A Retrospective View
by NYC's Former
Experience is a powerful teacher. Public perception matters.
As a public servant, I had a clear responsibility to make decisions
and choices that were beyond any possible appearance of impropriety.
My effort to consult and communicate prior to and throughout
the process of my husband's application to work in the New
York City Public Schools counts for little beside the fact
that the wise course would have been for him to apply outside
the city. The resulting controversy has done a disservice to
the children and their families and educators who work daily
on behalf of improving our students' education. I offer each
one my apology.
The center of my thoughts as an educator has always been on
children. A year missed can lead a child to a life of struggle.
There is no time to be lost. When the sense of urgency about
children's lives is at the center of the discussion, the need
for change becomes evident. Change is difficult to accept and
it invariably stirs controversy.
During my tenure as Deputy Chancellor for Teaching and Learning,
my agenda has been about equity. I have worked to provide a
set of clear expectations to the internal and external public
that our students do have the capacity to learn, if they are
taught well. I have focused on groups that traditionally have
not had access to the rich opportunities that public education
can provide. I have also advocated for building a support system
for our students and teachers. I have great faith in our teachers'
capacity to implement a rich curriculum with appropriate professional
development. My efforts have been to focus the work on the
instructional agenda because it is easy to be distracted with
everything else that demands attention.
There are philosophical differences with some of the decisions
made, for example, the reading program. What constitutes the
core literacy curriculum is not new to New York City. In fact,
the approach has been used extensively in many areas of the
city including the former Districts 2 and 15. My major contribution
in the area of literacy was, first, to insist that our students
are capable of rigorous learning while acknowledging the importance
of phonics as one of several reading components. Second, to
identify several intervention programs to address the individual
needs of students early on. And, thirdly, to ensure that all
students are exposed to real books by investing extensively
in classroom libraries.
Another issue raised as controversial is the education of
the talented and gifted. My only public comment centered on
being more inclusive in the admissions criteria, addressing
an issue flagged by the Office of Civil Rights. At no point
have I suggested that Talented and Gifted programs be dismantled.
I do think they can be improved.
Reflecting back on the most positive
learning experience in one's schooling can illuminate how
we learn best. Many of us can recall that we learned in different
ways and came to recognize there are several routes to knowledge,
not a single scripted route that some promote. Our answers
about how we learned best probably agree with the current
understanding of how most people learn—in active, hands-on
situations where what we do matters and has consequences.
The work of transforming urban public schools so that all
children, including low-income and minority, achieve high academic
levels is our shared mission and my life's work. In this 50th
anniversary year of the Brown v. Board of Education decision,
we know the journey is unfinished. There is much to be done
and no time to waste.#