Wednesday, June 3, 2009

The Future of NYC Public Education under Mayoral Control: On View Now in England

Several weeks ago, I wrote about the twenty-year history of the England’s standardized national exam system, called Sats, and how its present unhappy state could well be a predictor of the future of NCLB in the U.S. generally and the future of education in NYC public schools specifically.

The picture is an ugly one, with teachers and principals throughout the country widely critical of the exams due to the pressure they place on students, resulting in a persistent loss of interest in reading or learning because of endless drill and test preparation, excessive time devoted to teaching to the test, the undue narrowing of the curriculum, and other generally anti-educational consequences.

In effect, teachers and principals have gone to war against their own government, threatening to boycott all aspects of next year’s exams if they are not abolished.

Last month, England’s National Union of Teachers, the country’s largest, voted overwhelmingly to boycott next year’s Sats exams. Now, on May 2, the National Association of Headteachers (NAHT), roughly equivalent to a national principals’ union, took the unprecedented step of overwhelmingly voting (94 percent in favor) to join the teachers’ planned boycott of next year’s exams, even though they will be in direct violation of national law by doing so. The two unions’ boycotts signify that they are refusing involvement in all aspects of England’s national exams: preparation, administration, invigilating (proctoring), and grading.

It’s taken twenty years for things in England to reach the point of open rebellion by the teachers’ and principals’ unions against their country’s system of standardized exams, a system not significantly different from the one Mayor Bloomberg and Chancellor Klein wield with such authoritarian impunity to justify their unilateral school closings and other policy whims. The arguments in England are identical to those we routinely hear in New York from outspoken teachers as well as parent leaders and education advocates.

President Obama and Education Secretary Duncan, are you paying attention to the devastating effect these exams are having on public education in England?

Mayor Bloomberg and Chancellor Klein, are you aware of the damage such extreme emphasis on standardized exam performance has caused to England’s educational system and the negative impacts it has had on that country’s children?

New Yorkers, are you prepared to let your children suffer the consequences of four (or more) years of mayoral control under Mayor-for-life Bloomberg and Chancellor-for-life Klein?

All you have to do is look at the nightmare that has become England’s educational system to see what New York City’s public education system will look like in a few more years (unless, of course, the mayor succeeds in privatizing and charterizing it first, in which case we’ll have simply traded one nightmare for another). -- Steve Koss

No comments: