Thursday, October 23, 2008

What A Bloomberg Third Term Will Mean For The Public Schools

Writing over at Gotham Schools, Elizabeth Green has outlined her view of what a third term means for the public schools. Here are my ten predictions of what we'll see if the mayor does get elected again:
  1. More Charter Schools -- First on Elizabeth's list, this one is a no-brainer. The mayor and chancellor's preference for charters over public schools is well known. But look for large swaths of some districts to be given over the charters.
  2. Cuts in School Construction -- The administration has suggested the next capital plan will be smaller. Bloomberg cut school construction after 9/11. He'll return to that playbook. Pushing school construction out or canceling it will not affect the people who urged the mayor to run again. Their kids all go to private school.
  3. End of Community School Districts -- These exist mostly in name only. Superintendents have all been assigned data coaching duties which take them far from their district and make it impossible to do their jobs. In a third term the administration would achieve their goal of eliminating what's left of districts. (We might see District 31 / Staten Island hold out the longest due to their geographic isolation.)
  4. More Testing -- Another no-brainer. Chief Accountability Officer Jim Liebman has made no secret of his desire to push high stakes testing to younger and younger kids. Test scores will be used to justify or rate everything and those activities that don't contribute to improving scores will see cuts. Which leads to...
  5. Less of the Arts and Enrichment -- Budget cuts and the narrow focus on driving test scores will cause an impoverishment of the curriculum.
  6. More Push-outs and Drop-outs -- Another consequence of the testing mania. Texas was an early adopter of aggressive use of high stakes testing. Studies have shown the sinister underside -- struggling lower income kids pushed out of the system to keep them from dragging down test scores. Look for the same here, especially with the test-based retention programs now in grades 3,5,7,8.
  7. Continued De-professionalization of Teaching -- The traditional concept that a teacher is a highly respected professional is under assault in too many ways to list here. Rather than seeking to create an environment where teachers and students can be successful, the DOE will employ carrots and sticks to manage a workforce made up increasingly of short termers with alternative credentials.
  8. Exodus of Competent Administrators -- Many have been holding out thinking they could wait out Klein and Bloomberg. The prospect of four more years will cause them to buckle and flee.
  9. Repression and Retaliation -- Deputy Chancellor Chris Cerf has bragged about forming "Truth Squads" to comb through blogs and listservs ferreting out the bad things said about DOE. He admitted to sending communication office staffers to tape lectures of Diane Ravitch, the distinguished academic who has been critical of the Bloomberg education record. With no re-election or governance debate in the third term, expect those who don't toe the line to see consequences.
  10. Reign of the Foundations -- Educational policy in this city is really set by the unaccountable and faceless foundations -- Gates Foundation, Broad Foundation, Dell Foundation, etc. These are the true "special interests". Experimentation with the education of urban children is a hobby for billionaires. Look for the rich guys to have free reign with our kids.
A grim picture but clearly possible. This year's decision in Albany on mayoral control and the next mayoral election will determine how much comes to pass.


Anonymous said...

Good assessment. Central control, intimidated principals, teaching-to-the-test, innovation discouraged, cosmetic parent involvement, lowest-common-denominator public schools, charter school skimming....It's a sad picture indeed.

Unless he's not re-elected.


Anonymous said...

You forgot to mention the frontal assault on schools that provide real choices to families by any means other than charters. said...

Remember, we don't have to vote for him. As a parent, anyone would be preferable.

Anonymous said...

Well said.
Should they maintain control of the schools, they will initiate a Final Offensive against public education in the city.

The only hope is that people's disgust and anger over the turn of events with term limits will change the political dynamic in the state legislature when mayoral control is up for re-authorization next spring. There have been reports that members of the Assembly have stated that Bloomberg can rescind term limits or maintain his dictatorial control of the schools, but he can't have both. This week's events will hopefully energize those who seek to bring more transparency, checks and balances, and democracy to the schools.

I also think that, if the Democrats can field an effective candidate who runs a smart populist campaign, that it's not a foregone conclusion that Bloomberg will be re-elected. He has harmed himself in the view of many people who may have previously admired him, and shown that, rather than banishing special interests from City Hall, Bloomberg himself is in fact the special interest.

It will not be hard to tar candidate Bloomberg with responsibility - which as the personification of finance and real estate domination of the city, he has - for the hard times that are fast coming upon us.

As a public school parent and teacher, the prospects are frightening. But dictatorships are often weaker and more brittle than they appear, and the political winds are stirring all over.

Patrick Sullivan said...

Thanks. Great comments. Some are discouraged but many are finally saying "something must be done". The systematic exclusion of parents in the decisions regarding the education of their children has never been seen in the United States. Ours is a tradition of elected school boards reflecting the will of the people, not just the billionaires. Mayoral control was an experiment. Bloomberg and is on borrowed time.

Anonymous said...

Say it ain't so!

Yes these are predictions but I happen to agree with most of them. The testing mania is out of control, especially since the tests are not a measure of intelligence but a matter of memorizing and regurgitating data back at them, not actually using the mind in a creative intelligent way or proving that you have any common sense worth to put that information to use and make a living!