because the school can review the applicants' records.
I would propose that six years is long enough to make some preliminary judgments. Students who entered the system under the current administration's tutelage are now taking the standardized tests. Is this cohort performing better than their predecessors? What about this year's eighth graders or high school seniors? I am afraid that the answers are all too disappointing.
We are told that the Bloomberg/ Klein administration has raised the graduation rate to a still abysmal 58%, but more impartial figures from the State Education Department say that the true rate was and remains below 50 percent.
We were told initially that one of the reasons that so many students, particular those from disadvantaged backgrounds, performed so poorly was that as the transferred from school to school, sometimes as many as five times in a year, with each transfer confronted with disparate curriculums.
We were promised reform. Other than an initial attempt to force students performing at or below grade level to drop such subjects as art and music to allow time for remedial English and math where are these critical reforms?
Schools still have the same rotten curriculums, and rotten textbooks.
Pretty pictures in math texts are still more important than instruction.
And nothing may be taught that takes over three pages, so too often nothing is taught.
And what is the latest answer? Dismantle the Regions. Return to the 32 Local School Districts - but allow private corporations (Halliburton? Edison?) to oversee the system! And this from an attorney, Mr. Klein, who learned nothing when he lost the Kruger lawsuit on eliminating the districts.
Finally, the security mantra has made our schools significantly more dangerous. In some few schools, students are locked inside the building (System G). In almost all schools, doors to stairways and across hallways intended to stop the spread of smoke are propped open "for security" so that guards (School "Safety" staff) can better watch the inmates. And in a good many schools, desks provided to these same guards block all or part of the main entrance to the building.
To be sure, our schools have myriad problems. But Rudy Crew and Harold Levy demonstrated that these problems were solvable with an understanding of some of the problems and available solutions. I believe that Mr. Klein himself has said that our schools need a steady course. This, he and Mr. Bloomberg have failed to provide during their tenure.
Get Help For PS 225
As a parent and concerned member of the community I felt compelled to contribute my thoughts on the current situation at P.S. 225. My son was new to the school in September. He had always been enthusiastic about going to school. After going to P.S. 225 for only about two weeks he had lost most of that enthusiasm. During the first four or five weeks that he had been in the school, his head was banged on the floor by another student, he had been bullied by older children, kneed to the head twice and came home with scratches on his face.
One of his comments that really hit home was when he told me he liked his old school better because "kids weren't allowed to hit each other there."
How sad is that. I was told to stay away from this school when I moved out here. But instead of coming up with a false address, I decided to be honest. I guess that didn't pay off. Since the earlier incidents, he has had money taken, a few more bruises and his attitude towards school has changed. I'm not saying that nobody in the school cares but something is simply not working.
Here are my suggestions: Parents should demand that [District Superintendent] Rita Giramita be "stationed" at the school for the next month or so to get things going in the right direction. She is an experienced and successful educator/administrator.
I also think that parents should demand that if no progress is shown by June, then Principal Melchiorre and his assistants should be replaced. Remind Mr. Klein that we the parents pay taxes to run these schools and that these are our children. We shouldn't be the last heard when it comes to running a school.
JOHN PATRICK LARKIN
Hit And Run
I'm writing this letter in complete disgust over a hit and run that occurred in Broad Channel which startled me out of my sleep at approximately 2:40 a.m. this past Sunday morning. Apparently a group of young people were drinking in front of my house on the corner of West & Noel Rd. and when leaving in their vehicle, banged right into my car that was parked right in front of my door. Of course these cowardly cretins immediately fled the scene before I could catch their license plate. Even though the police arrived minutes after I called, the police did not want to bother with a police report (I had to insist) nor could they be bothered trying to find the perpetrators who I am sure were under the influence since they left behind evidence of Heineken bottles.
They also left behind a fitted Yankees cap. It's bad enough to be outside someone's house drinking and being loud at all hours, but to cause major damage to someone's vehicle and flee the scene is just appalling. It would be nice if someone came forward to own up to their responsibility, but I highly doubt that these people were brought up with any sense of morals. So much for the sense of "community" that is supposed to be Broad Channel and I firmly believe what goes around comes around.
Firehouse Is Perfect For Firehouse Museum
I'm writing in regard to the closed firehouse on Beach 59 Street in Rockaway.
I think it should be turned into a firehouse museum. This would be a perfect place for one. It is already a firehouse and could teach us about fires and how we can avoid them. Children can learn about the Fire Department from its early days to today. We could show how they started with some old equipment to the present day equipment. Schools can go on trips to a fire museum in a neighborhood and it can be educational to the children and adults too.
This should be considered for the use of this building. What better way to teach our children about fire prevention, then with a museum there. Rockaway can use one.
'Something Smells Fishy'
I am curious if Eddie Re Jr. really has the best interest of Rockaway Park residents when he speaks at the Rockaway Park Homeowners meetings. He always speaks about facts, which is good, as these facts are measurable and easy to validate. As a professor at Pratt Institute, he is a highly-qualified individual who truly expresses zoning issues to all listeners.
The problem I have with him is the sarcasm and insensitive tone he presents. He has quite a few pieces of property which he owns (more power to him) and it often seems that this is where his priority is. It is not with the vast majority of all the homeowners attending these meetings.
Is it fair to have him replaced as President? Will there be an election? He is a very intelligent man but relates poorly with so many of the homeowners who attend these meetings.
His own family cannot even relate to him. The email in last week's issue of The Wave, from his sister Marina, confirms this. Why did she need all readers of The Wave to know that her dad, Edward D. Re Se. and NOT Edward D. Re Jr. was affiliated and his role with the Neponsit Homeowners Association.
Let's think about this guy. He has some agenda that we are not seeing. Why would his sister make us aware of this? Why does she feel this was important for us to be aware of? Something smells fishy and I was curious if others agree.
Just A Thought On
The following is a letter that was sent to Chancellor, Joel Klein.
I am writing to express my concern over the new bus service being implemented today.
I am upset about several things that I believe were not taken into consideration when developing new bus service for the elementary school children. I base this information not only on my own child, but the children residing in my area who attend PS114Q. My concerns are:
New bus service has scheduled younger students (K,1,2) to get on buses before their older siblings. These younger children, who formerly relied on their siblings to escort them home from the bus stops, will now be left on their own. My own niece in kindergarten is getting off the bus one hour and 45 minutes before her 4th grade brother.
Siblings from the same family are scheduled to depart and arrive at different times from different places. I know one family with three children - all three are getting on the bus at three different times in three different places, and dropped off the same way. (All are going to the same school!) How is a parent supposed to pull that off?
Are working parents supposed to hire three different sitters to get their children from their buses??
A female kindergarten student from our area (living 2.5 miles from the school) was given a metro card and told to take public transportation, even though children who live on her block were being provided with yellow bus service. We have 25+ known sex offenders residing on this peninsula- and you give a five year old a metro card and tell her to have a nice day! This is outrageous and unconscionable.
Also, based on the schedules that are being followed, children are being left on buses for over one hour to travel 2.5 miles? Where are they being taken?? Are these buses being used for round robins? In rain, snow and ice, are these drivers rushing back to school to pick up the next load?
Children in our community are not being brought home in time to attend their religious instruction- is the system now denying them their right to practice their religion??
When you call the OPT hotline- no one asks who they are, they just ask the child's name and school. They proceed to tell you where the child is getting on and off the bus and what time. Has anyone considered that they could be releasing information to someone that is not supposed to know the whereabouts of certain families (i.e. DV victims)???
Mr. Klein, it seems to me that more thought should have gone into this process. Most of the issues that I have highlighted above are safety issues. Instead of paying people to fill in to answer phone problems now, maybe money would have been better spent sending OPT personnel directly to schools to capture information from families that were not heard from. Just a thought!!
All letters submitted to The Wave, including those sent via e-mail, must contain names, addresses and phone numbers. All letters are subject to editing and publication at the discretion of the editors. The Wave will no longer publish letters in which the name is withheld, unless, in the opinion of the editorial board, there is a compelling public interest to do so.
The Wave is not responsible for photos or copy left as part of announcements or stories. We will make every effort to return the photo or copy if requested but cannot take responsibility in the rare occasion when the photo or copy cannot be located. We advise readers submitting material to make copies of valuable photos.
If you didn't see your letter this week, don't despair. The volume of letters we receive each week dictates that some be held over for the following week.