Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Quinn's speech on education: high and low points

Speaker Christine Quinn, thought to be the frontrunner in the race to replace Mayor Bloomberg, gave a major speech on education yesterday at the New School. The full transcript is here; there’s also a Video, including a brief Q and A by Clara Hemphill of InsideSchools.   

I highly recommend people read the speech and watch the video of the entire event.
Some observations:  The speech was pretty comprehensive and its strengths were that she did express skepticism on many of the worst of Bloomberg policies: rampant school closings and obsessive testing, and she at least implied we don’t need any more charter schools, though she said she wouldn’t make them pay rent when they occupy space in school buildings.  (When she said that would mean the end of charter schools, some in the audience shouted “Good!”)

Yet her speech was disappointingly thin on practical positive proposals to improve our schools, especially in the area of parent input.

  • Though she said she was “proposing a package of reforms called "Parents Matter,”  she  focused on the idea of an  online “Parent University” for parents to learn about nutrition and academic subjects; expanding a “College Readiness Initiative” developed by New Visions that helps inform parents how to ensure their kids are prepared for college by sharing data, and announced a new effort with InsideSchools to “launch an online tool to help simplify the complicated school choice system.”  In all, she seemed to regard parents as Bloomberg does: consumers and passive recipients of information rather than partners in decision-making.  She even compared the need to improve DOE’s “customer service” to Zappos online shoe store.
  • She made a big push on replacing textbooks with tablets, which will be very expensive, if the cost of E-books are included.  (And will allow for-profit companies like Murdoch’s Amplify, run by Joel Klein, to make a lot of money.)
  • She proposed keeping kids in the most high-poverty schools in “structured learning environments” until 6 PM, which many parents (and students) do not support, and which has little research to back it up. 
  • Quinn, like other many of the other candidates, promoted the idea of community schools, including wraparound services such as medical clinics, which is the UFT’s current pet proposal.  Yet this idea, as well as expanding preK which she also supports, will be difficult in most neighborhoods given the overwhelming overcrowding and critical shortage of space in our schools that in many cases has worsened because of enrollment growth and co-locations.   The city council has a legal role in approving the capital plan and yet under Quinn, has never used its authority to require any improvements in its DOE’s faulty enrollment projections, its misplaced priorities, or its underfunding of school construction.
  • On testing, she came out for expanding the portfolio schools and against the current overemphasis on testing and test prep, which she said was an immense waste of time; this part of the speech got the most positive response from the audience.   She even criticized Pearson by name. Yet her one specific proposal, to end the Pearson field tests, is up to the state not the mayor. 
  • Finally, and most grievously, she did not mention class size, the top priority of parents and a critical precondition for improving the quality of NYC schools.  Instead, she called for yet another research study, to be done by Columbia University, to determine what  “best practices” should be replicated.
In the Q and A section, when asked about giving parent-led Community Education Councils more authority, she compared them to Community Boards and maintained that without any change in their current advisory role they could and should be listened to more; but CBs have more influence, in large part, because the City Council gets final vote on land use issues, which it doesn’t on most education policies like school closings or co-locations.  Even so CBs have been overruled on many critical issues like Yankee Stadium and the expansion of Columbia University.
She also expressed confusion and ambivalence when asked about the networks, which most parents detest and many teachers I’ve spoken to think are useless.  Anyway, that's my (admittedly biased) perspective. Here are some news clips; please watch or read the speech and leave your comments below!   

·  In Speech, Quinn Spells Out Education Platform - Metropolis - WSJ

·  Council Speaker Quinn Gives Education Policy Speech -

·  Quinn seeks to build on Bloomberg's education legacy - Crains ...

·  Christine Quinn Wants to Model NYC's School System on Zappos  -Politicker...

·  Quinn Outlines New York City Education Policy - Epoch Times

·  Quinn says city schools need collaboration, not competition – Gotham Schools

·  Christine Quinn Wants to Replace Textbooks with Tablets - DNAinfo ...

·Christine Quinn's education speech proposes axing textbooks, extending school until 6 pm;

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

1) Why didn't Christine Quinn enact some of these ideas while her was Speaker of the City Council for twelve years?

2) To pay for tablets over teachers and textbooks, when schools are overcrowded and some don't even have basic textbooks seems uninformed and naive.

Where has Ms. Quinn been for the last twelve years?
Oh, right, in the NYC City Council. Well, you can't expect her to be up on City matters...oh, wait, that's her job.

So what's distracted her from educational issues? Could it be because she's been too busy shutting down community hospitals, giving away public land to corporate entities and allowing them to build on children's playgrounds?