NYC EDUCATION LEADERS REFLECT ON THE NEW SCHOOL YEAR Partners for Success in Education
By Randi Weingarten, President, UFT
Students, parents and teachers across New York City are preparing for a challenging new academic year as the public school system embarks on its third major reorganization in five years.
The new structure puts schools at the center of decision-making, and creates both opportunities and challenges. Experience tells us it will likely take some time for schools to adjust to the changes. But New York City’s 100,000 public school educators stand ready to roll up our sleeves and work with principals, parents and students to achieve academic success. Regardless of what the bureaucratic structure is, we know that true partnership is the key to making our schools work for kids.
As with any new undertaking of this size and scope, it’s not unexpected that some of those affected might experience a degree of apprehension. But this much is clear – in order for the new school autonomy to work, teachers need to be part of the decision-making process. Principals provide our school children with the best possible education only if they create partnerships with teachers and parents.
Teachers have earned and deserve this respect. When touting the school system’s academic improvements, Mayor Michael Bloomberg regularly, and rightly, credits city teachers, calling them “spectacular” and “the best in the world” for moving schools in the right direction. Just imagine how much more we could do for students if teachers were treated more professionally, schools were run more collaboratively and the system itself became more open and transparent for parents.
How to realize this partnership? One excellent vehicle is the School Leadership Team, wherein teachers and principals work with parents to shape each individual school’s educational mission and determine how best to achieve it.
This type of team approach to running our schools is very promising but only if done properly and allowed to flourish. The Department of Education cannot simply pay lip service to the concept of partnership; it has to be real in order to be meaningful. It’s one thing for the DOE to set lofty goals, but real education is a product of the magic that occurs between teachers and students in the classroom, not the boardroom.
The United Federation of Teachers is prepared to fight for real collaboration and the conditions necessary for every school community to help students succeed because we feel that the school system has an unprecedented opportunity to excel.
Given the additional state education funding and other resources our school system is slated to receive this year, New York City public schools are in a position to make solid and sustained academic improvement. We should focus on utilizing the additional resources to:
•Reduce class size;
•Improve school discipline and
•Engage in meaningful partnership that emphasizes a team approach to tackling the problems of individual schools. This will strengthen the bond between stakeholders in education and put our schools on a path of sustained academic improvement.
Our educators can work within any structure or framework the Department of Education chooses—as long as they are given the necessary resources and support and are allowed to teach without micromanagement or excessive testing and other unilaterally imposed bureaucratic mandates that cut into teaching and learning time.
This is an auspicious time for New York City’s public schools, and in order to make the most of it all of the players and those affected are going to have to learn to work together. We at the UFT are ready to hit the ground running, and we can only hope that our partners are, too.#