Quinn on Education: Changing the Direction of Education – Listening to Parents and Professionals – A Solutions-Driven Approach to Mayoring

When you go to “Candidate School” you are taught to speak in broad generalities, “I support truth, justice and the American way (not necessarily in that order) and I am against evil in all its guises.” Select one, maybe two specific issues to support and/or oppose; only speak in depth on an issue in which you have deep experience and knowledge.

I guess Christine Quinn cut those classes at Candidate School.

This morning at the Center for NYC Affairs at the New School Quinn gave an hour-long policy address with many, many specifics.

View speech: http://new.livestream.com/TheNewSchool/Christine-Quinn

Kate Taylor in the New York Times sees the speech as setting a new course for education in the city,

Without directly criticizing Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, Ms. Quinn signaled a shift away from his often punitive approach to struggling schools.

She proposed reducing the focus on testing and doing more to address poverty, and she suggested that the city should intervene earlier to help schools that are foundering. “Instead of treating school closing like a goal in and of itself, we should see it as an ultimate last resort when all else has failed,” she said. “And we should make fixing schools not just the responsibility of the principal and the teacher, but of all of city government and the entire community.”

New Yorkers have been wary with many seeing Quinn as too close to exiting Mayor Bloomberg; after all, it was Quinn who enabled the Mayor to find a loophole around the City Charter two-term limit.

Quinn’s speech laid out a path far more detailed than any of the other candidates, in fact, far more detailed than speeches made by the current chancellor.

Quinn laid out four themes:
* Best practices, better school. Use the mountains of current data, which schools are working and why, pair up similar schools, create a mentor teacher system using experienced highly effective teachers, she identified other school systems with mentoring models … the principals of Truman and New Dorp introduced as leading model large high schools … still many questions but clearly a path.
* Learning 24/7: Extending the school day to 6 PM in the highest poverty schools using creative scheduling and targeted dollars – a laser-like focus on literacy – she quoted oft-noted data about kids who are behind in the 4th grade have much lower high school graduation rates. The involvement of parents – a customer-based approach to dealing with parent concerns a la Zappos, the online marketer famous for customer service. Community Education Councils (CECs) would be recognized and given a significant role in local education decision-making, increased tools to communicate with and inform parents.
* Community Schools: Making school the center, the lynch pin, of the war on poverty. Create a Deputy Mayor for Education and Families – sounds like moving ACS (Agency for Children Services) to the education side.
* Innovate to Education. Instead of spending 100m a year on books use the money to buy a tablet for every kid and e-books. Add computer literacy to the traditional emphasis on literacy and numeracy.

In the Q & A she answered tough questions:

Co-locations: a case by case approach but solutions must include parents from all co-located sites at the beginning of the process.

Testing: blasted Pearson – made a strong pitch for portfolios – “don’t use test scores to define success.”

School Closing: Identify schools early – we have the data – intervene with proven, target interventions, she rapped Tweed for seeming to take pleasure in announcing school closings.

Traditional School Districts versus Networks: A politician who says, publicly, I have to find out more, speak to more people, haven’t made up my mind. Refreshing.

For those who blame Quinn for the last four years of Bloomberg, and they are legion, Quinn will not be an option. For the other candidates she has laid out a detailed plan – her competitors have followed the “Candidate School” script and played to a parent/teacher audience that is hostile to Bloomberg, will they respond to Quinn, ignore her plans, and take the “safe” attack Mike route?

I forget which circle of Dante’s Inferno is reserved for politicians who ignore their own promises; I do know it is filled with hi-rise buildings.

The bottom line for me: she did her homework, she studied the issues, she was able to discuss them intelligently, and she answered a wide range of targeted questions.

Her education agenda is far different from the agenda coming out of Washington or the aeries of Albany – in other worlds she rejects the core of the Arne Duncan/John King paths.

For Quinn the words of Robert Frost resonate,

The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,

It is a long and winding path to the September primary and the November election, probably with a runoff primary. The other Democratic candidates will hammer away at Quinn, the frontrunner. She may go face-to-face with Thompson in a run-off primary three weeks after the initial primary, and, the Republican candidate will be basking in the sun as the Democrats engage in mortal combat, hoping to snatch away the crown, as did Guiliani and Bloomberg.

To her credit Quinn has laid out a detailed plan for education – a starting place for a discussion that will drift through the spring, summer and end on November 5th

With Mets and Yankee prospects looking dim at least we we’ll cheer for our guy or gal on the playing fields of politics, which can be much more treacherous than any sporting event.

UPDATE: The latest poll has Quinn leading the democratic pack with 35% … approaching the 40% that would avert a runoff. (http://bit.ly/UOcdmH)

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3 responses to “Quinn on Education: Changing the Direction of Education – Listening to Parents and Professionals – A Solutions-Driven Approach to Mayoring

  1. Here’s what we know about Ms. Quinn politically…She panics quickly..see announcement regarding her allegiance to our Police Commissioner, not that he doesnt deserve it, but she named in a panic mode!.Admittedly Bloomberg did more to denigrate and de-humanize the teaching profession since the Greeks forced Socrates or was it aristotle to take the poison pill. The fact that everyone knew this, doesnt sit well with the fact that she arranged for Bloomburgs 3rd term…How many hundreds of teachers <mostly 1st year ones did we lose because of Bloombergs 3rd term.Quinn has some responsibility regarding that…..I simply think NYC deserves better, I'll take Lhota if you dont mind.

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  2. Eric Nadelstern

    This platform isn’t a new approach. It’s a return to the imagined perfection of the past when we blamed student poverty for school failures, and thought the professional development approach of the moment would serve to eliminate the achievement gap. I’m still hopeful that a candidate with real ideas will emerge.

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  3. If we really want to know what our scchool system will look like during a “Quinn” administration we should know the names of the candidates from which she would choose to be Chancellor. In addition, how would decisions be made and by whom. Then and only then will we really have an idea of her views on Education and the “system”.

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