Sunday, May 24, 2009

NYC Teacher Arthur Goldstein Speaks Out Against Mayoral Control

UPDATED, Sunday, 9 PM:
Added comments from Leonie Haimson in response to the apple polishing Mark Sternberg, principal of the Bronx Lab School.
Leonie is too nice. The reporter she refers to (How did the reporter miss this?) is David Herzenhorn who missed a lot accidentally on purpose when he covered the NYC ed beat. He is now covering the political beat in DC and co-wrote a front page article in today's Times. I wonder what he missed today?

If you look at the piece I posted below this one where Bloomberg trashes parent attempt to play more of a role with his "joke" of claiming "educators should be in charge" when in fact his non-educator chancellor has made teacher input minimal, here is one educator who doesn't buy into mayoral control, which unfortunately his union leadership does.

In today's New York Daily News, Arthur Goldstein, an ESL teacher at Francis Lewis HS in Bayside, takes a stand. Nice to see a teacher publicly speak out.

Teacher Against Mayoral Control

As a teacher in an A-rated school, I believe mayoral control has been an absolute disaster.

Absolute power corrupts absolutely. Our federal and state governments have checks and balances so no one person has total control, which is a synonym for dictatorship.

City kids need reasonable class sizes and decent facilities. Under Mayor Bloomberg, class sizes just took their biggest leap in 10 years.

Some people say class size doesn't matter, but even the best teachers can give more attention to 20 kids than 34. The fewer kids I have, the more individual attention each one gets.

Under this mayor, charter schools get the best of everything, including small classes and new technology.

My high school was built to hold 1,800 but enrolls 4,450 students. My kids sit in a crumbling trailer, with no technology and often no heat in the winter. So much for efficiency.

The mayor says it's his way or "the bad old days." That's a false choice. We need a system that works better than what we have.

We need a chancellor who works for the kids, not the mayor. The chancellor needs to fight for what's best for kids whether or not the mayor agrees. He can't do that if the mayor can fire him for not following his orders.

A few years ago, the mayor fired two members of the Panel for Educational Policy who had the nerve to disagree with him. Consequently, the PEP is a mayoral rubber stamp. No mayoral appointee dares to stand up for kids.

This mayor boasts about accountability. Teachers are accountable. Principals are accountable, but the only time the mayor is accountable is once every four years.

That's not enough, particularly for a man who is prepared to spend $100 million to buy reelection and who scoffed at the voters by changing the term limits law they twice affirmed.

Four more years of this system guarantees the privatization and destruction of public education in New York City. That's a prospect we should all oppose.

Arthur Goldstein teaches English as a Second Language at Francis Lewis High School in Queens

Leonie's Comments
An oped from the opposite point of view from the principal of Bronx Lab is here:

The headline for his oped is “Accountability saved my dying school” but the truth is very different.

DOE allowed Evander Childs to die, and instead opened new schools w/ completely different types of students w/in them.

As Eduwonkette noted in 2007: “On every dimension, the Evander incoming 9th graders are lagging behind academically - they are more likely to be in special education or to be classified as ELL, they are much more likely to be overage for their grade (i.e. they had been retained before), their attendance rates in junior high school were much lower, and they were much less likely to be proficient in reading and math.

Of particular note is the praise showered on Bronx Lab at the end of the 2004-2005 school year - see this NY Times article - but 46.6% of their kids were proficient in reading and 52.7% in math when they walked in the door, while Evander's entering students passed at rates of only 11.1% in reading and 12.8% in math.

How did the reporter miss this? ….Comparing these schools is either incredibly foolish or incredibly dishonest - and I don't think the folks running NYC schools are foolish.”

What else? Oh yes, according to the DOE’s statistics, Bronx Lab has class sizes this year ranging from 13 to 25. Meanwhile, most of our large high schools – including the one that Arthur Goldstein teaches at – continue to have class sizes of 34, and the DOE refuses to do anything about it.

In fact Joel Klein recently said if he had his way, he would shrink the teaching force by 30% -- which would consign many of our regular public high schools to class sizes of 45 students.


Pogue said...

Hey, as far as Marc Sternberg's "For" opinion on mayoral control...Isn't the Bronx Lab School one of those small schools that replaced the Evander Childs High School? Weren't people trumpeting the test score and graduation rate even though they were allowed to be selective with their incoming freshmen? For all the Bronx Lab's fabulous numbers, I'd be curious to know what the Special Ed. and ELL population is of that school.

Norm said...

I think Eduwonkette exposed the sham of the small schools at Evander Childs a few years ago.

Anonymous said...

Posted on the nyc ed news listserve:

The level of contempt this Mayor has for public school parents -- and the citizenry in general -- would be astonishing in any public figure, but in a man who is ostensibly running in an upcoming election, it's simply extraordinary. Every time he opens his mouth, words come out that reflect a billionaire's arrogance, aloofness, and lack of empathy for and understanding of ordinary New Yorkers' lives.

The Mayor tells everyone not to worry about flu, that just because there are a few people sick, "That it doesn't mean you stop living." Until a beloved Queens teacher and assistant principal dies and the Mayor dismissively rationalizes continued school operation with 40-60% of the kids absent as a day care issue.

Norman Seabrook, union head for corrections officers at Rikers Island complains about the spread of flu among inmates there, and the Mayor's typically sarcastic response is, "If he is an epidemiologist, it's the first time I've heard of it." Nor, the last time I heard of it, was Mr. Bloomberg.

Parents want a meaningful voice in the policies affecting their children's education, and the Mayor tells them by radio interview to butt out, that they're neither needed or wanted. And while he's at it, he reverts back to his usual scare tactics that any parental input is tantamount to destroying what he's built (such a bad idea??) and that it will automatically return NYC public education to "the bad old days."

It would be pleasant if just once, this Mayor at least acted like cares, even if inside he could care less. Of course, Mr. Bloomberg doesn't have to worry about offending parents or anyone else, since he has already haughtily subverted their term liimits wishes and bought and paid for both the City Council and the election itself.

If you think about it, it's simply astonishing to realize that later this year, hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers will be voting for this bitter, intolerant, humorless, and affectless individual (I can't bring myself to use the words human being) as their Mayor for another four years. Or more, if Mike decides he wants to stick around. After all, what Mikey wants, Mikey gets, no more how much it costs him or how much pain it inflicts on the average New Yorker about whom he cares so little.

Steve Koss

Under Assault said...

I don't want to seem petty, but when you discuss class size numbers, please don't forget to mention that music and phys ed teachers have 50 on register. Music, an academic subject like all the other classes, becomes nightmarish at times. Phys ed generally has two teachers in the gym room (making 100 a "normal" class size). The UFT and the DoE must be considering these numbers collateral damage or something, because they're still in place, contract after negotiated contract.

Apart from the sheer numbers of kids, there is a fairness issue here. In these classes, the teacher does half again the amount of attendance taking, marking, grading, and the pie-in-the-sky differentiation that other teachers do, and the kids get less of the individual attention they need to succeed in those subjects.