Wednesday, March 19, 2008

The Only Variable Is the Teacher

That's what ex-Deputy Chancellor Alonso used to say, and as far as I can tell, that philosophy still pervades Tweed. After all, "accountability" doesn't apply to the mayor, who failed to increase test scores in national tests he couldn't manipulate. And it certainly doesn't apply to Chief Accountability Officer Jim Liebman, who literally runs from concerned city parents. Still, test scores are everything to this mayor, apparently, as he lets school buildings crumble and packs children into overcrowded buildings like sardines.

So is it all on teachers?

This morning I was talking to a social studies teacher who told me his former school was not as good as the one in which we work now. In his former school, he had the very best passing record for the Regents exam--32%. In our current school, 91% of his kids pass the test. He swears he's the same teacher, using the same methods, and even contends that he may have had more energy in the old days.

There are three elements to good schools--good teachers, reasonable class sizes, and decent facilities. In NYC, where none of these elements are regarded as important, the three elements are exactly what the real estate agents say they are---location, location, and location.

This afternoon I was telling one of my students that he was lucky to be in one of the best schools in the city. He said he'd seen better. I asked him what school was better than ours, and he named a school on Long Island. I couldn't argue with him at all. My daughter attends a school on Long Island, and it's nothing less than disgraceful that uber-"reformer" Michael Bloomberg refuses to give this kid what every kid should have.
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