2008-03-21 / Columnists

School Scope

$220 Billion for Bail Out, Zilch for Schools
Commentary By Norman Scott

Norman Scott Norman Scott The education "reformers" always talk about accountability in terms of "no excuses" for poverty, large class sizes, etc. They are quick to support the billions for bailouts but say they can't waste money on lowering class size because they can't guarantee a quality teacher in every class.

How about not allowing a bank to open until there's a quality banker in each and every one? Are any of the characters who led us into the current economic crisis truly suffering? Poor guy at Bears Sterns - his wealth fell from 2 billion to 12 million. And when the Fed Chairman was asked how about bailing out the people losing their homes, he said the stockholders of Bear Stearns were suffering, too. In this country, it's stockholders before homeowners, but we learned that in Eco 1.0 in high school.

Under whose watch were laws passed during the depression (Glass- Steagall Act) to prevent the kinds of abuses we are seeing today repealed? I believe Mr. Clinton. And of course, followed up by the massive giveaway of the institutional protections to corporate interests under Bush.

If we had unions that stood up and exposed the practices that end up in bailouts (Chrysler, savings and loan - one a decade) instead of collaborating, it wouldn't be as easy for them to manipulate the economy.

If the UFT/AFT defended its members instead of seeking ways to cooperate in the dismantling of public education, they could have played a role in exposing some of the shams. But how can the UFT play at that level when they can't even defend teachers in their schools?

Not a word from the union about how 200 billion can be found for a bailout or how a trillion magically appears for a war. Instead of pointing out where the money is, the UFT/AFT buys into the phony accountability/reform movement and calls for tinkering at the edges.

The UFT leads a rally at Tweed begging for a few crumbs to be put back on the table while the Fed throws billions on the table for the financial industry.

The rally to restore the budget cuts would have a much better chance of succeeding if it were held at the Federal Reserve.

Helen Marshall Still Asleep as Queens has no rep on PEP Queens again had no voice at the Panel for Education Policy meeting on Monday, March 17 as they discussed the important issue of…. 8th Grade Retention Battle at PEP

Monday was the fourth anniversary of the Monday Night Massacre where three PEP members were fired by Bloomberg because they were going to vote against the 3rd grade retention. Since then, they've added 5th and 7th grade. It's all a crock. What happened to those kids who were held back? The DOE won't reveal - they have a study going supposedly that won't be completed until '09, just when BloomKlein are leaving office.

How does BloomKlein claim they empowered principals but then dictate from above decisions on who gets promoted or not? There are views on both sides on the part of teachers, who generally seem to come down on the side of using promotion as an arrow in their quiver (they have been left with precious few) to get kids who don't do much work to be motivated.

The non-worker is very different from the child who tries and struggles. If a child can't read at all - no skills after even 5 years in school even with the worst teachers, then there is a problem like dyslexia. If the child is 2 years behind, then there could also be a problem that no amount of holding the child back in yet another class of 25 or 30 kids will help make a difference.

As many have pointed out, ending social promotion is a political, not edu- cational policy. All research shows the policy of holding kids over doesn't really work.

How does BloomKlein claim they empowered principals but then dictate from above decisions on who gets promoted or not? But individual schools should make those decisions for each individual child at the school level.

Take any 8th grade prospective holdover. My guess is that this is not the first time. Maybe it's been twice. The kid is practically a grandfather. My friend tells me about a 17-year-old father to be in the 8th grade of a K-8 school. So the result will be an increased chance the kid drops out and never clogs one of the Gates schools with his or her presence.

And, guess what? Their disappearance will make the high school grad rates go up.

Patrick Sullivan, Manhattan Borough Rep to PEP, the lone dissenter to the policy, commented on various blogs:

Like most people, Manhattan BP Scott Stringer and I don't think we should push kids into high school who are not ready. We don't support social promotion. Yet the proposal that Klein put forward for approval had no plan to provide services to the retained kids, let alone deal with the pervasive problems of middle schools. Panel members were asked to put faith in the "forthcoming" plan that DOE is developing to turn around middle schools. The end of the administration struck me as an odd time to start working on a plan.

I've looked closely at all the research on these programs to hold kids back based on test scores and pretty much across the board the research says they don't work. A very comprehensive study in the Chicago school system showed that the retained kids had higher drop out rates, the program overall did not help despite costing hundreds of millions to fund another year of school. We will see somewhere between 5,000 - 18,000 additional kids repeat 8th grade. Tweed has not even thought about where they'll put these kids in middle schools that are already overcrowded.

What we've been saying is to instead find these kids early and provide the remediation instead of waiting for them to fail. DOE has an $80 million dollar student achievement database and the most extensively tested student body in the free world yet they can't figure out which kids need help and give it to them. Instead of paying for another year of school, we should invest in creating middle school environments that are more attractive for both students and teachers - small classes, enrichment programs, real music, art, etc.

Read more from Patrick about the research and parent opinions at: http://nycpublicschoolparents.blogspot .com/

When I posted this piece on my blog, a high school math teacher commented:

I bet next year's tests get easier, the kids get passes and Bloomberg brags about how well retention worked.

A Queens parent/activist, said: This is a political ploy by the Mayor and his minions to allow him to leave office with his self-promoted notion of being the "Education Mayor" to an unknowing public after more kids pass the test next year and he moves on to higher political office. The parents and students of Queens still have no voice on the PEP while numerous substantive issues are ratified by the Mayor's rubber stamp Panel which replaced the Board of Education. It's well past the time to return educators to Tweed and not these technocrats who continue to pass policies that are detrimental to our children... RTC/Frank Caiati Acting Class Made me miss the PEP meeting

I never miss PEP meetings, but Frank Caiati's acting class at the Rockaway Theatre Company has kept me at home in Rockaway on Monday nights (other than a recent week in London to see a Zombies Concert). Can a 35-year veteran teacher learn wonderful things from a 22-year-old? Hell yes! (And I get to watch some of the amazing "Annie" rehearsals.) If this class is given again, it's a must take. Was there a Bush/Wall St. Hit on Spitzer?

Michael Fiorillo, chapter leader at Newcomers HS writes (excerpt):

Now that the tsunami-like tide of revulsion and moralizing has ebbed somewhat, I have to say a few things about this week's events.

The distaste many people have felt about Eliot Spitzer's behavior should not cloud their thinking about what has actually happened. A progressive elected official - at least by the debased standards that exist today - was destroyed for reasons having far less to do with his moral failings than with whom his enemies are. And federal law enforcement, financial institutions and the New York Times were complicit in it. This week's events suggest that powerful forces are aligned to see that those who have looted the country and enriched themselves over the demise of its actual, productive, wealth-producing patrimony will not be brought to account for the trillions of dollars they have stolen and the wealth they have destroyed.

Spitzer Named to DOE Post

From Queens Parent activist Gary Babad, a new satire on the NYC Public School Parent blog (excerpt):

March 12, 2008 (GBN News): In yet another stunning development, Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced today that he is naming Eliot Spitzer to be Deputy Chancellor of the NY City schools, effective upon his official resignation as Governor on Monday. Mr. Bloomberg said that he expected Mr. Spitzer to bring his strong sense of personal and financial ethics to the Department, which has come under what the Mayor termed "frequent and unfair criticism" for lack of transparency and accountability.

The Mayor made only an oblique reference to the scandal that caused the Governor's resignation when he referred to Mr. Spitzer's "vast experience with the world's two oldest professions."

Read more of Gary's stuff at: http:// nycpublicschoolparents.blogspot.com/ Norm's email: normsco@gmail.com Norm'sblog: http://ednotesonline.blog spot.com/

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