Tag Archives: pre-kindergarten

Will the Success/Failure of the Pre-Kindergarten Initiaitive Determine the Future of the de Blasio Administration? Will the Common Core Wars Be Ignited by the Pre-Kindergarten Curriculum Wars?

Sharon Greenberger, the Chief Executive and CEO of the School Construction Authority was testifying before a NYS Assembly committee, there were many students on kindergarten waiting lists in Manhattan. Greenberg was explaining the method of predicting the number of kindergarten seats, projections of census data, predictive algorithms, what today we call “big data” to predict outcomes. Assembly member Linda Rosenthal interrupted, “Why didn’t you just count the number of baby carriages on Broadway?”

Mayor de Blasio came into Gracie Mansion with two education policies: rid public schools of co-located charter schools and add over 4,000 full day pre-k seats.

The Eva attack was unforeseen and the de Blasio team was unprepared – when the dust settled Mayor Bill was a loser – a big time loser.

Pre-kindergarten belongs to the mayor, there is no Eva, the success/failure is up to the mayor.

Identify Seat and Students and Match Them Up

The easy part of expanding half day to full day pre-kindergarten classes – the hard part of identifying classrooms appropriate for pre-kindergarten – bathrooms for four-year olds, sinks, furniture and the wide, wide range of learning materials. Paper, crayons, lots and lots of crayons, books, books and more books, blocks, educational toys, I-Pads loaded with the correct apps for four year olds and music players, perhaps a piano.

Principals may not be eager to give up a room for pre-kindergarten, the rooms have to be renovated, and, most importantly, the rooms must be matched to the students by neighborhood.

Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer has already criticized the mayor’s choice of locations, claiming the seats are in low use neighborhoods and a lack of seats in high use neighborhoods.

Student Identification

The neediest students will be the most difficult to recruit – they may live in shelters, in foster homes, in projects, and their caregivers simply may not be aware of the programs, or, not be able to get themselves organized enough to hook up with the program. Half empty classrooms, kids here one day and gone the next, kids wandering in to school late, hysterical 4 year olds not wanting to leave their caregiver, again. are all critical and commonplace problems.

A Strong Parent/Caregiver Support Program

Pre-kindergarten programs need strong parent involvement programs – explaining the importance of diet, reading to children, discipline that is not punitive, how to talk with children, ask them questions, playing with them at home, talking about colors and numbers and letters, and playing; not just sitting the child in front of the TV for hours at a time.

Recruiting and Training Teachers

Can the Department identify and train appropriately certified teachers and paraprofessionals so that they can hit the ground running? Can the current network structure support pre-kindergarten teachers? The vast percentage of new pre-kindergarten teachers are not currently teaching pre-kindergarten classes, will the Department run training sessions over the summer? Will network staffs be augmented with coaches with expertise in pre-kindergarten?

Selecting a Curriculum

Will the Department select a curriculum? Allow the network or the school to choose a curriculum? Will the Department opt in to the Engage NY Core Knowledge curriculum?

I am far from an expert, however, my pre-kindergarten experts are sharply critical of the Engage NY curriculum – they complain it is poorly-written, confusing and lacks an encompassing philosophy.

The “reggio-emilia” approach is supported by a range of private schools – and antithetical to everything the Common Core espouses. See Williamsberg Northside Curriculum Guide here,

The Montessori Model, with roots extending back into the 19th century is a child-centered model, once again, antithetical to the Common Core and has extremely loyal followers.

In this highly toxic atmosphere the selection of a curriculum can set off an explosion – the anti-Common Core versus the Child-Centered adherents.

The funding of pre-kindergartens, the dollars, are only the beginning, there will be many bumps along the road, many opportunities to be sidetracked, the Department needs skill to design and implement the program. The “reading wars” – the phonics versus whole language acolytes may be replaced by the Common Core wars – the supporters and opponents. The decisions over the choice of a pre-kindergarten curriculum may create another “war.”

Who would have thought that four year olds may determine the success, or lack thereof, of a mayoral administration?

Only One Dog per Hydrant: Cuomo and de Blasio Battle for Power – 4-Year Olds May Be the Victims

Bill de Blasio ran a brilliant campaign for mayor, a textbook campaign, a motto: “A Tale of Two Cities” and two policies, stop and frisk and universal pre-K. Mayor Bloomberg had already sharply curtailed the number of police “stop and frisks,” one of the core campaign issues was resolved prior to Election Day.

The number of street stops under the police department’s heavily criticized stop-and-frisk tactic has plummeted 80 percent in recent months compared with the same time last year, (11/8/13)

The pre-K plan – a pre-kindergarten class in every public school and an after-school program in high poverty at-risk middle schools, the funding was embedded in the “A Tale of Two Cities” mantra – tax the rich, at least the richer, a small increase in taxes for earners of over $500,000 a year. The campaign rhetoric was reality,

“There are some who whisper that our drive to tax the wealthy to fund pre-K and after-school is just political posturing — an effort to heap scorn on the wealthy to win an election,” Mr. de Blasio told lawmakers at a hearing on the state budget, “But the election in New York City is over,” the mayor added, “and we are here to work with our leaders in Albany to govern.”

Within weeks of his inauguration deB released a 14-page plan laying out how the city could have classes ready by the fall.

In New York State all taxes are set by the legislature in Albany including local sales and income taxes. A heavily democratic Assembly, a democratic Governor and a Senate with shared leadership – if pressure could be brought on the republican leader, Dean Skelos, the new mayor’s two core policies would be in place – a sharp decrease in stop and frisk and universal pre-K. The campaign began: endorsement after endorsement, community organizations, business leaders, faith-based leaders, the momentum was building.

Surprisingly, the democratic governor, Andrew Cuomo, not only had doubts, he had his own plan, to phase in a voluntary pre-K program across the state with funding in the state budget.

“I know the ‘tale of two cities’ the answer to the tale of two cities is not to create two states,” Cuomo said in a WNYC radio interview blasting de Blasio’s plan to hike city income taxes on the rich to pay for universal pre-K classes within the five boroughs. “The answer to inequity and inequality is not to create more inequity and inequality,” Cuomo added.

The two elephants began to fight, An African proverb: when elephants fight the grass gets trampled.

Bill de Blasio appeared to be a long shot in the NYC mayoral stampede: the favorite, Christine Quinn, the Speaker of the City Council, John Liu, the NYC Comptroller, Bill Thompson, the former Comptroller, who was outspent by 10:1, came within five percentage points in the 2009 mayoral election. de Blasio was a City Council member from Brownstone Brooklyn and the NYC Public Advocate. The pundits dismissed de Blasio, too far to the left, no citywide appeal, there was no way he could end up in the top two and make it into the runoff – clearly no candidate had any chance of accumulating 40% of the primary vote.

John Liu was dragged down by rumors of campaign funding improprieties, Christine Quinn too close to Bloomberg and Bill Thompson too “wishy-washy,” running too safe a campaign. de Blasio attracted voters from across the spectrum, white and black, in Manhattan and the boroughs; he garnered 40% of the primary vote and swept away his republican opponent in the November general election.

Eliot Spitzer, a hard-charging governor shouldered aside all opposition, resigned after his prostitution escapades, his successor, stumbled badly and Andrew Cuomo was catapulted into office. Secretive, bullying, demanding and extraordinarily popular Cuomo has carefully burnished his reputation. Socially liberal Cuomo piloted a marriage equity law through the legislature, in education a teacher-evaluation plan supported by the NYC teacher union and fiscally conservative, a statewide property tax cap, lowering business taxes, supporting increases in the number of casinos, and advocating for low tax economic zones in high unemployment regions, environmentally suspicious of hydraulic fracking and increasing and protecting state park lands. In an era of politician approval ratings in the 20% to 30% range Cuomo’s favorable ratings remained inconceivably above 60%.

Hillary Clinton is the presumed 2016 democratic presidential candidate, however, if Hillary does not run – then whom? Vice President Biden, California Governor Jerry Brown, Senator Elizabeth Warren, or, a number of governors, why not Andrew Cuomo?

There is only room for one elephant in the state, or, more coarsely, only one dog per hydrant.

Derailing the deB pre-k plan both weakens a rising elephant and adds to the Cuomo resume as a fiscal conservative, opposing the ultra-liberal mayor.

deB can either do battle with the incumbent lord of the castle or pay homage, swear an oath of fealty to the occupant of the Albany executive mansion.

The governor avers, “The answer to inequity and inequality is not to create more inequity and inequality,” if so, why does he continue to support one of the most unfair, the most unequal education funding formula in the nation?

Bruce Baker, an economics professor at Rutgers University and the author of the school finance 101 blog skewers the funding formula. The difference between the high wealth and low wealth districts are staggering. The high wealth districts spend many, many thousands more dollars per student, have more music and art courses/programs, more Advanced Placement classes, more elective subjects, lower class sizes, by every measurement high wealth districts provide more elaborate educational programs. High wealth district have more psychologists, social workers, guidance counselors and nurses, the rich are getting richer and the poor, poorer, with each year more and more districts are slipping in the “stress’ category, rising expenses and declining revenues.

The governor’s budget would continue and add to the inequality, offering funding for universal pre-k classes when districts cannot afford full day kindergartens.

The Lord of the Manor has to keep his vassals in line.

If we want to break the cycle of poverty universal pre-k is a step, however, we have to start as early as possible:

• Workshops for expectant and new mothers in neighborhood schools.
• Workshops for caregivers and toddlers, once again, in neighborhood schools.
• Pre-school beginning at age 3
• A Community School model: a wide range of school-based social services
• Linkages to job training, housing placements and employment
• GED (TASC) opportunities located in the community, preferably the neighborhood school.

Unfortunately the road to the White House doesn’t trek through communities of poverty. Creating a persona that matches potential voters leads through middle class suburbs, not through Brownsville or East New York.

Than again, Louis XVI did lose his head.