Skirmishes and Wars: Governance and Schools at a Crossroads.


Seemingly ever few weeks another skirmish erupts, a Klein initiative with the response by parents, electeds, advocacy organizations and teachers. Klein spins in the Daily News and the Post and, as a speaker, across the nation … the loosely formed public school “coalition” organizes the troops, and fights back …
The NYS ELA and Math scores will be out shortly (individual schools have their own scores but the SED has not released the scores publicly) … rumor has it that scores are up across the state. Klein will laud his efforts, others will point out that all scores rose … proving nothing.
On a nationwide basis our schools are falling behind. Bob Herbert  highlights the rather depressing national data.

“International comparisons rank the United States a stunningly unimpressive eighteenth for high school graduation rates, a lackluster ranking of fifteenth for high school reading assessments among 15-year-olds in developed countries, and an embarrassing 25th for high school math.”

Those are not the marks of a society with a blissful future. Four years of college is becoming a prerequisite for a middle-class quality of life and we’re having trouble graduating kids from high school.

The 2006  Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) is a triennial world-wide test of 15-year-old schoolchildren’s scholastic performance, scores comparing nations from around the world, and are distressing for our kids.

Even when comparing gifted students, the black-white achievement gap continues to widen.

Why are our schools falling behind? What aren’t we doing? What can we do better, or differently?

Everyone seems to have an answer.

National Governors Association report suggests abandoning teacher salary schedules based on length of service and base salary increases on student achievement.

The free marketeers look to charter schools and vouchers.

The Bush administration is using the punitive No Children Left Behind rubric and the national teacher unions, as well as many states and school boards fight back.

Others aver that we should explore paying poor families for “positive” behaviors

School systems are funded by local communities, and the city administrators, the mayors, set forth budgets and, are ultimately responsible for the functioning of schools. The days of school boards running schools and mayor funding schools, with no interaction, are rapidly disappearing.

In Boston, Chicago, Washington DC, New York and an ever rowing list of cities mayors are taking the responsibility of both funding and running school systems.

William Thompson, the NYC Comptroller, and a presumed candidate in the 2009 mayoral election, who was recently honored by the teacher union, is a supporter of mayoral control, albeit not the current model.

Public schools are under assault and the assault will not abate until schools begin to show progress. I frequently hear teachers cry, “if they will only leave us alone.” It’s not going to happen.

If mayors and parents and advocacy groups and teachers cannot found a common ground, a method of working together, and, if schools continue to falter the “assaulters” will change the system.

Those who continue to look to the past, and wish for what was, will be consumed by the future.


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