Thursday, August 23, 2007

Middle Schools Initiative & Cell Phone Ban: Discussions at Panel for Educational Policy Meeting

The Panel for Educational Policy meets monthly to review DOE policies and approve budgets. As the appointee of Borough President Scott Stringer, I represent Manhattan on the Panel. The DOE doesn't release minutes or transcripts of the proceedings so I'll be relating the important items for all interested. See also InsideSchools for coverage.

Middle School Initiative

The DOE presented their initiative to adopt recommendations of the City Council's Middle School Task Force. NYU education professor Pedro Noguera did an excellent job of pulling a strong report out of a task force filled with diverse views. It's a shame the mayor and chancellor couldn't give it more than half-hearted support. The NY Times coverage reflected the timid response:
"But the mayor shied away from adopting the most far-ranging changes recommended in the reports, like significantly reducing class sizes, creating a special middle school academy to train teachers about early adolescence, and removing police officers from city schools to create a more welcoming atmosphere."
I pointed out how the middle school situated inside DOE headquarters, the Ross Global Academy charter school, has capped class size at 20 students and asked if the more modest class size reduction recommendations in the report (25 students per class) would be adopted. The answer was no. Since the report offers smaller classes as a way to attract experienced teachers to high-needs schools, I then asked what measures would be taken to attract and retain teachers. The DOE plan is to expand the lead teacher program and offer professional development.

We often hear the mayor speak on the nature of leadership: "Lead from the front" etc. Middle school reform is an area where we could use some of that leadership. Council Speaker Chris Quinn and the people behind report are looking at the situation optimistically - that the initial DOE position is only a start and more recommendations will be embraced. Let's hope their optimism is warranted

School Safety

Elayna Konstan, the CEO of the Office of School and Youth Development said our schools are getting safer. The next day the State Education Department said schools are getting more dangerous. You can find statistics for your school on the SED web site. I asked if the Middle School Task Force Report recommendations on school safety would be implemented, specifically, would educators be given more control over school safety officers and police in the schools. Konstan was not familiar with the recommendations and pointed to their efforts in professional development and sharing of best practices.

Cell Phone Ban

The City Council has passed a bill allowing students to carry phones to and from school. While the mayor has vetoed it, the Council has said they will override the veto and pass the bill into law. I asked CEO Konstan if the administration would work with the Council to accommodate the rights of students or would there be more litigation. The response was more tough talk: "We'll wait for the litigation." The chancellor referred me to the mayor's veto message.


Anonymous said...

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Anonymous said...

School safety has been and will continue to be a problem in NYC and the country. The problems often times are gang related or gang wanna be's. Until the public creates a sustained outcry that translates into their votes, little will really be accomplished. The fact is that there is a substantial number of incorrigible students who due to a myriad of problems/circumstances, will never allow the public school system to function. This population must be educated in a restricted environment which will come into direct conflict with the advocacy groups that will initiate litigation against whoever is running the school system. There are no magic solutions to this problem.