is the Promised Help for
Levy, President, CSA
nation’s urban public schools are a mess. Of course, not all
are failing, and some are even models for the educational process.
But with the nation’s collective eye focused on standardized
tests and accountability, schools have been pushed to their
limits with mandates far out-pacing available resources.
states come to grips with the federal No Child Left Behind
(NCLB) legislation, the grand daddy of all unfunded mandates,
the latest Phi Delta Kappa/Gallup poll indicates 69 percent
of the respondents admitted not knowing enough about NCLB to
give an opinion.
while testing and standards may be the buzzwords in the education
field, 84 percent rejected evaluating schools on fixed standards.
Instead, they preferred judging individual performance on “whether
students show reasonable improvement from where they started.”
eighty-three percent rejected the idea that a single test could
adequately determine a child’s proficiency in English and math.
poll also found that Americans want local school boards to
decide what is taught in their schools. In most school systems,
parents and the community-at-large do play a role, but here
in New York City, our new governance laws put control firmly
in the Mayor’s hands.
The “public” in
public education has been virtually eliminated. In fact, we
have no local school board. We have an advisory panel that,
on its best days, simply rubber stamps the Mayor’s policies.
the face of this extraordinary upheaval in the city’s school
system, our individual school leaders are now providing more
services than ever—and despite the denials echoing through
Tweed’s halls—closing the district offices did have an impact
on the administration of schools.
the Regional Operations Centers (ROC)—the rocks of this new
system—for help and all too often, no one answers the phone
or voicemail boxes are full. And when a human answers, Principals
are told, “I don’t know the answer. That’s not my job.”
this kind of service the city rushed to close the district
offices? Could a political agenda have been fanning the flames
of haste? Where are the promised resources to help the principals
run their schools?
provided such reliable help in the shape of the ROCs, Tweed
then proclaims that Principals now have the time to focus on
instructional leadership. As Eliza Doolittle sang, “Wouldn’t
it be lover-ly?” But it’s unlikely and here’s why. My Principals
are getting hundreds of e-mails, some of which are more than
100 pages long. They demand immediate action, responses, and
always more paperwork. A one-month stack of downloaded e-mails
from one school measured nearly eight inches high.
with all this information swirling about, contradicting edicts
abound. Assistant principals were told they are no longer the
instructional leaders; coaches are. But in high schools, assistant
principals are doubling as coaches. Principals were told they
would get special education support to replace the now defunct
supervisor of special education position—but the instructional
support personnel are teaching, leaving little time for compliance
are told to illegally overcrowd special education classes.
When they ask for help with students with feeding tubes, with
learning disabilities, with disabilities, they’re told they’ll
have to wait. The medical records, the Individualized Education
Plans, the important diagnostic materials—they’re stored in
cartons waiting to be unpacked at some regional office.
it will be the Principals held accountable for the performance
of these students. And, heaven forbid, a child is injured because
the wrong medical care is provided during an emergency.
I admit, we won’t know whether these vast changes will help
NYC’s public schools meet state or federal standards for many
years. But given the daily incoherence and chaos that CSA members
presently struggle through, we have no time to look towards
the future. Treading water in this whirlpool presents administrators
with a daily victory provided they survive from one day to
Levy is the President of the Council of Supervisors and Administrators
which represents the principals, assistant principals, supervisors,
and administrators in NYC public schools and day care directors.
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