2010-09-03 / Editorial/Opinion

The School Year Begins Anew

Every year as Labor Day nears, legions of school staff, students and parents get ready for a seminal day – the beginning of a new school year. This year, like many, starts with confusion and trepidation. Just how dysfunctional our public schools have become under Mayor Michael Bloomberg can be seen by the fact that students report to their new classes on September 8, two days after Labor Day and one day after teachers and staff are required to report. September 8 is a Wednesday. Then, they all have Thursday and Friday off for Rosh Hashanah. Why bring everybody in for one day when the calendar could have easily started on Monday, September 13? Because the Department of Education and the United Federation of Teachers could not even get together on such a simple item as the calendar. If school officials really believe that all of the students will be in their seats on September 8, they are delusional. Of course, the DOE is already delusional in its belief that it has significantly improved education over the last eight years, when all of the hard evidence, including the reading and math scores released last month by the state, shows exactly the opposite. Just last week, New York State won the “Race to the Top,” the scheme whereby the federal government bribes state education departments to do their bidding, whether or not their plans improve education. Where will that money be spent? Certainly not in the classroom. It will be used to create a new statewide system for tracking student performance and progress; for developing a curriculum that matches up with “national standards;” for building a better system for evaluating teachers and for using those evaluations in determining teacher salary, and for developing a plan to attract better teachers to low-performing schools. Not a dime for reducing class size, for retaining senior teachers, for developing curriculum in areas other than reading and mathematics. After all, those other subjects don’t matter much in a universe where only standardized test scores count for anything. The New Year usually brings hope of renewal and progress. This year, with Bloomberg and Klein at the helm and with the federal government pulling their strings in return for big bucks, the new school year only promises more of the same – school closings, teacher lay-offs, threats and disingenuousness about what our students are really achieving.

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