Monday, June 14, 2021

Adams' comments on class size, remote learning and year-round schooling; and Maya Wiley and Danny Dromm on the ensuing controversy

On Friday, a furor erupted when the Matt Skidmore Show tweeted a video excerpt from a Citizen's Budget Committee Mayoral forum that took place on February 25. The clip is above,  in which Eric Adams said that if elected, he would create a summer school program in which each teacher would have a class of 300-400 students.

Here are Adams' exact remarks, from the transcript:

And so if you do a full year school year by using the new technology of remote learning, you don't need children to be in a school building with a number of teachers, it's just the opposite. You could have one great teacher that's in one of our specialized high schools to teach 300 to 400 students who are struggling in math with the skillful way that they're able to teach. 

Let's look at our best mastered [sic] teachers and have them have programs where they're no longer being just within a school building. We no longer have to live within the boundaries of walls, of locations. We can now have a different method of teaching and I'm going to have the best remote learning that we could possibly have, not just turning on the screen and having children look at someone or really being engaged.

After the video was tweeted,  it was retweeted thousands of times, commented upon and disputed by the other candidates.  Here are just some of the articles about the controversy in Intelligencer, NY1, Politico, and Daily News, among others.

In response, Adams claimed he "misspoke and meant to say 30 to 40 students. He also said he was referring to summer school classes and optional enrichment for high school students." 

But neither of those statements are true.  As Mercedes Schneider pointed out in her blog,  Adams had said something very similar in an interview in Bloomberg News, in an interview with political consultant, Howard Wolfson, on  February 22, just three days before the CBC forum: 

So just dealing with summer school — we could use remote learning. We should have the best remote-learning experience on the globe. We should reach out to Google, we should reach out to Facebook, we should reach out to our tech industry, and we should build out a state-of-the-art remote learning experience so that children don’t have to sit in the school building. We should require two to three hours a day where our young people during the summer months are receiving continuous instruction. And you could have a great teacher, math teacher, English teacher, from one of the specialized high schools, who can do this remotely, or one of the great teachers of schools, public, middle schools.

Covid has revealed to us we can do remote learning — we just have to do it right. We can’t go through the motions. Too many students — they’ll sign on, they just put a screen up. That is not remote learning. We need to master remote learning. You could have one teacher who could instruct remotely 200 to 300 students, and give them the instruction that they deserve. We can do this if we bridge technology with the learning experience, and it would be cost-effective.

Yet if we've learned one thing from this pandemic, is that remote learning doesn't work, especially with large classes -- as too many NYC kids have been subjected to this year.  (See my Council testimony on this.) 

Moreover, these remote classes would not be "optional" as he now claims, but an essential part of year-round schooling that would be required of all students, if Adams has his way.

Mostly skipped over in the class size controversy is Adams' proposal for mandatory year-round schooling.  The below is the top education item in his 100 Steps Forward for NYC campaign document.

Year-round schooling is a highly unpopular idea among most parents, nearly as unpopular as large classes, as shown in this recent nationwide survey of parents on what steps should be taken to make up for the Covid disruption of learning, like extending the school year. 

On Sunday, Maya Wiley held a press conference in Jackson Heights Queens, to discuss her proposal to reduce class size, as well as her other education priorities.  All the parents and teachers who spoke also agreed about the need to invest in smaller classes and criticized Eric Adams' claim that remote classes with hundreds of students could ever "give them the instruction that they deserve."  

Wiley specifically pointed out that though most all student suffer from a regime of remote learning, the research shows that those who suffer the most are disadvantaged students: "online learning is not racial equity because kids of color fall further behind in online learning,”

Videos of all the speakers at the rally,  including Wiley, are posted here.  Below is what she said when she was asked by the NY1 reporter about the Adams proposal of instituting remote summer school classes with hundreds of students:

Here is what Council Member Danny Dromm, a former teacher who was at the rally, said on the same topic:

The Adams campaign continues to deny that the candidate ever meant what he clearly did mean, with his campaign spokesperson insisting to the Daily News that "the only thing that matters” is the candidate is “not going to require any student to attend 300-400 person classes or any teacher to teach them."

“He believes in in-person classes and small class sizes. He’s always said so."  

After looking carefully at his education record and campaign proposals, I see no mention of this. 

For Adam's education proposals on a host of other issues, check out our comparison charts, summarizing his education agenda and those of the other Mayoral candidates.

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