Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Fred Smith, Poet Luareate of the Real Reform Movement

The Night Before… Once More
‘Tis the old year that’s closing rosy and gloomy,                  
In with de Blasio and goodbye to Bloomy.                          

With citywide hope cautiously mingled with doubt,            
We’ll soon know down here whether to smile or to shout.   

Some fresh air to breathe, perhaps, while out of the North,  
Tisch and King blow chill winds and continue to froth.       

Insistent on putting coal core in each stocking,                     
They say with disdain our resistance is shocking.                 

“Tough standards we need them to prep kids for college,    
Make them think deeper, absorb non-fiction knowledge.”   

Took Tisch merely a decade to find the right path                
And figure that graduates should read and do math.            

Now there’s no time to lose, can’t afford to be late.             
We must race to the forefront; let other states wait.             

High expectations are back in fashion again.                        
“Hail to our boldness!  Can we get an amen?!                      

The answer is simple. We’ve discovered the Grail.               
Yet in order to grasp it, most children must fail.”                 

But New York parents from each hamlet and region            
Began to question SED’s rhyme and reason.                        

Teachers and principals also were worried;                           
They knew very well the “reform” had been hurried.           

Lofty goals had been set—wrapped in gold platitudes         
“Overcome inequities; reach high latitudes.”                         
Who’d dare to attack that—why, you might as well try       
To take arms against motherhood and apple pie.                   

But launching the Core would require much testing             
Which took place in April. And things got interesting.                     

We were warned that kids would be frustrated and fret.     
To the State that made sense, not a cause for regret.            

For they needed some measure to anchor the Core,              
No matter how poor the tests or how low the score.             

But the exams were so bad—much worse than they’d dreamed,     
Items so difficult, teachers silently screamed.                                   
Children couldn’t finish them; many even cried.                  
Parents said enough this time, and protests grew wide.        

King and Walcott assured them: “You don’t understand.    
A thirty percent drop in scores—Just what we’d planned.   

We now have a baseline from which we can grow.               
Going Down is the New Up.  Why, didn’t you know!”       

But if tests were the answer one question remained             
Where were all the resources to get teachers trained?           

To give students a chance of meeting Core standards          
The public rose up.  Explanations demanded.                       

Tisch and King had to leave their Albany palace                  
And hear how we felt ‘bout their Common Core Chalice.    

“How dare you set children up as pawns to knock down?   
This isn’t some board game and you aren’t the Crown!”      

King heard it straight from parents at his first forum.           
Teachers spoke up too.  He cringed.  It lacked decorum.      

Syracuse and Poughkeepsie—feelings running strong;         
Eastport roared the many ways the Core was wrong.           

Got so hot, King lost his cool; the jeers upset him.               
Saw soccer moms and special ops out there to get him.        

“That’s it.” he said. “It’s too real. Time to change the rules.
Give me crowds who love the Core, not truth-seeking fools.

‘Specially now, when I’m forced to visit the City.
Those crowds will be loud and show me no pity.”

And sure enough in Brooklyn, those allowed to speak
Each bore an I ♥ Core sign.  It truly was weak:

The sound of Core, Core seemed like cawing from all rows,
I felt I’m in a cornfield surrounded by crows.

The next night the City held a much fairer forum.
Half the crowd taught Tisch and King the meaning of De-Core’em.

~And so back to the future and twenty-fourteen.
We’re stronger now and growing and we have a dream.
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And my friends, with 2014 upon us, we must hope with vigilance that the new mayor honors his commitment to a progressive agenda for the good of all children in the sacred trust of the New York City Public Schools. We know we must continue to beat back those at all levels who would do them harm.

Happy Holidays and a Healthy New Year.

Fred

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