2013-06-28 / Columnists

School Scope

Education News You Can’t Live Without
By Norm Scott

It’s a lie. You can live without it and so can I. It’s that time again – the last School Scope column of the school year. And it’s been quite a year for Rockaway schools. The Wave has done a good job of chronicling the struggles and recoveries so I won’t belabor the point, but let’s hope summertime makes the livin’ easy for all of our schools, especially those that have suffered draconian and outrageous cuts by the Bloomberg administration.

There have been quite a few changes at The Wave itself. Howie is out, Kevin is in, I’m on a word count limit, and I have to climb this long flight of stairs if I want to complain.

As editor, Howie made the paper one of the only voices in the media resisting the Bloomberg reforms. He made the politics of education a key focus of Wave reporting with great insights into the successes and disasters going on in the school system. In case you didn’t notice, I am an ed policy wonk – duh – and have too much information for my tiny brain to contain. Trying to share even a fraction of it with readers has at times been unmanageable.

The Wave was out in front on so many push button issues in education, especially when they started closing schools in Rockaway. The School Scope column under Howie’s stewardship was the reason I started reading The Wave in the first place over 20 years ago. Or is it 30? Having worked as a teacher in Rockaway, Howie knew the ins and outs of District 27 and every Rockaway school. When Howie retired from the school system to take a full-time job at The Wave as managing editor, he asked me to take over school commentary, giving me the made up title of “education editor” and issuing me press credentials, which I have used to gain entry to press sections not only here in NYC, but at events all over the nation. I waved my WAVE press pass at Joel Klein press conferences, American Federation of Teachers conventions in Seattle and Detroit, teacher street demonstrations in Chicago, entry to the press tent at NBC’s Education Nation and a large rally to defend public schools in Washington DC. Plus all that jousting with DOE security when I cover Panel for Education Policy meetings. When I introduce myself as education editor of The Wave people seem impressed. And then they ask, “What is that?”

Having taught and been politically active in District 14 in Williamsburg, I realized I could never duplicate Howie’s great reporting on local schools. So I have focused critiques on the national and the local Bloomberg-led movement to reform schools, which I branded as “ed deform,” and how the local UFT and national AFT were responding – actually aiding and abetting the deforms in so many ways. I have pointed the columns at people who work in the schools and might have some idea of what I’m talking about. But even some of my teacher friends often say, “What?”

I’ve been doing this column roughly twice a month for the past 8 years. Or is it 9? Wait, I’ll check the archives. Oops. Out to sea. With all the things that happened, the loss of those wonderful binders with 130 years of Rockaway history makes me very sad, especially since I had procrastinated over writing a novel using those archives for research. One more reason to just lay in the sun and do nothing. Which I intend to do once I hit the SEND button.

In fact I intended this final column of the school year to be a summary of key stories in education over the year, especially the new teacher evaluation system. I, and everyone else in Rockaway, have had a few distractions, so at times it was hard to focus on external events. There are so many stories, if I wrote about all of them this column would have OCCUPIED this edition. Kevin has pretty much given me the OK to write anytime there is a story to write about, even if outside the education sphere, so I may pop back up during the summer. Otherwise have a great one and see you back in the fall. In the meantime you can follow the fall of civilization on my blog ednotesonline.org.

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