Saturday, February 15, 2014

Norm in The Wave: A New Educational Landscape

A New Educational Landscape
By Norm Scott

My major problem in writing about education in this space recently? EIO – Education Information Overload. So many education issues, so little time – and space in this column to cover them. The most obvious change in the educational landscape has been a new mayor and chancellor, the Bill de Blasio/Carmen Farina team. Farina held just about every type job in her 40 plus years in the system. The most impressive? Spending a major chunk of her career actually teaching before starting her rise, thus giving heart to experienced teachers who have been denigrated by corporate education reformers (actually education deformers) who have declared the teaching profession dead over the past 12 years. Deformers have pushed the line you can substitute for experience with people with 6 weeks training. You know, get a little training, spend a few years so you can declare yourself an “expert” in education and go into educational leadership or policy. One of Farina’s first acts? Declaring that to become a principal one must be in the system for seven years. That alone issues a signal to educators that the Mickey Mouse games of the BloomKleinCott years may be over.

But let’s not leap onto the Farina bandwagon until we see some signs that she is about action not just words. Take our local Rockaway PS 106 scandal revealed in the – I have to gag before I write it – NY Post a few weeks ago. Farina sent in people to check it out and since then, nothing. Local educators who have been in touch are waiting to see what happens to Principal Marcella Sills and her protector, District 27 Superintendent Michelle Lloyd-Bey, who has been a constant presence in District 27 supporting every initiative of the Bloomberg years with gusto, from the closing of Far Rockaway HS on. If Lloyd-Bey and Sills are standing in September that will send a strong “same-old, same-old” message.

There are so many stories out there of incompetent and even cruel administrators, many of them graduates of the principal training Leadership Academy set up by former Chancellor Joel Klein. (Sills is a graduate.) It will take a lot of housecleaning to bring in people who know how to run a school and treat parents, teachers and students with respect. I’m in “wait and see” mode.

A couple of issues have risen to the surface. The common core, national standards imposed by the Obama administration tied to using test results to rate teachers, an end run around tenure. Open warfare has broken out about these standards. Many parents and teachers around NY State are in open revolt. The useless Board of Regents and the equally decrepit State Education Department have made so many errors around this issue they were forced to hold off on implementation. Early in the year there were celebratory articles in The Wave over the reappointment of our own Geraldine Chapey as a Regent. Talk about useless. Maybe it’s time to actually hold an election to replace a process that puts control of education into the hands of corrupt Albany politicians who choose the Regents.

People on the left opposed the common core/national curriculum for numerous reasons: increased testing, taking away local rights, the lack of real educator input, the knife to the throat implementation, are just a few. One of my reasons to oppose is based on who is pushing it and why – I’ll get into the weeds in a future column.

The corporate deformers, who are making billions on this initiative were never worried about the left. But suddenly the right wing woke up as to what was going on. If you look back over the first 4 years of the Obama administration you never heard Republicans, who savage Obama on just about everything, say one negative word on his education initiatives, especially the anti-teacher focused Race To The Top. Democrats like our slug of a Governor, Cuomo, have also been cheerleaders. But suddenly, the tea party wing and people like Glenn Beck have woken up to exactly what a national curriculum means. Southern states may no longer teach that the South won the Civil War or that dinosaurs used to hang out at the home sapiens camp sites looking for scraps. Now there is a national right wing movement to oppose the federal interference in state rights’ control of education. This has put liberals and the left - or “progressives” in a quandary. Some feel they must support the common core just because of the right wing assault. People in my wing are battling over whether to build alliances with the tea party on this issue. I tend toward the “alliance” wing. I just can’t wait to rally together with Glenn Beckians, which by the way may be happening on May 17 at a planned rally at the headquarters of Pearson, the billion dollar company cleaning up on the common core initiatives.

Norm blogs all too often at

Published in print and online Feb. 14, 2014:

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