Wednesday, October 28, 2009

NYC parents: the best and the wisest, but utterly ignored

See Diane Ravitch’s latest and superb column in EdWeek:

John Dewey wrote that what the best and wisest parent wants for his own child is what the community should want for all its children. That's a good starting point. What does the best and wisest parent want for his or her own child? Certainly, that parent would want a school with small classes, which guarantees that her child would get personal attention.
Class size is a pretty good indicator of what most people mean by quality. If you visit the most elite private schools, you can bet that they don't have 32 students in a class. On the Web sites of such schools, one learns that classes are typically 12 to 15 students to a teacher. Such luxury is unheard of in most public schools, with the possible exception of schools in tony suburbs. Many of those who pronounce that class size doesn't matter send their own children to schools with small classes.Another indicator of quality is the presence of the arts. The best and wisest parent would not want his child to go to a school with no teachers of music, art, dance, or other arts. Yet we know that in most of our public schools today, the arts have been sacrificed to make more time for test-prepping.

In this case, the majority of NYC parents are “the best and the wisest.” Over and over again, in the DOE own annual surveys, public school parents say their top priority for their children’s schools is smaller classes, followed by more enrichment. And yet they are completely ignored by an administration whose own children attend schools with just these attributes.

One might add, what private school has merit pay tied to standardized test scores? Or spends millions to create teams of teachers and bureaucrats to engage in “data analysis” supposedly to help “differentiate” instruction, while doing nothing to reduce class size?

What private school has adopted what is likely to be the next priority of the administration, according to Chris Cerf, which is to further “individualize” learning through online computer instruction, rather than give students an opportunity to receive more feedback from actual human beings? As Joel Klein has said, if he gets his way, he will cut the teaching force by another 30 percent.

Not a single private school that I know of would stand for such priorities, and certainly none of the elite schools where the officials determining educational policy for our public schools sent their own children to school.

Mayor Bloomberg: Spence (average class size: 16-18); Chancellor Klein: Miss Porter’s (average class size: 11); Photo Agnostopoulos (DOE’s Chief Operating Officer) Dalton (average class size: 15)

Obama: Sidwell Friends (average class size: 15).

Instead of taking heed of the DOE's own parent surveys, the mayor continually tells parents to butt out when it comes to issues like school overcrowding, and only involve themselves "in the micro issues of their child’s education, like the child’s attendance, behavior and grades."
While supposedly favoring parental "choice" he also has said that parents should have no say in "setting educational policy."
This paternalism also imbues the US Department of Education under Obama, as Diane points out:

Are these the priorities of President Obama's Race to the Top Fund? Absolutely not! The president's Department of Education will dispense nearly $5 billion, not to reduce class sizes, not to expand access to the arts, and not to improve the beauty and functionality of our public schools, but to incentivize the workforce with merit pay; to increase the privatization of struggling schools; and to compel teachers to teach to admittedly poor tests by tying teacher pay to students' test scores. Let's get back to the new federal education agenda. Seeing how little has changed from Bush to Obama in education policy, I want my share of that $5 billion back.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

As a teacher I can tell you class size matters. I have four classes of 31 students. My workload is huge. I ask the kids to write a lot and it takes me hours and hours to read their papers and give them comments. If I had half the students I could be so much more effective. Also, classroom management would b so much easier. Right now, I have one class that is so behind because there are about 5 kids in there that are constant disturbances. I have kids who are so far behind mixed in with kids who should be challenged to move ahead. I can't do it all.