Education May Be "Left Behind" Under New Federal
matter when they were born, most adults view contemporary childhood
through their own memories of youth. For example, there was
a time when music was a natural part of the school day—and
many people would be surprised to learn that's no longer the
case. A recent
federal study showed only 25 percent of eighth graders nationwide had the opportunity
to take a music class.
the federal "No Child Left Behind" (NCLB) legislation
takes effect at the local level, music in schools faces additional
not the federal package itself that threatens to erode school
music; indeed, Title IX of the law identifies the arts as a "core
academic subject." It is the potential interpretation
of the law at the local level that threatens students' access
to music. The law requires stringent adherence to tested standards
in literacy and math—with science soon to follow. You've
likely heard the debate over these testing programs and whether
they'll have the desired effect. An undesired effect, however,
is that local educators are taking this as a cue to shift resources
away from music and other subject areas to ensure focus on
those that will be tested.
some cases, it's class time that's thrown out of balance. In
others, it's funding or teacher assignments. In all cases,
it's a potential problem for music.
to San Diego-area music educator Anne Fennell, "People
think of literacy as reading and writing the printed word,
but literacy is how we make meaning in our world, and how we
encode and decode information. Music is a part of that. But
I've heard of kids who were pulled out of arts classes to get
help in one of the tested subjects.
says to focus on what works—to use effective practices," Fennell
adds. "Well, we know arts programs work. But because they're
not included in the formulas for funding and testing benchmarks,
they're the first to be zapped."
irony is that music instruction can actually help kids do better
in the very math and literacy pursuits that "No Child
Left Behind" is designed to promote:
study led by Dr. Agnes S. Chan of the Chinese University of
Hong Kong, published in July 2003 in the journal Neuropsychology,
found that school-age students who had participated in music
scored significantly higher on verbal memory tests than their
classmates who had not.
1999 UCLA study showed that students who participated in music
programs three times a week scored an average of 40 percent
higher in math, reading, history and geography than those who
Franklin said, "The definition of insanity is doing the
same thing over and over and expecting different results." Strapping
kids into rote math and English classes, at the expense of
other pursuits, isn't an innovation; it's more of the same.
If local school officials want to realize the aims of the lawmakers
who crafted "No Child Left Behind"—and give
their kids the best possible future—they need to concentrate
on educating the whole child, and that includes music making.
as Paul Young, principal of West Elementary School in Lancaster,
OH and a former president of the National Association of Elementary
School Principals, notes, "I certainly believe everybody
needs to be able to read and do math, but they also need to
know how to think. What we're doing now is creating kids who
are able to pass tests."#
Walker is Executive Director of the American Music Conference,
a non-profit music advocacy group based in Carlsbad, CA.
History Month: Lincoln’s Unfinished Work
Matilda Raffa Cuomo
History Month is designed to focus attention on how far we
have come in correcting the grotesque damage done in our
nation by our early years of slavery. (more)
in the Public Schools
tell us that the recent recovery in the nation's economy has
been spurred by increased productivity. How is productivity
defined and why is it so important? Productivity is similar
to what we think of as efficiency. More specifically, productivity
is defined as the ratio of what is produced (output) to what
it takes to produce it (input). When productivity increases,
more goods and services are available at no increase in their
production cost, or the same quantity is produced at a reduced
cost. This can translate into lower prices, improved products
or services at the same price, and/or increased profit.
the concept is simple, productivity is difficult to measure.
If a factory produces more widgets (of the same type) this
year than it did last year for the same production cost, productivity
has increased proportionally. But suppose the factory produces
computers, and this year's computers are capable of working
twice as fast as last years, what is the measure of productivity?
You can see how the simple concept can become complicated in
it comes to services, productivity is even more difficult to
measure. This is certainly true in education, where the input
in the productivity ratio may be thought of as the cost per
pupil, and the output, the quality of the education the students
receive. While the input here is measurable, how is the output
to be determined? A quality education consists of a complex
combination of quantifiable and non-quantifiable factors. Academic
achievement might be measured by performance on standardized
tests. (Some people question this.) But, how is creativity,
intellectual curiosity or emotional development to be assessed?
How are language skills to be evaluated, particularly for students
for whom English is a second language? What weight should be
put on each factor? How are the differing ability, skills and
backgrounds students bring to their school experience to be
factored into the equation?
the difficulties, it is important to evaluate, and to improve,
the productivity of the public school system. While it is possible
that as a result of recent court rulings additional funding
may become available to the schools, it is imperative that
the schools make the best use of whatever funds are provided.
They owe this to the taxpayers and the students. Productivity
of the school system may be difficult to measure, but, like
pornography, we know it when we see it. At an annual cost of
approximately $11,000 per student (input), and with the poor
quality of education so many students seem to come away with
(output), it seems to this observer that the productivity of
NYC's public schools is abysmally low.
can be done to improve the productivity of the public schools?
This is a challenge that the mayor, chancellor, and educators
face. The current contract negotiation stalemate is very much
a result of the administration's desire to make changes which
they feel would improve productivity, but which the union sees
as coming at unacceptable costs to member job protection, working
conditions and prerogatives.
shall be offering my suggestions on how to improve educational
productivity in follow-on articles during the coming months.
Meanwhile, I invite you, our readers, to submit your ideas
and comments. Perhaps together we can help raise the productivity
of our schools to an acceptable level.#
Education in Our Schools
Dr. John Brademas, former Congressman and President Emeritus
of NYU, addressed The Ralph Bunche Institute for International
Studies at the CUNY Graduate Center. His lecture marked the
centennial of the birth of Ralph Bunche whom he called, "...a
brilliant international statesman and a significant figure
in the history of the United States."
his remarks about the role of Ralph Bunche in the early days
of the UN were significant, as was his review of his own role
in the US Congress for 22 years, of particular interest here
are his more recent activities in extending the global reach
of NYU and the role of educators in world affairs. Following
his career in Congress, he served as President of NYU. During
his Presidency he established numerous centers for international
study, brought thousands of foreign students to study at NYU,
and fostered centers of study in Florence, Madrid, Prague,
London and Paris. More NYU students studied abroad last year,
nearly 2000, than from any other institution in the country.
a long and successful career he continues to travel, meet with
world leaders and to speak in the causes of democracy, peace
and international cooperation. He is currently, "proposing
to establish, in consultation with our Department of State,
a Center for Public Diplomacy and Dialogue, for the purpose
of building bridges to the Arab and Muslim World. "Our
plan," he said, "is to forge a university-based center that
will serve both as a public policy think tank and sponsor of
a program of international fellowships and exchanges to encourage
dialogue and engagement between individuals rather than states."
is simultaneously working to establish a center for discussing
the decision making for the security of the United States. "Universities," he
asserted, "because of their wealth of knowledge across academic
disciplines, are...uniquely equipped to contribute to the debate
on these great issues."
issue of Education Update illustrates the importance of global
studies and the cultural interchange of ideas. At PS 77 in
Brooklyn, students celebrated the International Year of Freshwater,
showing efforts from Zimbabwe to Holland. A 26-year-old student
exchange program between Israel and the US is quoted by participants
as being "great!" And at UN-USA, global studies curricula
have been initiated in public schools across the land. The
movement to encourage international understanding and peace
has begun in our elementary schools. ED.]
in Schools: An Idea Whose Time Has Come
one argues with the general objective of the No Child Left
Behind Act—raising American children’s proficiency in reading
and math. However, details, such as funding levels, progress
measurement and remedial action are sources of significant
disagreement. Student transfers from failing schools have proven
to be illusory because of space limitations in the higher performing
schools. This is not likely to change, and it would be far
better to concentrate on upgrading the schools then to count
on widespread student transfers. Many things would contribute
to this: smaller classes; new books, equipment and supplies;
counseling for troubled students; tutoring for slower students,
and an extended school day. However, two areas stand out. The
first concerns the improvement of safety and order—teachers
cannot teach and students cannot learn if the schools are mired
in discipline problems. The second involves raising the standards,
qualifications and performance for teachers and teacher aides.
both of these areas Chancellor Klein has made a good start.
The introduction of a new student discipline code is encouraging,
but monitoring and enforcement will be required if it is to
be effective. Certification and training are important components
of improving teacher performance. However, there needs to be
a better means of evaluating performance, coupled with a program
of accountability and reward.
recent article in the New York Times identifies a way
to improve both of these areas.
The article noted that schools across the country are installing ceiling mounted
cameras. It reports that Biloxi, Mississippi has installed video cameras in
all of its schools, including its classrooms, recording both teacher and student
activities. An official is quoted as saying, “This has made virtually everything
that happens in Biloxi’s public schools subject to instant replay…”
use of cameras in the schools raises the issue of government
intrusion into private lives. But, with few exceptions, public
education does not involve private spaces or private activities.
Cameras already monitor many public places such as stores,
building entrances, elevators and hallways; airports and rail
terminals. Cameras in schools can help to provide increased
safety by identifying threatening situations. Cameras and recorders
in the classrooms would permit supervisors to observe and document
regular activities. Disruptive or bullying students could be
identified. Teachers could be randomly observed and evaluated;
coached where necessary and held accountable for their performance.
should follow Biloxi’s example and install cameras and recording
devices in all of its schools. Installation has actually already
begun. In the same Times article, Margie Feinberg, a
spokesperson for the NYC Department of Education was quoted
as saying, “There are already cameras in 150 schools.” It was
not clear whether this includes classrooms. It should. Installation
should continue, first in schools with poor safety or academic
records, and then in all of the schools. The expense of installing
cameras would be offset by the need for fewer security personnel.
But, even more important, the cost and intrusion are justified
by the potential for reducing violence and disorder; and, improving
the school learning environment and teaching quality.#
the NYS Legislature eliminated the Board of Education and made
the school system into a Mayoralty Agency, they handed Mayor
Bloomberg a once in a lifetime opportunity to address the long-term
failure of the NYC public schools. Yes, there are many factors
outside of the schools that contribute to the problem of educating
the inner city children. But if we continue to blame these,
and wait for them to change rather than fix the school system
itself, we are never going to bring about improvement. The
schools are the only agency that by law gets the children five
days a week, six hours a day, nine months year. (This can,
and ought to be extended, but that’s another subject.) So,
it is within the school system that the problem must be addressed.
people have criticized the Mayor for moving too fast and going
to far in reorganizing the schools. I think they are wrong.
I think he has not gone far enough. He may already have missed
his opportunity. By next year he will be busy running for reelection,
and that is a notoriously difficult time to initiate change.
More immediate, he is now negotiating a new contract with the
UFT. This contract should incorporate the necessary changes
to permit sweeping changes in work rules and compensation methodology.
mayor has been too concerned about maintaining strong centralized
control. His biggest mistake was failing to institute school-based
management, which would make the principal, the teachers and
the parents responsible for the success of their school. Had
he done this, the rule changes suggested by UFT President Weingarten
would be an excellent starting point in simplifying the contract
and introducing the flexibility needed by the schools and their
principals. He could then have coupled this with a pay-for-performance
plan in which the principals would be responsible for evaluating
teacher performance and allocating salary increases to the
best performers. The union role would become one of negotiating
fringe benefits and a percentage increase package, to be allocated
on the basis of merit by the school administration.
maybe it is not too late. The mayor should eliminate the instructional
superintendents that stand in between the regional superintendents
and the principals. These people water down the role of the
principals. He should assign additional assistant principals
to the schools that need them to help with administration and
supervision. He should delegate the running of the schools
to the principals making them responsible for all personnel
working within their schools, for their supervision, evaluation,
hiring, firing and salary. He should make the principals directly
responsible for parent involvement. And then he should hold
the principals responsible for the performance of their schools
as measured by student performance.
Bloomberg’s plans have been bold. But, he needs to be even
more courageous if he is to bring about a significant change
where it counts—in the performance of the schools and the children.#
Gay High School is Not a Good Idea
to a recent NY Post article, “the city is opening a high school
for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender students—the first
in the nation.” The school, to be called the Harvey Milk HS,
is named after the slain San Francisco politician and leader
in the gay community.
the motivation for opening such a HS is understandable (gay
kids are often picked on in school), you don’t have to be a
conservative to believe the idea is a bad one. Segregating
students by sexual preference establishes a poor precedent
and could lead to a move to segregate the schools in other
ways. (We already have accepted the idea that some girls will
do better in an all-girls school. Segregating girls is an equally
bad idea.) The argument that gay students may be more relaxed
and therefore learn better in an all-gay school has merit,
but it is insufficient to justify a segregated school. One
could equally make the argument that some Black students might
do better in an all-Black school, or Korean students in an
all-Korean school, or Muslim students in an all-Muslim school.
society is made up of many groups, men and women, people of
different races, religions, ethnic backgrounds and sexual orientations.
It is an important part of the education of our children that
they learn to live in the real world of diversity, to accept
those who are different from themselves, and indeed, to learn
from them. A recent Supreme Court ruling on the use of race
as one criterion in the admission of college students was largely
based on the argument that diversity is a worthwhile educational
Here we have a move away from diversity toward segregation.
the conduct of our private lives we should be free to associate
with whomever we choose. In the public arena this is not an
acceptable objective. It is not too late to undo this decision
before the school is formally opened. The gay community may
look at the establishment of this school as a victory. It is
not. What would be a victory would be that gay students, as
all students, be accepted on their individual merit. The public
school system should make a serious effort to eliminate discrimination
and bullying of gay students as it should all students. From
a point of view of government and law we should be striving
for a color-blind, gender-neutral, and orientation-free society.
The segregation of our schools for any reason is antithetical
to this objective.#
Power of School Volunteerism Firsthand
President, Learning Leaders
my first months as president of Learning Leaders, the largest
volunteer organization solely dedicated to helping New York
City’s public school children, I have already seen the caring,
determination and talents that our 11,600 volunteers bring
to the City’s schools. With over 30 years of experience working
in the education field in New York City, I know there is an
acute need for community members and parents to come together
in support of their local schools. One of the best ways to
help our children is through hands-on school volunteering.
we look to the beginning of a new school year (one that promises
to be more tumultuous then ever), the role of volunteers has
never been more important. Mayor Bloomberg and School Chancellor
Klein have identified parent involvement as one of the three
top priorities for the newly structured New York City Department
of Education. This is a welcome confirmation of what Learning
Leaders has practiced for years, “Parents must be equal partners
that is just the beginning. As we look to increase the numbers
and quality of volunteers in our schools, we will begin to
explore ways to engage working parents as well as immigrant
someone who as a small child came to New York City from Puerto
Rico and started elementary school speaking only Spanish, I
know first hand how difficult it can be to fit in. My parents
spoke no English and didn’t understand how the schools worked
and yet they wanted me to succeed and highly valued my getting
an education. My father was very strict with me when I was
growing up, but when it came to my participating in anything
having to do with my education he always said “yes”. Like most
immigrant families today, mine wanted to do whatever they could
to help me succeed but language, miscommunication and cultural
differences kept them from becoming involved.
proud to say that Learning Leaders is a port of entry for thousands
of parents who want to be involved in their children’s education.
I look forward to the time when corporate employees, senior
citizens, college students and others are welcome in their
neighborhood schools as we work together to create communities
in which entire neighborhoods come together to support their
local public schools.
always looking for people and organizations to help our schools.
If you’re interested in volunteering through Learning Leaders,
please visit our website at www.learningleaders.org or
Sánchez is the former VP for Educational Services at United
Way of NYC, VP of Community Education Services at Children’s
Television Workshop, Asst. Commissioner for Policy & Program
Development at the NYC Community Development Agency, Borough
President Ruth Messinger’s Senior Policy Analyst for Education.
great many decisions have been made recently which will have
enormous impact on education for years to come. The Supreme
Court has decided that race may be a consideration in college
admission, but that it may not be given a fixed weight. I support
these decisions, although I believe the emphasis on diversity
is excessive. My view is that until the inner city public schools
improve, some form of affirmative action in admissions is justified.
The debate is now moot, although the discussion will continue
and the issue will undoubtedly be revisited many times.
Appellate Court of New York has ruled that public schools in
New York City have been under funded by the State. Congratulations
to those who have pressed the suit. It is to the shame of the
Governor and the courts that it has taken ten years to adjudicate
this issue. Further delay will be encountered as the legislature
and/or the lower court develops a new, fairer funding formula,
but it is now clear that it will happen.
widespread failure on the State’s Math A Regents exam has given
those who oppose standardized testing new ammunition. It would
be unfortunate if as a result the Regents backed down on the
requirements to pass statewide tests to qualify for a high
school diploma or so diluted the tests as to make them meaningless.
The Regents removal of Ms. DeFabio, the assistant commissioner
for curriculum, assessment and testing, is a bad sign. The
fact that nearly two out of three students failed the test
raises questions and it is reasonable that the results were
set aside while a study is conducted. But, it is not clear
that the problem was basically with the test. Many questions
must be answered. How was the test prepared and evaluated?
The test has been characterized as faulty, but just what this
means is not clear. Was it too difficult? Was it poorly worded?
Was it confusing? If so, why did a large majority of freshman
that took the test pass while a large majority of seniors failed?
Does it have to do with a difference in the preparation or
the ability of the student groups?
thing the result shows is that you cannot raise the standards
for the students without raising the quality of the teaching.
You cannot hold students accountable without holding the education
establishment equally accountable. The accountability of educators
should be a primary concern of the mayor and chancellor during
the next few years. They have the opportunity to codify this
in the next round of contract negotiations. Teachers must have
the necessary credentials and training to teach assigned courses.
Teachers and principals must be held accountable—achievement
should be rewarded and failure punished. The requirement that
all teachers be certified has been delayed; it should not be
eliminated. Teacher aides should be required to have an associate
degree, with training in the subject areas they work in.
are getting ready to begin the first school year under the
new governance. The district offices are being reorganized.
The chancellor will now have to live with the decisions and
compromises he has made. Let’s hope that the schools can now
really operate to the benefit of the children.#
the Root of Regent Problems?
Dr. Alfred S. Posamentier
recent events making education headline news seem to be unrelated
but, in fact, are quite closely related. The New York State Regents
examination for Math A was deemed to be flawed. The New York State
Court of Appeals ruled that education in New York City was under
It is clear that the Math A examination had some items that were
ambiguous, some were unnecessarily tricky, while others were simply
inappropriate. The newspapers boldly reported the drastically
low passing results, blaming the test writers for the dilemma.
Yet a closer look at the test and the results reveal that there
were enough items to allow a reasonably competent student to pass
the test. Getting a high score would have been considerably more
challenging. Yet, passing the test is the issue of concern here,
since failure prevented high school seniors from graduating with
a Regents diploma. The truth be told, those students who are “on-track,”
taking the test at the time at which it was designed to be taken
(after the first year and a half of high school math) did relatively
well on the test. Seniors taking this test typically have had
a long history of failure in mathematics, hence are taking the
test much later in their high school career. These weaker math
students were just not properly prepared to pass this test.
Not all of the blame for the high failure rate of this latter
group should be placed on the poorly written exam. And not all
of the blame for failure should be placed on the backs of these
weaker math students. The real problem lies in the relatively
weak math teaching force in our schools today. It is well known
that there is a severe shortage of math teachers. (New York City
will need to hire 1,000 new math teachers this fall.) Shortages
of any commodity result in a diminution of quality. When the Court
ruled last week that New York City was being short-changed in
its State funding, it stated that “the quality of New York City
schoolteachers is inadequate.” For the subgroup of math teachers
the situation is more severe.
Specifically where might these inadequacies be seen? From its
inception, the Math A exam was distinguished from its predecessor
in its emphasis on problem solving. I contend that most math teachers
today are not adequately prepared to incorporate genuine problem-solving
skills into their regular instructional program. That is where
many of the failures might have been avoided. Had students been
provided with problem-solving skills, they would have fared considerably
better. Hopefully with increased State funding, teacher salaries
will become more attractive and we will experience the elimination
of the math teacher shortage, resulting in the recruitment of
better teachers to staff our classrooms. In the meantime, this
new funding source can be used to better train our current math
teachers in the art of problem- solving.#
Alfred S. Posamentier is the Dean of the School of Education at
The City College of New York
A Time to Rejoice, A Time to Reflect
Pola Rosen, Ed.D.
is a month of many emotions. For college graduates, it’s a time
to discover if academic accomplishments can be translated into
meaningful jobs and balancing personal budgets. For high school
graduates, the excitement of college, new friends and mastery
of college level courses lie ahead. For graduating mature adults,
the promise of a new career, particularly in these difficult economic
times, is eagerly anticipated. For little pre-kindergarten children,
the applause and cheers from family members ensures that the graduation
ritual will be equated with the flush of success.
forget to tell my cousins Zachary and Alexandra in California
that I graduated,” said my bubbly granddaughter Emily, as she
ended her first pre-school graduation processional at the age
As a teacher and former college professor, June was a time of
reflection for me. I thought of all the students that had been
in my classes during the year and the knowledge I had transmitted
to them. Had I transmitted a love of learning and a passion for
the subject matter? Would the students lead a richer life as a
result of having passed through my classes? Knowledge alone was
I recall with a tinge of sadness, the words of a law school professor
who once said to us, “We will probably never meet again after
this class. I truly hope you learn a great deal and enjoy our
time together.” Sharing a class with a group of students is a
very special and memorable experience. I can remember vividly
several gifted teachers, from elementary school to high school
to whom I can directly trace my love of literature and music,
poetry and biology. While we never met again, their lessons lingered
far beyond the time we spent together.
In June we are honoring, for the first time in the hundred-year
history of the New York City Department of Education, teachers
from all parts of New York City, who have been mentors and leaders,
who have inspired generations of students to have a love of knowledge.
We pay homage to them at an awards ceremony at the Harvard Club
in June and will feature them in two full pages next month. Politicians,
academics, philanthropists and many others will acknowledge their
June would not be complete without a tribute to my father who
is 93 years old, my first and foremost teacher, who shared his
love of botany, astronomy, music and literature with me and my
sister. He is still an active teacher, much beloved by his students
who are senior citizens and enjoy the thrill of learning with
Next Battle in the War Over School Reform
The sniping has
begun. Both sides are rolling out their think tanks and their
big guns. Coalitions are forming. The next war in the Middle East?
No, the next battle in the war over control of New York City’s
public schools. You thought that war was over—that Mayor Bloomberg
won when he got the New York State Legislature to give him control
of the schools. Hardly. What the lords have given, the lords can
Last year, the
Mayor succeeded in persuading the State Legislature to eliminate
the Board of Education and make the schools into a mayoralty agency.
The support of the UFT was crucial in gaining the necessary votes
in Albany. The UFT went along because the Mayor would not grant
them the contract they needed to bring home to their rank-and-file
(with significant salary increases) unless the UFT supported his
takeover. This resulted in a temporary truce between the Union
and the Mayor. Inevitably that truce was doomed to end when the
new contract negotiation started, and, when the pressure of a
huge budget deficit required layoffs and Union givebacks.
But that is only
the tip of the iceberg. No one believed the Mayor was really going
to take charge so completely, that he was going to shake up the
system so thoroughly. When Bloomberg announced his reorganization
plan everything changed. Local school boürds were relieved of
authority—soon to be superseded by ten instructional districts.
District Superintendents would either be moved up or phased out
at the will of the Schools Chancellor. Administrative staffs were
downsized. Curriculum changes were to be instituted and plans
for restructuring the Special Education program announced. Long
entrenched bureaucracies were threatened, jobs were at stake.
The new organization deprived the State Legislators and the City
Council Members of influence over local education policy, and
even worse, eliminated political patronage jobs at the local school
boards. The members of the local school boards were largely silenced,
and the opportunity for local politicians to use these boards
as power bases gone.
So now the next
battle of the war begins. Will the Mayor succeed in consolidating
his gains? Will the local politicians, allied with the teachers
and supervisors unions, regain control? You won’t see this war
on CNN, but it will be just as hard fought as the War in Iraq.
And, as usual, the real danger is to the children and their parents.
In the long run the battle will be for public support, and the
public will have to choose sides. I don’t know whether the mayor’s
reorganization will work, but it’s worth a try. I do know that
a return to the status quo would be a disaster. The mayor’s plans
need some revision. He needs to provide greater mechanism for
dissent and the opportunity for real parental input. He needs
to offer transparency to the City Council so they can exercise
some oversight. With these exceptions, I support the Mayor’s reorganization
If Mayor Bloomberg
hasn’t learned yet that being the CEO of New York City is a lot
different from being the CEO of a large corporation he is about
to receive an education. The budget will be held as ransom. Whispering
campaigns will begin about senior stýff members. Demonstrations
will be organized. The Mayor will have to show that he can be
as tough as his opponents and that he cares enough about the schools
to risk his political career. If it wasn’t for the collateral
damage this battle might be worth watching. #
There One Way to Teach Reading? Phonics? Whole Language?
Sandra Priest Rose
there one way to teach reading? Phonics? Whole Language? Yes,
there is! And this is where all points of view can converge. Everybody
can be right. What is at issue is only WHEN you do what. So, let’s
sweep away the conflicts and proceed to what we can all agree
on: Teaching the sounds of the language with their appropriate
letter symbols from the beginning is essential. Helping students
to understand what they are reading is essential. Teaching students
to write clear sentences, paragraphs, compositions is essential.
Now we can proceed to the best order in which to do things, as
supported by vast federal research of educational studies and
as based on current neurological studies.
Teach letter sounds and letter symbols from the very beginning.
As soon as the child learns a few letter sounds, he or she can
immediately put them into words. Simultaneously writing and sounding
out simple words at first, and more complicated ones later, helps
the child fix in his mind what is being taught, while reinforcing
eye training. Children’s eyes have to be trained to go in the
direction in which we read and write in English. This careful
training helps prevent reading, writing and spelling reversals.
Accurate spelling is important both for good comprehension and
because inaccurate spelling imprints itself on the brain and is
hard to correct.
Once the students understand the idea that letters stand for sounds
and these sounds make up most of the words in our language in
a predictable way, and they are at ease sounding out words independently,
then directing them to comprehend what they are reading in a thoughtful
way is appropriate. Here all the elements of different types of
writing (fiction, non-fiction), elements of stories (character,
plot, conflict) and appreciation of beautiful writing all have
an important place in a reading program.
A good writing program can also be started early by beginning
with writing simple declarative sentences, moving to paragraphs
and then to compositions teaching the structural elements of each.
Writing helps clarify thought in subject matter which might be
of great interest to the student or can allow expressions of deepest
feelings and concerns.
This is a well-rounded reading program that will equip students
to explore the entire universe of myths, fairy tales, history,
science, human thought for the rest of their lives and give them
that which gives all of us our humanity, an understanding of times
past, of other countries, of other peoples, and of one another.
References: The Writing Road to Reading. New York: William Morrow,
1990; Report of the National Reading Panel: An Evidence-Based
Assessment of the Scientific Research Literature and its Implications
for Reading Instruction, 2000.#
Priest-Rose is a founding trustee of the Reading Reform Foundation,
www.readingreformny.org, and Chair, Lincoln Center Institute for
the Arts in Education.
the Incomplete Solution
Solutions to perceived
problems at our nation’s public schools evoke “The
World Turned Upside Down,” the march the British band played
as Cornwallis surrendered to Washington at Yorktown. Rather than
tackle the real issues–teacher shortages, uncompetitive
salaries, lack of cohesion in teacher training, super-sized teacher-to-student
ratios, and most importantly, changing our school-age students’
preference from entertaining over training—society prefers
Mickey Mouse fixes to real cost-effective long-term solutions.
Indeed subsidizing private- and religious-school education with
vouchers will inject much needed competition into our lowest-performing
standardized test-givers. However, schools that pass this testing
game do not and will not always provide the quality of education
our world needs. Schools need to make sure that each student has
learned the 3 Rs well, and provide support for those students
who need the extra help. Schools must not graduate students who
cannot read, write, and perform to established academic standards.
It is their job to identify these students and to offer them help.
For high-school students who have not acquired the basic skills,
it is their responsibility to seek the help they need to catch
up to their peers. As taxpayers, we must overcome our hebetude
and make sure that our education system has the funding necessary
to do its job. We need to ensure that our money is not misspent.
Furthermore, we might need to increase taxes to funnel more money
into education, to show administrators, teachers, and students
that we are serious about supporting them. Education is our society’s
great equalizer. We must not capitulate in our goal to providing
a quality education to all, despite the tempting allure of vouchers.
the enactment of a national education bill calling for annual
reading and math tests for grades 3 - 8, the battle over the use
of standardized tests to evaluate student performance continues.
It is as if the idea of testing was just invented. Critics argue
that tests are not a good mechanism to evaluate student performance.
(Not that they propose any other realistic way to evaluate performance).
Some claim the tests are biased, others point to the fact that
standardized testing leads to teaching to the tests. The real
issue, however, is not the inability of the tests to evaluate
student performance, but the potential use of the test results
to evaluate teacher, school and system performance.
If some tests are biased, this can, and should, be fixed. It is
surely no reason to eliminate testing. It is up to those who feel
that such bias exists, to identify the bias, and work with those
who prepare the tests to eliminate it.
Probably, the most widespread criticism of the use of so-called
“high stakes” standardized testing, is that it leads to teaching
to the tests. The question is who is responsible for this? This
practice could be stopped if everyone, from the chancellor on
down, made it clear that teaching to the test is unacceptable,
and then supervised those who report to them to insure that this
directive is carried out. The problem is that almost everyone
sees a gain in improving test scores, if not necessarily student
performance. Politicians campaign on improved results, administrators
advance their careers, schools and teachers receive bonuses, and
parents content themselves that their children are doing better.
Some however, who fear the use of standardized tests, say that
teaching to the test is inherent in the use of standardized tests,
and thus, call for the elimination of the tests rather than elimination
of the practice of teaching to the test. In a few shameful cases,
the school children are being used as pawns to attempt to press
Perhaps the most egregious result of emphasizing test scores is
the temptation to cheat. With a great deal at stake, students,
teachers and administrators may feel that cheating is justified.
Cheating on the part of the students is bad enough – cheating
by teachers and/or administrators is intolerable. This practice
can be minimized by careful supervision and review, followed by
rapid and severe punishment for those found guilty of this practice.
Again, it is up to the chancellor and the school administration
to set the tone, define expectations, initiate compliance review
procedures and strengthen the organizations which monitor compliance.
Good tests can measure student performance and provide feedback
on the effectiveness of the curriculum and the teaching. Where
the tests are inadequate, let’s improve them. Where teaching needs
improvement, let’s fix it. Where cheating exists, let’s root it
out. But let’s not kill the messenger because we don’t like the
TO LIVE BY
the years, I have held fast to the values I cherish dearly: public
schools can provide an outstanding education for all our children.
My own children attended public schools in New York and Los Angeles.
Their education was successful if we look at the outcomes: one
is a editorial director at a publishing company, one is a physician,
and one is a medical student. More importantly, all are contributing
members of society and have achieved inner satisfaction in their
My values haven’t changed; unfortunately, neither have some of
our failing schools. We talk about technology initiatives, the
digital divide and computers in every classroom. My recent conversations
with Irving Hamer, Board of Education member and with a Microsoft
executive have clarified the powerful directions we are going
in, backed by federal and local government monies. Personally,
I think computers and technology are great. I can email colleagues
all over the world and exchange thoughts at any hour, in my robe
with my coffee at my side. I have seen 4th and 5th
graders at the Marymount School in New York exploring the treasures
of museums in foreign cities; I have seen young children learning
what parts of the orchestra are producing the crescendos in Dvorak’s
New World Symphony from Carnegie Hall’s new online programming.
My adorable four-year-old granddaughter can point and click a
mouse, learning about animals and ABCs from new software. Computers
are complementary to the essential ingredients of great teachers,
principals and books.
Can we improve our schools by vesting control of our schools in
the mayor? The controversy has experts divided. Ninfa Segarra,
Chair of the Board of Education, believes the Board should be
abolished; Steven Sanders, Chair of the Education Committee in
the State Assembly, believes in a balance of power. Proponents
talk about the importance of vesting accountability in one person–
the mayor. Adversaries believe that this is all a smokescreen
to divert attention away from the real issues of better educating
I have held fast to the value of having master teachers in schools
to help inexperienced teachers also become master teachers. I
believe in the value of universal prekindergarten education so
that working parents can have a safe, nurturing haven for their
children to learn and play, so instrumental in their later development.
I believe in early reading initiatives so every child can be an
excellent reader by the third grade. I believe in a spirit of
community where children can work in groups within the school
as well as outside its walls, whether they are in elementary school
I believe in the value of great leadership leaving its impact
on teachers and students alike. Recently I visited two such leaders,
Superintendents Carmen Farina in Brooklyn and Superintendent Shelley
Harwayne in Manhattan. They are hands-on administrators who focus
on teacher training, principal leadership, and the delivery of
exquisite education to children. Both are first generation Americans
as I am.
These educators and many others I have visited over the last quarter
century are the catalysts that will ultimately make education
work. I am proud to know them. They give me faith in the future
of our children and grandchildren — yours and mine.
Are Our Future Leaders?
Dr. Geraldine Chapey
a society in which the basic tenet is dramatic social, business
and technological change, there are significant signs of crises
in the leadership of every institution. Educational leadership
is no exception.
The School Administrators Association of New York State reports
the sobering information that over 50 percent of New York State
Principals and over 45 percent of New York State Superintendents
will retire within five years; it is also anticipated that in
New York City almost half of its school leaders will leave the
system within a short time. Further, the number of candidates
responding to leader vacancies has dwindled precipitously. Questions
that emerge are: “Where are our future leaders?” “What factors
can help identify adaptive, effective school leaders?”
Acknowledging that school leaders are a key component in educational
reform, the Board of Regents and the Commissioner of Education
set in motion a sequence of actions to address the challenge.
In 1998, a Blue Ribbon Panel on Leadership composed of representatives
from public and nonpublic schools, higher education, unions, professional
and community organizations was charged with exploring national,
state and local leadership issues.
As a result of its deliberations, the Panel presented a series
of recommendations for consideration by the Regents Task Force
on School Leadership. These were approved by the full Board of
Regents who directed the State Education Department (SED) to launch
plans for implementation.
The project to strengthen school leadership in New York State
is in line with the Board of Regents strategic plan to raise educational
standards for all New Yorkers, which began in 1996 with new graduation
requirements and expanded in 1998 with revised teacher certification
standards and reregistration procedures for every teacher education
college and university program in New York State.
The current SED leadership project, of course, recognizes, embraces
and will integrate the successful practices and wise tradecraft
stories of excellent educational leaders whose students have demonstrated
spectacular achievements and accomplishments in academic, cultural
and sports competition, as well as in higher education and in
the world of work. During the year 2000 the State Education Department
applied for and received a 3.9 million dollar three-year grant
from the Dewitt Wallace-Readers Digest Fund to engage all sectors
of the University of the State of New York in setting standards
for educational leaders. Activities developed as a result of the
grant will address the following priority areas:
A new vision for quality preparation programs for school leaders
that will reset the balance between theory and practice and establish
new relationships between higher education faculty and our most
A new certification and credentialing structure with new titles
and new procedures for program validation.
Innovative recruitment initiatives to attract a broader pool of
candidates for Principalship and the Superintendency.
A series of strategies and actions to involve the media, business
and the community in raising the public image of administrators
and teachers and leading to a creation of an environment where
leaders can succeed in improving student achievement.
Development of a school succession plan.
A legislative agenda to raise the salaries of educators, improve
pension benefits and pension portability.
With the Dewitt Wallace-Readers Digest funding, the Commissioner
has created a New York Center for Educational Leadership and appointed
Dr. Kevin McGuire, former Superintendent of Half Hallows Central
School District, as its Executive Director. The Center will sponsor
six Leadership Academies in the Big Five cities: two in New York
City and one each in Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse and Yonkers.
The SED is moving ahead with a number of additional supportive
leadership grants made possible by federal funds and grants from
With the spotlight on a powerful education agenda at the federal,
state and local levels and the resources to support that effort
future leaders can look forward collaboratively to meeting the
challenges of educational change in the 21st century.
Chapey is a member of the New York State Board of Regents.
Public School Governance
Mike Bloomberg assuming the office of Mayor of the City of New
York, there is once again a drumbeat for eliminating the school
board and placing the city schools directly under the mayor. The
new mayor, like Rudy Giuliani before him, has indicated his desire
for this change. This time, there is a real danger that it may
It is not surprising that the mayor would like this change. Past
disagreements between the mayor and the school board, and between
the mayor and the chancellor (a school board appointee) have led
to considerable acrimony. The school board is highly politicized,
with the borough presidents each appointing one member and the
mayor two members. The recent comment by three of the borough
presidents that they might appoint themselves to the school board
only makes this more patent. It is clear that something must be
done, but turning the public school system over to the mayor is
not the answer.
A primary argument for making the schools a mayoralty agency is
that there should be an elected official whom the public can hold
accountable for school performance. I agree, but the mayor is
responsible for so many things that it would be impossible to
separate his responsibility for school performance from the rest
of his job. In addition, a system of checks and balances is essential.
A viable alternative would be dividing the system into five borough-wide
school systems, under the authority of the borough presidents.
These elected officials have little responsibility under the current
charter and could focus on the schools. They have a better understanding
of the needs of the children in their boroughs than the mayor.
Most important, they could be held directly accountable for the
schools with no conflicting considerations in evaluating their
performance. Funding should continue to come from the state and
the city. Since the city would be responsible for a large portion
of funds for the schools, the mayor would still have adequate
oversight opportunity. At the same time, the local school boards,
which have proven to be mainly a vehicle for local politics, should
be eliminated. Placing the schools under the borough presidents
would provide an ample means for local input and would save the
cost of the operation and elections of the local school boards.
We need a change in school governance, but let’s not move from
the frying pan into the fire.#
Now & In the Future
Matilda Raffa Cuomo
the mid-1980s I began to explore, at my husband’s behest, [Mario
Cuomo was the governor of NYS] vehicles for improving the
appalling rate of school drop-out among New York State’s youth.
A bi-partisan panel of educators, corporate leaders and child
advocates was convened to research a variety of programs which
could supplement the work of parents and schools to help our young
people stay in school and avoid the risks that might cut off opportunities
for them at a young age, such as drugs, crime, and teen pregnancy.
Our committee concluded that one-to-one mentoring relationships
between volunteer adults and youth held enormous promise for addressing
the issues of low self esteem, values and guidance that many young
people were lacking. We launched the New York State Mentoring
Program in 1987, and it was the first statewide, state-sponsored,
one-to-one after-school mentoring program in the nation. In 1994
the New York State Mentoring Program was eliminated by the new
administration. However, the manuals and resources of the New
York State Mentoring Program were shared with Governor Wilson’s
(CA) office to begin the planning of statewide mentoring models.
California, North Carolina and many other states have seen both
the value of mentoring and the need for providing financial and/or
programmatic support to mentoring efforts.
Increasingly, over the 15 years since the New York program was
founded, mentoring has been recognized across the country as a
powerful tool for assisting youth, not only in reducing school
drop-out and risky behaviors but also in developing positive goals
and the skills needed to achieve them. Just this past month, Congress
passed the Mentoring Programs grant program as part of the No
Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (the legislation was originally
introduced as the aptly-named Mentoring for Success Act) through
which $ 17.5 million will be disbursed to local mentoring programs
throughout the country.
The acknowledgement of mentoring and its contribution to the support
of youth must, though, go hand in hand with a recognition that
at the heart of any successful program are volunteer mentors who
dedicate themselves on a consistent and caring basis to the child
with whom they work.
As someone deeply involved with mentoring programs and policy
over two decades, I am pleased that we will celebrate the first-ever
National Mentoring Month in January 2002. This is a great opportunity
to celebrate the many volunteer mentors who “make it happen” for
children and the dedicated advocates, such as the National Mentoring
Partnership, who have led the struggle for mentoring awareness
to gain the funding and recognition they deserve
Mentoring USA (MUSA), with the outstanding efforts of two coordinators,
has expanded mentoring to youth in foster care in New York City
who are in great need of support and hope for their future. MUSA
currently has more than 100 youth matched with mentors in its
Foster Care Initiative.
On September 11, the horrible tragedy and loss of loved ones taught
us many bitter lessons. Our very freedom and security were impaired.
Advocates for childrens’ well-being know that we must help heal
differences and teach our youth to appreciate cultural diversity
(here in the USA and around the world). Mentoring USA for some
years has utilized our BRAVE (Bias-Related Anti-Violence Education)
component to feature positive role models of all ethnic backgrounds
so that children can relate with pride to their own heroes. Mentors
are trained to utilize our many resources to strengthen their
mentees’ perspective for harmony and future peace in the world.
Mentoring will continue to be a strong positive force for our
youth to remain stable and secure at this crucial juncture in
Cuomo is the Founder and Chairperson of Mentoring USA.
Need Not Be Permanent
are two sides to “human nature.” One is the socially conscious,
caring side, as illustrated by the outpouring of concern and contributions
for the families of the victims of the September 11 attack. The
other is the isolated, self-seeking side as illustrated by all
too many examples of cheating, political manipulation and, even,
dishonesty among public officials and employees.
In Washington, the response of the Congress and the President
to the need for economic stimulation has been both partisan and
belated. Both parties have proposed stimulus packages larded with
fat for their constituencies. The failure to live up to the commitment
to provide timely and sufficient federal aid to New York City
in the wake of the cowardly attack on the World Trade Center is
another example of political perfidy.
Is it any wonder that individuals interpret this kind of message
to mean that everyone is on their own? The recent report of 11
school custodians having taken kickbacks to give illegal contracts
for window washing is only the latest
in a series of scandals in which school employees have resorted
to cheating and dishonesty to protect their jobs and enhance their
income. This kind of behavior cannot be dismissed as human nature,
although it ought to be anticipated. The Chancellor has been lax
in recognizing this and in providing safeguards. Contracting for
new school buildings and for repair is another area, which needs
careful review. Taxpayers must be confident that their dollars
are not used to line the pockets of the dishonest.
With the coming of standardized tests, it is crucial to put into
place a review process that will prevent teaching to the test,
or even worse, helping the students through prompting and false
grading. It is crucial to review the process by which students
who should be held back are promoted, students who are not disabled,
but those who merely because of behavior problems or failing in
their school work are falsely assigned to special education.
The office of the commissioner of investigation, Edward F. Stancik,
should be expanded and strengthened to achieve these objectives,
and watchdog citizen organizations given access to process and
There is nothing more demoralizing than to learn that school employees,
the guardians of our children, are corrupt, even if it is a small
number of individuals who are involved. Today, as much as ever,
freedom requires constant vigilance. Scandal need not be permanent
— the system can change. It is to be hoped that our new mayor
will make the restoration of confidence in the integrity of the
school system an early priority. #
Schools Offer Real Hope For Communities of Color
Dr. Augusta Souza Kappner
long ago, I traveled to Seattle to join a group of multicultural
scholars and practitioners and the nation’s leading small schools
(K-12) scholars. We were meeting to discuss the potential benefits
of small schools reform for minority communities. On at least
one point we were unanimous: for urban centers and communities
of color, most high schools are failing. The news out of our high
schools is bleak:
High dropout rates continue to plague communities of color.
African-American and Latino students are retained (required to
repeat a grade) at alarming rates.
Students of color continue to trail their peers on achievement
Leaders, both within and outside minority communities, have been
searching desperately for answers. But surprisingly–at least from
my perspective–few have embraced a strategy that offers a tremendous
amount of promise: small schools reform.
Small schools work. And they appear to work particularly well
with disadvantaged students. Last year, Bank Street College of
Education’s study, Small Schools: Great Strides, chronicled
the success of small schools reform in numerous Chicago public
schools. The average school size nationwide is 741 students, and
it is not uncommon for urban children to attend elementary schools
with more than 1,000 students and high schools with 3,000 students.
By contrast, small schools in the Bank Street study enrolled between
200 to 400 students. The difference between the small schools
we examined and their larger counterparts was striking.
We found that smaller learning communities diminish school violence,
raise academic engagement and performance, and increase attendance
and graduation rates–the very issues with which minority communities
across the nation are grappling. Our research affirms the mounting
mass of evidence of those who have studied small schools over
the past decade. Most promising, small schools reform works within
a public school framework–an important fact for leaders of color
given that approximately 95 percent of African American and 91
per cent of Latino students currently attend public schools.
Why are there not more leaders from communities of color championing
small schools efforts? Why do we allow communities to continue
to build the sort of gigantic schools that breed alienation and
low expectations? I believe that information about the value of
small schools has simply not reached a broad enough audience.
A just-released survey from Public Agenda confirms that the majority
of America’s parents and teachers do not place school size high
on their lists of educational concerns. Small school reformers
are now recognizing the need to reach out to leaders in communities
of color and welcome them into small schools efforts.
I recognize the honest concerns some have about small schools.
Many fear small schools may be prohibitively expensive. Some others–
many from African-American or other underserved communities–worry
that overly sympathetic teachers in highly personalized learning
environments, in recognizing the disadvantages faced by their
students, may not hold students to sufficiently high standards
The evidence gives us confidence that these concerns can be surmounted
by a thoughtful, coherent and diligent approach to the creation
of small schools. We have seen that small schools can be affordable
for even the poorest communities. (Research by Fruchter, Stiefel
et al. shows that the cost per graduate is actually lower in small
schools than in large.) We have found that most small schools
hold high expectations for their students. Small school populations,
like large school populations, generally reflect the ethnic makeup
of the communities they serve; where integration is the goal,
small schools are often more likely to be able to achieve diverse
populations. In systems that establish clear, progressive guidelines,
small schools are actually less likely to be segregated than are
Interestingly, some minority leaders have recently spoken out
in favor of charter schools and voucher plans. Their explanation
has been not so much an embrace of these strategies as a rejection
of the status quo. The frustration they feel with the ongoing
failure of our urban public schools to adequately serve students
of color is certainly understandable. But what is needed now is
not an abandonment of public schools but rather a commitment to
establishing more effective–and smaller– learning communities.
Leaders of color should endorse the small schools movement within
public school systems, because small schools offer the potential
for quality education, provide educational opportunities, and
foster academic and social success. Small schools may well provide
an answer to much of what ails today’s most difficult-to-reform
educational systems. Consequently, now is the time for leaders
of color to propel this movement forward.
Augusta Souza Kappner has been president of Bank Street College
in New York City since 1995, and was the assistant secretary for
Vocational and Adult Education for the U.S. Department of Education
from 1993 to 1995.
for September 11
the sun ever shine there again?
the sky ever be blue there again?
the grass ever grow green there again?
where people worked with purpose—
laughter be heard there again?
giant towers were the redwoods in the
of steel and glass
the great city called NewYork.
were the pride of those who built them,
those who worked there,
of those who visited there.
men destroyed them.
there’s talk of debris.
my brothers and sisters lie in that debris.
that debris ever so gently,
lives are to be discovered there,
is the Pompeii of the 21st century.
will never forget those heroes, these patriots,
say can you see,
still the land of the free.
Friedland is a retired NYC high school teacher who is now living
in Los Angeles.
Board of Regents Acts in Recent Crisis
Dr. Geraldine Chapey
you ever been victimized by a professional? Have you ever had
the wrong tooth extracted or the wrong kidney removed? How do
you know the professionals you are using are not practicing without
a license? Who is protecting you from these fraudulent professionals?
You might be surprised.
When most people think of the Board of Regents, they are reminded
of standards, curriculum and student testing. But the Regents,
as the most comprehensive and unified educational system in the
nation, are responsible for so much more.
A case in point was the way the Regents and the State Education
Department immediately reached out to help the overwhelming call
for volunteers to assist in the extraordinary challenge of the
rescue and recovery operation following the World Trade Center
tragedy. Under the leadership of Commissioner Richard Mills and
Deputy Commission Johanna Portier, the State Education Department’s
Office of The Professions:
Responded to over 600 calls from professionals, out of state,
licensed or retired, asking whether they could volunteer their
professional services in this emergency if they are licensed in
another state or licensed but not currently registered in New
Advised the field, through information on our Web page, and communications
with the Department of Health, the American Red Cross, the NYS
Emergency Management Office, the Governor’s Office, and many others
that the Education Law allows the provision of medical assistance
in an emergency by individuals who are competent but may not be
licensed in NYS. This has been a critical message to many health
care workers to enter ground zero and assist in the crisis.
Nurses and physicians who offered to provide emergency services
on Tuesday night were not permitted to enter the secured perimeter
without proof of licensure; they were able to obtain a record
of their licensure by printing out our web page.
The attack destroyed 33 pharmacies in the area and a number of
databases with information about patients and current prescriptions.
Working with the Department of Health and the Bureau of Controlled
Substances, we issued Emergency Guidelines for Pharmacy Services
related to the crisis that enabled pharmacies to dispense supplies
of needed medication to patients who could not otherwise obtain
Permitted pharmacists and pharmacies to transfer needed stock
between and among pharmacies without a wholesale license during
Expedited the processing of licenses to open replacement pharmacies
in alternate locations for pharmacies that were closed during
Communicated to the NYS Emergency Management Office and the Governor’s
Office that architects and engineers needed at the emergency site
who may not be currently registered in NYS or licensed in other
states can contribute their services as consultants as long as
their work is endorsed by NYS licensed design professional.
At the request of the SEMO for help with identifying individuals
who could serve as translators, the State Education Department
a) a print of all colleges offering degrees in foreign languages
b) a printout of the location of all certified teachers in languages
other than English.
Works of the Office of the Professions: What Made Them Ready To
Respond In A Crisis
over 125 years ago to protect the public and professionals, the
Office of the Professions is a major force in maintaining and
enhancing the health and well being of all New Yorkers. They are
responsible for overseeing that every child and adult in New York
State is served by qualified, ethical professionals who remain
current in their field.
About 640,000 licensed professionals practice under the regulations
of the Board of Regents who regulate, license and carry out disciplinary
proceedings for 38 professions including accounting, dentistry,
nursing, architecture, pharmacy, physical therapy, and speech
Representing the legitimate interests of consumers, professional
associations, individual practitioners, employers, colleges offering
professional education and the general public, the Regents and
the Office of the Professions, in partnership with 25 State Board
of professionals and lay people, work hard to protect and benefit
both professionals and the public who require professional services.
Within that last two years the Office of the Professions has launched
a major public information campaign: Consumers, businesses and
other interested parties can now access a searchable online data
base of the 4,500 registered pharmacists and 700 firms registered
to manufacture or sell wholesale prescription drugs in New York
Patients and other citizens can turn to the Office of the Professions’
Web site for instantaneous registration information and assurance
that those who manufacture, transport or disperse prescription
drugs are properly authorized and registered (www.regents.nysed.gov)
Over two million consumers used the Web site last year to obtain
license verification to determine whether an individual was licensed
and currently registered in the 38 professions.
For two years in a row the National Council on Licensure Enforcement
and Regulations presented their annual award to the Office of
the Professions, New York State Education Department.
And now you know why the Board of Regents and the State Education
Department were ready to assist in the challenging and tragic
World Trade Center rescue and recovery operation.#
author is a member of the NYS Board of Regents.
Man Is An Island
was a beautiful, spring-like day in New York City. My husband
and I voted in the mayoral primary and then walked to Park Avenue.
Incredulously, I looked at the billows of black smoke filling
the sky 80 blocks away. Shortly thereafter, our office building
at 30th and Fifth Avenue was evacuated. Thousands of people, as
if on a death march, serious and silent, streamed north up Third
and Lexington Avenues for hours, many not arriving home that evening.
Some would never return home.
I think about our office at Education Update, a diverse
group of people coming from Brazil, Ireland, Greece, Argentina
and China, practicing various religions–Catholicism, Judaism,
Protestantism, Hinduism, Buddhism–and speaking various languages.
How well we get along! How we enjoy an intellectual comraderie
as well as sharing the goal of strengthening and improving education
in our nation. We respect each other’s religious beliefs, we learn
from each other, we celebrate each other, we enjoy sharing knowledge
about each other’s customs without seeking to convert anyone.
We must infuse our children in their early years with a love and
acceptance of different cultures. To learn is to understand. To
understand is to accept. To accept is a step in eliminating aggression
based on differences.
We live in a global society, what happens in one part of the world
affects another. John Donne recognized that in his poetry in the
17th century. Indeed, “No man is an island entire of itself; every
man is a piece of the Continent, a part of the main...”
What kept echoing in my mind as the death toll numbers rose had
also been said by Donne centuries ago: “Any man’s death diminishes
me because I am involved in Mankind; and therefore never send
to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.” Each and
every global citizen has been diminished by those who died on
September 11, 2001.
morning walk to school. A time for parents and children to enjoy
the fresh air and carry on conversation about the day, school
work, or even random chit chat.
On September 11th at PS 234, two blocks from the World Trade Center
(WTC), dozens of parents and children were approaching the school
at 8:48 AM. Suddenly, they witnessed a plane crash directly into
the Twin Towers! The rest of their lives will never be the same!
Within five minutes of the first crash, I was on the scene and
rushed to PS 234, only to find chaos. Young and old, teachers
and cafeteria workers tried to keep order in an event which had
no disaster plan. Parents wanted to get out of the building and
go home with their children; a sound idea to walk north, away
from the twin towers.
As many of the parents and children were leaving the building
and looking up at the towers, they again saw a plan crash into
the WTC. Beyond belief! What to do? Where can you go for safety?
This story for the most part, played out in all the schools surrounding
the WTC: PS/IS 89, PS 150, PS 234, PS 721M, Stuyvesant HS, HS
of Economics and Finance, and the Murry Bergtraum HS. With all
the devastation, to my knowledge, all our children, parents, teachers
and staff, left safely.
Today, it gives us pause. Should we be doing a risk assessment
about where are schools are and what potential dangers could take
place? Clearly, the Chancellor has indicated he will be reviewing
the security of our schools.
With the Board of Education intact, however and soot-covered school
buildings around the WTC remaining, the bigger challenge for us
now is to engage in those conversations that address the what,
where, why and how of it all. The grief counselors in our schools
have been consuming volumes of time each and every day since the
tragedy to provide help to those who cannot cope and even to those
who think they are coping, yet still need the shoulder of a professional.
At a time like this, the New York City Board of Education will
serve a very important role in preserving the human dignity and
psychological welfare of its students. President Bush has praised
our system for staying open and said Chancellor Levy proved tQat
America’s, “most important domestic priority”Ðeducation–could
not be halted.
The WTC tragedy reached beyond the schools of NYC. As reported
by the New York State School Board Association, Education Commissioner
Richard P. Mills issued an advisory indicating he thought it was
unwise to send children home to empty homes; many firefighters,
police officers and commuters working in NYC live in Orange County
and on Long Island. And, in the Locust School District of Nassau
County, a teacher was assigned to each school bus to assure adult
supervision was available in the homes.
What took place on September 11th is a part of our lives in real
time. Next year it will be a part of our textbooks and a chapter
in American history.
Cammarata is the Commissioner of Youth Services and a member of
the NYC Board of Education.
Education of Our Children Is At Stake: Parents Must Unite
T. Clayton, President
Parents Associations of NYC, Inc.
all across the country will be embarking on a new school year
in a couple of weeks. New York City public school parents will
be facing many changes and challenges in this upcoming school
year. There are over 250 low performing schools throughout the
educational system that are depriving children of a sound-basic
education. Higher Standards are in full practice throughout the
city schools. Today 69% of students in grades 4 through 8 are
below achievement standards in math and 43% below achievement
standards in reading. The best teachers are being lured out of
NYC for better working conditions, parking privileges and higher
competitive wages. Over 500 principals, assistant principals and
administrators will be needed come September 6, 2001 citywide.
Chancellor Levy, has ordered superintendents to cut their District
budgets in order to meet the Board of Education’s fiscal woes
that have been imposed by the state and city leadership.
Save,”[Safe Schools Against Violence Act] is now making it easy
for students to be removed from classrooms by teachers for what
they consider “disruptive behavior.” Where are the resources for
the detention classrooms that these students will be moved into,
so they can continue their learning?
Should parents start to be concerned?
Speaker Sheldon Silver is heading a task force on School Governance,
should the educational system fall under the control of the Mayor?
A new Mayor will lead the city in January, possibly four new Borough
Presidents will take office and all of this translates into an
entirely new seven-member Board of Education governing body. Should
parents start to be concerned?
In January 2000, New York State Supreme Court Justice Leland DeGrass,
ruled that the NYS funding formula was discriminatory and unconstitutional.
He further stated that NYC public school children were not receiving
a sound, basic education. Just when parents were celebrating this
landmark victory, Governor Pataki has decided to appeal the ruling,
delaying badly needed funds even longer. Should parents start
to be concerned? Will there be enough space and teachers for the
increase in student population coming to the schools on September
6, 2001. There is a new Special Education policy called the “New
Continuum” which mainstreams special needs students back into
regular classrooms. When was the training given to teachers? Where
will the resources come from in order to bring these students
up to pace with the class? Should parents be concerned?
Parents must unite for effective change that will command the
resources that must be available in order to enable learning [a
sound, basic education] to take place in every classroom citywide.
This is the year parents must come together in light of a new
leadership in our City Government and City Council. Can we do
it? Yes we can. Can we win? You bet we can.
on School Days
the first day of school approaches, anticipation fills the air.
The promise of new courses, great teachers, friends old and new,
and leaving the relaxed pace of summer to enter the familiar rhythm
of learning. Anxiety is part of the anticipation too. Grades,
tests, rankings, SATs, LSATs, MCATs and a host of other acronyms
hover over us.
My thoughts turn to two very important students in my life: my
92-year-old father, looking forward to a new crop of students
as he continues to teach Hebrew while he studies himself, and
my three-year-old granddaughter, starting nursery school.
Opposite ends of the age spectrum, sharing the same excitement
and anticipation of new friends and learning adventures that lie
ahead. I wish them great success in the challenges of 2001-2002!
I wish to you, our readers, students, parents, teachers and administrators:
may education guide you to achieve mighty goals!
tides are changing in the school system. With the election of
a new mayor, New York City will see sweeping revisions in school
governance. Control of schools will be vested either in the Mayor,
the Board of Education, or a balance of the two. The operant word
is “control” of schools, but it should be substituted by “leadership.”
As Chris Whittle recently pointed out to Education Update,
if you have outstanding leadership in a principal, you will have
a good school.
I propose an 11-member board of elected individuals who have experience
in education, business, the arts and sciences. That board can
choose a Chancellor of Education, who will be accountable to the
board and to the people. To make education-related decisions,
each board member will have one vote, along with the chancellor,
and the mayor.
Another aspect of school governance is the input of students.
This concept has successfully been implemented by the Governor
of the Virgin Islands who has several high school students, chosen
by their schools, meet with the mayor each month to provide feedback
about their schools and communities. When I suggested this idea
to some of the mayoral candidates, they were enthusiastic.
The bottom line is the children. My children are my best friends,
my advisors, the ones I love dearly and the future of my family.
We live in the greatest city in the world. Let’s try to make education
for our children, the best in the nation.
Update says farewell to a wonderful assistant editor, Sarah
Elzas. Sarah began with us as an intern in her freshman year at
Columbia University and came to us upon graduation with ways to
improve coverage of events, creativity in assignments and oranizing
the office. She has been indispensable to all of us, and we will
miss her. The good news is that she will continue as a freelance
This summer we welcomed three dynamic interns: Rachel Mittelman
from Columbia University, Kahdeidra Martin from Stanford University
and Katarzyna Kozanecka from Stuyvesant High School. We hope they
have learned a great deal and welcome their return next summer.
Finally, we extend a welcome aboard to our new assistant editor,
Marylena Mantas, who has just graduated from Columbia University
and brings extensive experience as a features editor at the Columbia
Spectator. We’re looking forward to a great and wonderful
in Higher Education and Open Admissions: An Oxymoron?
EDUARDO J. MARTI
does one judge the worth of a college? Traditionally, quality
is equated with selectivity. Acceptance into a distinguished college
or university provides students with the opportunity to obtain
a better life. It also validates the parental experience of 18
years and is considered the “Cinderella slipper” in our meritocracy.
So why would anyone attend a college that accepts everybody? Is
a selective admission process a necessary ingredient for a quality
For over 20 years, American educators have been debating over
these issues. As the President of a community college that operates
under open admissions, I subscribe to the principle that we can
maintain high academic standards while admitting everyone. We
just need to take a different approach.
Under an open admissions policy, anyone with a high school degree
is welcome to matriculate in a program of study.
All matriculated students are given a battery of basic skills
placement examinations. These exams provide the college and the
student with information necessary for appropriate course placement.
Students who do not demonstrate the required competence must enroll
in a developmental or “remedial” course designed to provide concentrated
assistance and to bring them quickly up to college level work.
In most cases this occurs in one semester, but it may take longer.
Some colleges and universities require an “exit from remediation
exam” of their students before they can enter a “college-level
course.” Developmental courses serve as the foundation for academic
quality in a community college. Without a strong remedial program,
community colleges cannot expect students who has been out of
school for ten years or who have demonstrable academic deficiencies
to immediately enroll in college-level courses and do well.
Remediation is neither recognition of failure, nor a waste of
resources. Instead, it is as important to an open admissions college
as a strong curriculum, equipment and buildings. The alternative
to an effective remedial program is to become selective and/or
lower academic standards.
Students who graduate from a community college and transfer to
a baccalaureate-granting institution typically have a grade point
average equal to or better than those students at the baccalaureate-granting
institution. Clearly, this proves that those who graduate from
a community college are prepared to meet the rigors of a baccalaureate-granting
junior and senior year.
Thus, it makes sense for families to consider community colleges.
A well-prepared high school student can save up to $25,000 or
more in tuition alone by attending a community college and then
transferring to the baccalaureate-granting institution of his
or her choice. Low tuition and the savings in room and board make
a significant difference in the financing of a baccalaureate education.
When measuring the quality of community colleges one should not
look at the admission process, but in the result of the experience.
Community colleges offer an opportunity to everyone, but only
those who are successful at college-level work will graduate or
transfer. Our students are well prepared for employment or for
baccalaureate-level work. We must do everything within our power
to help them realize their dreams.
author is the President of Queensborough Community College, The
City University of New York
Out of the Box:
Math and Science Teacher Shortages
Alfred S. Posamentier
recent issuance of CUNY Chancellor Matthew Goldstein’s task force
on mathematics education is yet another cry for improving mathematics
instruction in New York. This can be translated into a quest to
improve the competence of the teachers, which is closely related
to the ever-increasing shortage of these teachers. Of the 1,500
acceptances for the next phase of the Teaching Fellows program,
one of the Board of Education’s efforts to solve the teacher shortage,
only ten are qualified to teach mathematics. This does not bode
well for the future of the teaching staff in New York City.
But things have not always been this way. During the Depression
of the 1930s, scientists were attracted to the teaching profession,
and it was one of the few professions open to women and minorities
before the Civil Rights Act of 1964. These early waves of professionals
buoyed the school system through the beginning part of the 1960s,
until another national crisis, the Vietnam War, again channeled
high-quality personnel into the teaching profession; this time
through draft deferments, issued to those teaching in hard-to-staff
schools and in the critical areas such as mathematics and science.
After 1968, job opportunities for women increased significantly,
providing them with viable alternatives to the teaching profession,
which heretofore was their profession of choice. Similarly, minorities
who once would have chosen teaching as their profession, are now
being actively recruited into the business world. It is clear
that teacher shortages are at crisis proportions today because
we are not adequately competing with the economic pull of the
One temporary solution is the importation of foreign teachers
to fill the immediate vacancies until permanent local replacements
can be found. I initiated this idea, inviting visiting Austrian
math and science teachers. Now in its third year, some teachers
are staying on longer than the initial two- or three-year period.
This concept for meeting immediate shortages has now been replicated
in many American cities and in numerous countries throughout the
An extension of the Teaching Fellows program might meet the most
severe shortages in mathematics teaching. The Board needs to survey
the 1,500 accepted applicants to determine which ones have some
interest and experience in mathematics. Those who pass an aptitude
test could then be given a series of mathematics courses to build
their knowledge of the underlying mathematics concepts of the
middle school curriculum. Coupled with preparation in appropriate
pedagogy and methods of teaching mathematics, these Fellows could
be “converted” into reasonably well-trained math teachers.
We need to begin to think “out of the box”: offer signing incentives
to qualified teachers who can teach in areas of need; offer competitive
salaries and working conditions, and recruit aggressively from
business industries where qualified people may be found. Many
excellent math and science teachers have recently retired or are
about to retire. Allowing them to earn tax-levy money on top of
their pension for part-time teaching could help fill the void.
Conduct an aggressive recruitment program outside of New York
City, offering such incentives as housing allowances and reimbursement
for moving-expenses. Woo current college majors in math and science
who have outstanding academic records into the teaching profession
with rewards that could include loan repayments, paid summer internships
as math and science tutors in summer school, and scholarships.
These are just a few of the ways that we can begin to address
It is clear that this crisis has resulted in a decline of the
teacher caliber in the schools, and has been reflected in overall
weaker school supervisors and administrators. Although Universities
do not like to admit it, we too find it much more difficult to
recruit high quality teacher educators than several decades ago,
which in turn affects the quality of teachers we turn out. This
vicious circle must be stopped.
Schools Chancellor Harold O. Levy, coming from the private sector,
knows that you get what you pay for. Society has to respect the
role of the teacher, something long out of fashion. Free public
education is the cornerstone of the American democratic system.
It must be preserved and cherished!
author is Dean of the School of Education, The City College of
the City University of New York.
Matilda Raffa Cuomo and Deborah E. Lans
percent of New York City students come from immigrant families.
At least 17 percent of New York City students—170,000 children—are
English Language Learners (ELLs), students who have entered the
school system in the last three years for whom English is not
a native language. More than half of these children speak Spanish,
ten percent speak Chinese and the balance speak approximately
140 other languages.
ELLs, particularly those who first enter the school system in
middle or high school, have a particularly difficult time meeting
the standards necessary to exit ESL or bilingual programs or for
passing Regents exams. In 2000, two-thirds of the fourth-grade
ELLs in New York City failed the English language arts test, as
compared with 50 percent statewide. ELLs require longer to graduate
high school and, particularly faced with new Regents requirements,
they are showing increasing dropout rates. Just in the last two
years, the rate has increased from 17 to 24 percent.
What should be done? It is apparent that the State and the Board
of Education need to invest substantially more money in bilingual
and ESL teaching to recruit and train teachers; acquire and disseminate
curriculum materials; hire translators and take other steps to
facilitate effective parent outreach and education; assure the
availability of summer school classes; and to promptly place ELLs
in classes meeting their needs.
After-school programming needs to be made available to ELLs in
order to provide them additional support with language arts skills.
ELLs need to be placed in mentoring programs. Mentors—particularly
those who have experienced acculturation themselves—can be particularly
helpful for children who may be having difficulty adapting to
our culture and whose families may not have the knowledge of the
school system, college application and selection process or career
paths that their children may need to reach their full potential.
At Mentoring USA we are attempting to address the special obstacles
faced by ELLs in several ways. First, this Fall we will introduce
an ESL Mentoring program. Bilingual mentors will receive special
training and, working under the guidance of skilled teachers,
will link one-to-one with ELLs to work with them on an individual
mentoring plan designed to meet that child’s needs, as identified
by the child’s ESL teacher and parent(s) and by the child. The
child will benefit from individual attention to language arts
In addition, Mentoring USA’s BRAVE program (Bias Related Anti-Violence
Education) offers all youth in our programs the opportunity to
explore their ethnic, racial and cultural heritage, through the
reading of books about their countries of origin, heroes from
their cultures and special holidays and celebrations observed
in their lands. Activities linked to the readings allow the youth
and mentors to share these materials with one another and to elaborate
on the messages of tolerance and the value of diversity which
underpin the BRAVE program.
The continued strength and vitality of our city depends on our
providing assistance to our immigrant youth— to assure that they
receive a sound and strong education and feel fully welcomed in
and connected to our culture, as well as their own.
Cuomo is the founder and Chairperson of Mentoring USA. Ms. Lans
is the Executive Director.
Memoriam: Hank Ketcham
Ketcham, 81, died in Pebble Beach, California. The noted cartoonist
was famous for his Dennis the Menace cartoon character which appeared
in thousands of publications worldwide.
Dennis was modeled after Hank’s four-year old son who never aged
over the years that the cartoon appeared.
Several years ago, Hank Ketcham stopped drawing the cartoon; production
was done by a staff of cartoonists who will continue even after
Education Update was fortunate to be able to interview Hank Ketcham
for the February 2000 issue, featuring him and his protegé on
the front page. When discussing the career of cartoonist, Ketcham
said, “Besides talent, cartoon drawing is all about discipline.
It is a regimented occupation that you must somehow keep fresh
in your mind in order to remain creative.”
We all will miss Hank Ketcham who brought chuckles into our daily
is a month of remembrance, of soldiers who perished fighting valiantly
for our country, and of mothers who fought for us and were our
staunchest defenders. Mothers nurture, comfort, advise and help
us and can be our best friends. I remember my mother’s kindness
and wisdom and the pain of losing her while I was in high school.
I can only imagine how she would have enjoyed the ensuing years
of celebrating milestones together: marriage, grandchildren, career
successes, and simply sharing in our daily lives. She missed a
great deal and I miss her so much.
This issue celebrates mothers and daughters, their impact on each
other’s lives, their unique relationship. Our interviews with
Erica Jong and Molly Jong Fast, and Matilda Cuomo and Maria Cuomo
Cole are filled with the love, warmth and tenderness that uniquely
characterize mother-daughter dyads. And, as Matilda Cuomo said,
no matter how intense the arguments between mothers and daughters,
they will always forgive each other.
Testing, Testing, 1-2-3
President Bush says yes, test the children more. New York State
Commissioner of Education Richard P. Mills says yes, test the
children more. The Chancellor agrees but allows for certain schools
to continue to use alternative methods such as portfolio evaluations.
Now, the Alliance for Childhood, a national partnership of educators,
health professionals, researchers and other child advocates, is
raising questions about the health implications of President Bush’s
proposal to increase standardized testing of public-school students.
Standardized tests enable us to have benchmarks: how much has
a student learned in a subject area; how much knowledge did a
student gain from one year to another; how do students compare
in performance to each other. Standardized tests like the SAT,
LSAT and MCAT have been used for decades to help colleges, law
schools and medical schools decide on their choice of future student
bodies. However, standardized tests cannot pinpoint students’
strengths and weaknesses or help teachers decide on the best teaching
modes for certain students. That goal is best served by individualized
testing of students by teachers or portfolio evaluation.
If standardized tests are increased with the rigor that federal
and state governments are mandating, teachers will be under pressure
to statistically prove their students are high performers. The
end result will be teaching to the test.
The true test should be given to teachers to ensure they are the
best and brightest for our children. The Bank Street College of
Education currently prepares future principals by choosing the
best through rigorous testing. The Chancellor’s Teaching Fellows
Program also screens future teachers for excellence.
The true test is how to revise the curriculum to ensure students
are learning. At Weill Medical College of Cornell University the
curriculum was revised from lecture based learning to problem
based learning. The new group took the National Board examinations,
given after completion of the first two years of medical school,
and achieved the highest scores in the history of Cornell.
What is the true challenge? It is to instill in students, a joy
of learning that will lead not only to higher test scores but
will build an enlightened citizenry.
throughout the ages, has stirred our emotions. From Petrarch’s
love sonnets about Laura to John Donne’s “Death Be Not Proud,”
from Masefield’s “Sea Fever” to the poignant poems of Maya Angelou,
poets have shared their lives and perceptions and thus enriched
our own. April is National Poetry Month, a time to interview state
poet laureates around the nation. Unfortunately, our own New York
State poet laureate was unavailable for interview but each one
we contacted (south, north and west) was most interested in sharing
personal experiences and poetry with you, our readers.
Two of our associate editors have also shared their writings below.
One, an editor and linguist has written about the mighty Hudson
River in Portuguese; the other, a medical student, has written
a moving piece about her cadaver in gross anatomy class.