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New York City
November 2002

New Directions in Education:
Innovation, Collaboration and Communication
By Dr. Geraldine Chapey

Bold change is in the air and taking hold everywhere. With the new governance law, Mayor Bloomberg now has full responsibility for the success of all preschool, elementary, middle and high schools. Joel Klein, his newly appointed Chancellor of the Department of Education is busy conducting team meetings on his initiatives in his bull pen office at the magnificent Tweed Courthouse neighboring City Hall. The recently constituted Board of Educational Policy has formally had its first public meeting with the Chancellor at Evander Childs High School in the Bronx.

Another fundamental change taking root is the expansion of the federal role in education with the landmark No Child Left Behind (NCLB) law. This is a dramatic mandate to insure collaboration and communication among all levels of government–Federal, state and local–for the purpose of improving student performance.

Although education is constitutionally a state responsibility, the Federal government has strongly influenced America’s policies on school, most notably with the historic Great Society Program of President Johnson (ESEA Title I) and the 1975 Education of All Handicapped Children law (now the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, IDEA) signed by President Ford. On January 8, 2002 President Bush signed into law the No Child Left Behind act–the fulfillment of a promise he made during his presidential campaign.

As I write, sweeping changes in education are taking place throughout the United States. This reauthorization of Title I redefines in a very dramatic way the federal role in K-12 education, seeking within the next 12 years to close the achievement gap between those who succeed and those who fail.

With strong bipartisan support from Congress, this new legislation is serious, and has muscle as never before. Federal aid to schools will be dependent on student learning results; accountability will be determined by mandatory annual testing of children in grades 3 to 8.

Focus will be on improving student performance on assessments through enhancing parental involvement, use of data to make decisions, understanding scientific research–especially in the area of reading strategies–curriculum development and professional development. Networking and integrating these essential elements will assure that all component programs collaborate, communicate and share the same goal–that of improving student learning. The most pressing items of the law are directed to schools designated as those “in need of improvement” or failing under existing Title I programs.

What’s ahead with NCLB?

2003–Parents who have children enrolled in schools that have failed to improve for two consecutive years may transfer their children to another school of “choice” within the district or may enroll their children in an approved “tutoring” or “supplemental services program.”

2004–All paraprofessionals in Title I schools must have a two year college degree or pass a state exam.

2005–Schools with a history of failure must be restructured or closed. All teachers must be highly qualified and certified.

New York State anticipates receiving $1.3 billion in federal aid for NCLB, over $600 million of which will go to New York City and $120 million to pupil transportation.

New York State schools, parents and children are already on the board for many of the recommended changes. Since 1996, when the Board of Regents and the State Education Department set new standards for High school graduation, education reform has been a top priority in New York State. In 2003, students in high school will be required to pass Regents exams in five subjects: English Language Arts, math, Global Studies, United States history, and science. All teachers must be certified by 2004. As noted recently in the New York Times, “Standards in New York now rank among the highest in the nation.”

As leaders of change, the Board of Regents and the State Education Department, in consultation with districts and professionals, are well on their way to implementing the NCLB law and are fine tuning New York State policies to align them with the law.

Profound change in policy such as that identified by the NCLB law cannot be accomplished overnight. It will take time to train administrators, teachers, parents and related personnel.

The sweeping changes in education currently underway are providing educators, parents and students with a fresh start and a renewed sense of vitality to take advantage of the promise of a new beginning for education in the twenty-first century.#

Dr. Geraldine Chapey is a member of the New York State Board of Regents.

City: State:

Education Update, Inc., P.O. Box 20005, New York, NY 10001.
Tel: (212) 481-5519. Fax: (212) 481-3919.Email: ednews1@aol.com.
All material is copyrighted and may not be printed without express consent of the publisher. © 2002.