Saturday, December 16, 2006

The Blue Ribbon Panel

UFT President Randi Weingarten supported and enabled mayoral control. She later spoke against it, but declined to endorse Bloomberg's opponent in the next election (apparently in return for a contract). She helped create a monster, and it's growing every minute.

Bloomberg took the ball and ran with it. For a while, he made it seem as though he wanted to improve things. He took the LAST test, required for NY teacher certification, passed it, and then declared (correctly, in my view) that any high school graduate ought to be able to do so too.

He then sent Joel Klein to Albany to beg for the right to retain and hire thousands of teachers who'd failed that very test. He and Mr. Klein have perfected a science of moving kids from one school to another in order to emulate progress. When fourth grade scores go up and eighth grade scores go down, they declare victory.

Mayor Bloomberg made huge noises about ending social promotion in fourth grade. As a result, he held back roughly the same number of kids that got held back before he started complaining. To save money, he stopped offering required services. Another great vehicle for showing progress is his policy of removing dropouts from the graduation statistics.

In view of their accomplishments, Bloomberg and Klein were chosen for this prestigious panel--which brings us to the next most prominent member of the panel, ex-US Secretary of Education Rod Paige. Mr. Paige presided over the Texas Miracle, which also involved the Houdiniesque "disappearing dropout." Mr. Paige was later involved in paying journalists to push his policies, after which he quietly disappeared himself (from the Bush White House).

This distinguished panel has determined our best course is to have schools run by private companies, eliminate teacher pensions, and raise teacher salaries (to a level Nassau County reached years ago, and NYC will reach in two years). Thus, by giving with one hand and taking away with the other, they expect to draw more teachers.

I'm hoping the people we trust to teach our kids are smart enough to see through that, but who knows?

In any case, I like the CFE recommendations better: good teachers and smaller classes for all schoolchildren. They're simpler, don't aim to bamboozle anyone, and work very well where I live. However, the panel, which prominently includes people who historically prefer illusions to improvements, goes with unproven theories instead.

Of course I'm only a teacher and a public-school parent.

You'll never see the likes of me on a blue-ribbon panel.

Thanks to reality-based educator
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