The battle between New York City’s public officials and the members of the teachers union hit its all-time high with a controversial lawsuit.  In an attempt to stop the multiple school closings (and also subsequently stop the charter school take over) the United Federation of Teachers and NAACP filed a lawsuit against the New York City Department of Education earlier today.  Last year the UFT filed a similar suit and kept 19 schools open which were otherwise going to be closed.  “A settlement required the DOE to support the schools the UFT saved, committing the city to working on improving their performance instead of closing them. This year’s suit alleges that the DOE did not provide those resources, instead deciding to move forward with more closures.”  This just goes to show, that even when the system gets directly told what the people want, they continue to disregard it.

And where is Walcott in all of this?  He is “outraged” because he thinks that the union is trying to keep the adults happy instead of the kids—he bases this opinion on the belief that keep failing schools open is worse for the students.  So his solution is to simply close all of the “failing” schools and try to rebuild with charter schools that are not necessarily better just regulated differently.  But the real problem here is as Ken Cohen, regional director of New York State Conference of the NAACP, says: “it’s a matter of equity. ‘The NAACP has worked feverishly to serve the children of New York City,’ he said in a statement. ‘With the focus on education reform we find there has been a rush to judge and condemn schools and not enough effort to provide the quality education that the original case sought’”  This is the second lawsuit for New York City schools, who do you think should win Walcott or the NAACP?

Further Reading:


According to the most recent  audit to the Department of Education  by City Comptroller John C. Lui, although state regents tests, and graduation rates may demonstrate progress, they are difficult to understand. As told by Lui, because the method the grades are calculated has changes multiple times, it is difficult to use those reports to look at a school’s performance from year to year or to determine whether or not those numbers accurately the shift in performance. This is very problematic, because officials decide whether a school stays opened or closed based on the results of  those progress reports. How do they know they are accurate? Not implying that tests are the best way to check performance but can that assert that these measure are accurate? How about not changing the method every year. This flawed method may be the reason why so many schools have had failing grades and have ended up closing. If they have found a system that works, why not just stick to it?

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The current education crisis doesn’t seem to be getting any better. We have seen various forms of civic mobilization  from the public to to show their dismay for decisions that elites have made.  The public has engaged in protests, sit- ins, and even rallies but what if the public takes an unconventional approach to civic mobilization?  What if the public  used social media as a mean for activism? Experts imply that using Social media in this form can be two things-good or bad!

According to Malcolm Gladwell in his New Yorker article Small Change, using social media as a form of activism is weak. there often tends to be a type of disconnect between the activist and the actual “cause”, “where activists were once defined by their causes, they are now defined by their tools” (Gladwell 3). With this being said, it might be safe to assume that engaging in activism just got easier. He continues by stating that the apparent disconnect between the two, actually sparks more “activism”. “social networks are effective at increasing participation by lessening the level of motivation that participation requires”  (Gladwell 5). With just a click of a button an individual can join a group of their interest and virtually sign petitions that support the groups’ interest.   Is it fair to call social medias revolutionary?

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Last Friday Mayor Bloomberg proposed a budget plan that would layoff 5 % of city workers. Among those 5% workers that are getting laid off are public school teachers.  Under the budget plan Mayor Bloomberg 4,100 New York City teachers are scheduled to get the ax. Teachers who came through programs such as Teach for America and New York  City are vulnerable to layoffs, but according to elite figures repesenting those programs most of those teachers who came through them are safe, because their jobs were the ones the city had most difficulty filling (because they low functioning areas). According to a model that the city prepared in February, a couple of hundreds of those teachers that are facing layofs will have taught  less than 5 years, about 650 of them are only in their first or second year. When are political  figures going to get their priorities straight? Why is it that when the city is  in a state of emergency and budget cuts need to be made, education seems to be the fisrt one to get the ax? Alhtough New York city is known for its progressiveness and good schools, it is also known for having a poor public school education department. Only in New York will  public schools be looked at in a negative light, perhaps the the situation above could be one of the reasons why.

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Finally there is someone who is actually doing some good for the education system, and her name is Cami Anderson.  She is a new superintendent in Newark, New Jersey and so far she has been a great boost for the community.  Her credentials include: working as a teacher for ten years, being the executive director for Teach for America, and the chief program officer for New Leaders for New Schools.  She believes the entire community needs to work together in order to improve education.  She said: “I don’t believe in lonely heroes winning the day.  I actually believe in teams, I think it’s the athlete in me … Education is not an individual sport.”

She does face many problems going into a state with a failing K-12 education system (Being one of many in the United States today).  Of Newark’s 40,000 public schools only 50% of them have an adequate graduation rate.  This achievement gap is not the only issue; its average spending rate is about $25,000 per student.  Pedro Noguera, a New York University education professor, emphasizes how Anderson needs to “put out some goals … [The people of the community] need to see that Newark can start to move forward in the right direction.”  So far she has laid out some possible reforms to help the disjointed system of education—and has made serious efforts to work with disconnected youth.  Her view on the role of charter schools is that they should only close failing schools when “children and literally their lives were at stake.”  Although, she does believe that “multiple pathways” for education is a necessity for success.  The most immediate decisions that she faces is: what to do with the $100 million gift from Facebook’s Zuckerberg and to make budget negotiations that include layoffs for up to 400 school employees.  Hopefully, these decisions will result in bettering the Newark community and not make me regret this post.

Further Reading:

Bloomberg and Walcott are advocates of choice. What does this mean?  I’m not quite sure.  First, it meant throwing more charter schools in the mix.  Now it means constructing numerous same-sex schools.  Walcott explains how he is a “big believer” in these schools but doesn’t exactly say why—and the only assumption that can be made is to give everyone more choices when it comes to schools.  NYU and Teachers College have been doing a study on this “choice”, more specifically the inequalities of this choice for black and Hispanic students.  They say that these students have actually embraced this idea of choice and have chosen higher-performing schools than they are currently attending, but very rarely do they find these schools nearby.  This is highly problematic and really uncovers one of the real problems here.  There needs to be good schools everywhere, not just where the wealthier students live.  Furthermore, the article states: “Opening up more single-sex schools in New York will certainly create more options. But will they be good ones?” Sure Bloomberg and Walcott are giving more choices but are they really bettering the school system or just adding in more fluff which neither hinders nor helps the system as a whole?

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DON’T CLOSE THE SCHOOL!!! New Education Chancellor Dennis Walcott made a special trip to Brooklyn on Wednesday. Why you ask? Walcott visited the Paul Robeson High School, a school that will be PHASED OUT -aka permanently close- beginning in the fall. Wait….it gets better. Why exactly did Walcott make such a visit? TO WELCOME THE STUDENTS BACK FROM SPRING BREAK! Yes, that is actually why he made the trip. I am not joking. I would imagine that instead of a warm welcome- after all, what’s the point of welcoming students back to a school that will be gone within months?- the students would much prefer if their school is not shut down…Just a thought Walcott! Robeson High School is being shut down because of poor academic performances, which leads me to wonder where these students will end up? Instead of shutting down a functioning school, why not work to improve the education system, so there are no longer continuous “poor academic performances.” However, Walcott promises to create a “network of support” for the students. WHAT DOES THIS MEAN? A network of support, is he serious? How about not closing the school. How’s that for support?

After this, if you are paying attention to our blog debate on Walcott I’m on team Ana. Walcott has a LOT to prove, and I suggest he get a move on it…immediately.

If you don’t believe me, here’s the article that this actually happened:

Next years’ proposed budget cut will eliminate 15,000 spots  for after school programs. This means that programs such as art, tutoring, and music lessons  that students currently enjoy will be  dramatically slashed. However state officials estimate that a good 12,000 students will need the services. At the same time officials expect that because the city is cutting slots in its’ day care programs those 12,000 students will be in dire need of after school programs and will need to be given first priority for program spots. Officials believe that cuts to daycare and after school programs are important because tabs had not been kept on federal and state funding for these area, and apparently there has been an increase in funding for those within the past five years.If the budget proposal for next year has already been confirmed, how will Chancellor Walcott go about providing schools with the adequate programs if budgets on these are set to decrease? Somebody please stop the cuts! Cuts to after school programs are a huge mistake. Without those programs students do not have the opportunity to experience an enriched learning environment full of  various activities other than academics. Decrease in after school programs will not only affect students, but the parents of those students as well who have them in those programs because they work. Cuts to those programs means that the parents of those students will not be able to work their regular hours which means they wont be able to earn their bread and butter $. So for once and for all can the cuts just stop?

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And the solution is??

April 19, 2011

Last Saturday, new city schools chancellor Dennis Walcott  gave a speech at the Teachers College at Columbia University. The speech was  about how he planned to ease the critical situation in which city schools are in. Chancellor Walcott spoke on the hot topics that have been recently circulating the news: Charter schools, standardized testing, teacher tenure, and the budget crisis. Although his plan was to propose his “softer” solution to these conflicts it seems as if he gave old solutions to these growing issues.

For starters, when referring to standardized testing, although the chancellor acknowledged the need for an extensive curriculum, he   seemed to simultaneously acknowledge the need for testing. “At the end of the day, tests are part of life”.  He did not say much about integrating or reforming curriculum so that students are not solely test prepping. On the topic of teacher layoff , the chancellor persisted that it was important for the city to layoff teacher force in order to balance its budget.  He estimated a layoff of teacher force by more than 6,100 teachers. In this estimate it was calculated that job losses will increase average class size by at least one more student. On charter schools, the chancellor seemed to acknowledge the growing numbers of these. His only comment was  that it is about parental choice; “It’s about providing great options for parents.Everything else is just noise”. Meaning that charter schools are simply another option that is available for parents. Lastly he mentioned the importance of city agencies working together to combat serious issues caused by poverty, including a need for more after school programs.

After hearing this, my only question is what exactly is your solution Mr. Walcott? It seems that he is proposing the same tired “solutions” to city schools growing problems of overcrowding, lack of teachers, and loss of facilities. Why is it that when there is a budget problem education always  gets the poor end of the stick? Isn’t there another way the city can balance its budget without having to layoff thousand of its educators? Or having a larger than average classroom size? Another thing, if the city needs to cut teachers and increase class size to balance its budget, where is it going to get the money to provide after school programs? In order for those programs to be a success there needs to be an abundance in faculty and facilities at a school. City schools are not going to have enough space for after school programs if they end up having to share their buildings with charter schools. So exactly how is this a solution? It seems that there are more questions left unanswered than otherwise.

For further readings:

There has been a flurry of news about the education chancellor. And as it turns out…he’s actually qualified for the job! Dennis Walcott grew up in Queens and was a child of the public school system. He was a former educator, policy maker and the deputy mayor over seeing education policies, which to me, makes him have the best of both world when it comes to leading our school district. He is also very aware of the worries that parents might have about the education system and has the “striver’s mentality” that many want to instill into their children. Walcott even kept his promise and made waffles for P.S. 10 when he bragged, and was called out on it, about them being the best waffles in the world.

Now Walcott is not just going to feed our students, but he plans to create open lines with the Legislature in Albany, stay on track to create 28,866 seats in New York City. He has also shown that he is on the same side as teachers supporting them instead of criticizing. Walcott seems as though he wants to get to the bottom of the education crisis.The new chancellor has created a refreshing vibe in the world of New York City Education. Hopefully, he can actually maintain it while doing some good for schools.I myself am very curious on what he has in store for the district. I guess all we an do is wait and see.

You can read more about him here in the New York Post, here and here in the Daily News.