Getting to Work
Guaspari’s Triumph was,
In Reality, A Collective One
Where Do We Go from Here?
Paul Wellstone; Profile in Courage
Leadership in Our Schools: The Principal Part
Education Is Fundamental
What School Is About
Meeting the Newcomer
For Randi Weingarten, It’s Been a Very Good Month
Public Education Under Attack
by Stuart Dunn
Nothing Comes From Nothing
The Time is Here for True Fiscal
By Regina M. Eaton
Pataki’s 2005 State of the State
Address made it clear us that he does not intend to cede
school funding reform to the courts. But the courts have
spoken. Now it’s time to act. In the coming weeks,
Judge DeGrasse, the trial judge that heard the Campaign
for Fiscal Equity vs. New York State (CFE) case, is expected
to hand down a final court order to resolve the lawsuit. READ
An Intellectual Education for
By Sandra Priest Rose READ
Building a Brighter Future for Our
by Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg READ
Open Letter to Friends of New
York City Public Schools
Carmen Fariña READ
Music Education May Be "Left Behind" Under New Federal
Black History Month: Lincoln’s Unfinished Work
Productivity in the Public Schools
Global Education in Our Schools
Cameras in Schools: An Idea Whose Time Has Come
A Gay High School is Not a Good Idea
Money the Root of Regent Problems?
Graduation: A Time to Rejoice, A Time to Reflect
The 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 take away.
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
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 st?ff 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. #
Is There One Way to Teach Reading? Phonics?
Is 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
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
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
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.#
Sandra Priest-Rose is a founding trustee of the Reading Reform
Foundation, www.readingreformny.org, and Chair, Lincoln Center
Institute for the Arts in Education.
(Back To Top)
Vouchers, 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
(Back To Top)
Standardized Tests Redux
Despite 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 their viewpoint.
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 message.
(Back To Top)
Values To Live By
Over 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 careers.
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
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 or college.
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
(Back To Top)
Where Are Our Future Leaders?
In 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 distinguished practitioners.
• A new certification
and credentialing structure with new titles and new procedures
for program validation.
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.
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 private foundations.
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.
Dr. Chapey is a member of the New York State Board of Regents.
Public School Governance
With 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 happen.
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
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.#
(Back To Top)
Mentoring: Then, Now & In
In 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
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 our history.#
Matilda Cuomo is the Founder and Chairperson of Mentoring
Scandal Need Not Be Permanent
There 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
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
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 records.
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.
(Back To Top)
Small Schools Offer Real Hope For Communities
Not 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.
and Latino students are retained (required to repeat a grade)
at alarming rates.
• Students of
color continue to trail their peers on achievement indicators.
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
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 of achievement.
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 larger schools.
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
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.
Dr. 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.
Prayer for September 11
Will the sun ever shine there again?
Will the sky ever be blue there again?
Will the grass ever grow green there again?
There where people worked with purpose—
Will laughter be heard there again?
The giant towers were the redwoods in the
forests of steel and glass
In the great city called NewYork.
They were the pride of those who built them,
Of those who worked there,
And of those who visited there.
Men built them,
Other men destroyed them.
talk of debris.
Hey! my brothers and sisters lie in that debris.
Move that debris ever so gently,
Aborted lives are to be discovered there,
This is the Pompeii of the 21st century.
We will never forget those heroes, these patriots,
Oh say can you see,
It’s still the land of the free.
Lucy Friedland is a retired NYC high school teacher who is
now living in Los Angeles.
(Back To Top)
NYS Board of Regents Acts in Recent Crisis
Have 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
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 York
• 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
• Permitted pharmacists
and pharmacies to transfer needed stock between and among
pharmacies without a wholesale license during this emergency.
• 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
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.
The Works of the Office of the Professions: What Made Them
Ready To Respond In A Crisis
Established 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 pathology.
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
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 State.
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.#
The author is a member of the NYS Board of Regents.
(Back To Top)
No Man Is An Island
It 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
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.
Schools Surrounding Tragedy
The 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”®¢education–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.
Jerry Cammarata is the Commissioner of Youth Services and
a member of the NYC Board of Education.
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The Education of Our Children Is At Stake: Parents Must Unite
United Parents Associations of NYC, Inc.
Parents 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.
“Project 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
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.
Reflections on School Days
As 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!
(Back To Top)
The 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
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
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.
Education 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 writer.
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
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 collaboration.
Quality in Higher Education and Open Admissions: An Oxymoron?
How 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
So why would anyone attend a college that accepts everybody?
Is a selective admission process a necessary ingredient for
a quality education?
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
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
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.
The author is the President of Queensborough Community College,
The City University of New York
(Back To Top)
Think Out of the
Addressing Math and Science Teacher Shortages
The 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 private sector.
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
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!
The author is Dean of the School of Education, The City College
of the City University of New York.
(Back To Top)
Meeting the Newcomer
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
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.
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 skills.
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
Mrs. Cuomo is the founder and Chairperson of Mentoring USA.
Ms. Lans is the Executive Director.
In Memoriam: Hank Ketcham
Hank 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
We all will miss Hank Ketcham who brought chuckles into our
(Back To Top)
May 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.
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.
(Back To Top)
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.