Across the city kids are walking across the stage, graduating from elementary, middle and high schools, and for the students and their families these are joyous memorable moments. The culmination of years of hard work, and, for the high schoolers a passage into adulthood. Unfortunately it is a bittersweet week for the kids who didn’t make it.
An HBO special, “Fast Times at Frederick Douglass High School” in Baltimore is a deeply depressing reminder of the Wire-like existence of too many kids. Sullen, dis-engaged kids, hard working dedicated teachers and school administrators who don’t see, or, ignore the crumbling school around them.
Mayor Bloomberg boasts about the sharp increases in this years test scores while critics are deeply suspicious of the dramatic increases across the state.
This is a school year that has exhausted everyone: teachers who pour their heart and soul into their kids, teacher unions, parent and advocacy groups that have been battling budget cuts for weeks and the kids, faced with “life or death” tests and the boredom of Regents review and test prep.
Legislators in Albany simply don’t trust Bloomberg and Klein and have steadfastly refused to ease the “Contract for Excellence” legislation that assures dollars will be driven to the neediest kids/schools. The City Council has been wrangling with the Mayor over the budget, with the hours ticking away.
An avalanche of “fixes” have floated out of Tweed, from free cell phones and minutes, weighted student funding schemes, to school/teacher bonuses and Inquiry Teams leading to the “odd couple” Klein/Sharpton Reform Agenda.
On the national scene school vouchers are alive and well and the punitive aspects of No Child Left Behind continues to drive instruction..
What is so disturbing is that while Bloomberg/Klein hug and kiss our national education system is clearly in deep, deep trouble. A recent documentary, “Two Million Minutes,” compares students from the United States, China and India … and shows a nation whose education system is sturggling.
The school year ends in a few days but the battle will continue, interestingly on the national landscape. Randi Weingarten, the president of the NYC teacher union is a candidate for the presidency of the American Federation of Teachers and Klein is clearly taking his bundle of schemes on the national road.
The National Education Association Convention begins next week in Washington and the American Federation of Teachers Convention the following week in Chicago. An opportunity for Obama to address the millions of teachers and begin to lay out his education agenda, and, how will he address the issues that divide teachers and their supporters on one side and Klein and his posse on the other?