Control of the Schools

Thursday, February 05, 2009

The law giving the mayor control of the New York City public schools expires in June. WNYC's Beth Fertig reports on the likelihood that it will be extended.


Beth Fertig

Comments [10]

Kristen from Bronx, NY

Thank you Ellen for those comments. Yes, this is a complicated issue, but I am so sick of the same old 'reasons' / excuses to keep checks and balances out of the system. At the moment MS 399 in the Bronx is fighting our school closure - with facts and with over 1000 signatures from the community on our petition to keep it open. The changes that are proposed for this district have no research to explain why this particular approach could help this population. This community has had name changes of schools before, and nothing has really changed. Now, we have a principal who is making tangible changes. We were rated proficient with well-developed features by the evaluation team last year. Our school is off the persistently dangerous list, and our Math scores have gone up by 12%. Things are working here.
Nobody from the Chancellor's office has even been to the school to determine whether or not this school closure makes sense.
We are having a rally and march to our CEC meeting on February 12th.
Please join us in asking for accountability and investing in real educations for our children.
February 12, 5 pm in front of Middle School 399, 120 East 184th Street, Bronx, NY.

Feb. 06 2009 11:15 AM
Leo from Queens

#7 Ellen from Brooklyn: I applaud your well written and concise comments. As you state, Only a system of checks and balances with true accountability and oversight will help to improve the public education system.
At this point there is no transparency so accountability is not achievable.

Feb. 05 2009 03:24 PM
Colette Carr from Flushing

the head of DOE should be an educator not a prosecutor nor a businessman education should be independent of the mayor especially the current one he and Klein have no clue re education they think it's all about numbers not people

Feb. 05 2009 02:28 PM
Ellen from Brooklyn

As a parent, I'm disappointed at Beth Fertig's presentation of the issues around mayoral control. For one thing, she accepted the conventional wisdom that test scores are a solid indication of improvement, without questioning the increased focus on those scores. If low-performing schools raise their scores, but the students learn nothing except how to take standardized tests, how much better off are the children.

She also repeated that principles have been "empowered" to control their own schools, without realizing how hamstrung they really are by the DOE's requirements for constant testing and by requiring the schools to absorb some of the services the districts formally paid for but with slashed budgets.

Finally, she dismissed parental involvement under the previous governance system as "theater" and merely "feeling listened to." Yet parents leaders in many districts, and to an extent at the city level, had considerable influence on the policies of their superintendents and had substantial information about district policies and budgets.

The current DOE turns the notion of "accountability" on its head by being accountable to no one for its policies--not to parents, not to the City Council, not even to the State legislature. Being able to vote the mayor out of office once every four years is not sufficient to hold him accountable for his chancellor's educational policies, when we are voting on his performance in so many other areas. And schoolchildren can't wait four years to rectify the DOE's grave mistakes.

Only a system of checks and balances, with true accountability and oversight, can fix this.

Feb. 05 2009 12:00 PM
Josh Karan from Washington Heights, NY

More than governance must be addressed.
In the past 100 years there have been nearly every kind of permutation --- mayoral control, an independent Board of Education, a powerless board, community school boards with powers, community boards without powers, districts, and regions.
Yet through all of this the outcomes for the majority, low income students of color, have not greatly changed.
Structures exist to implement goals. What has been lacking through this whole history is a clearly articulated vision, a systemic Comprehensive Education Plan, expressing a philosophy of education, plus the assurance of the resources to effectuate this vision.
In the next few weeks the Parent Commission on School Governance along with others will be calling for the creation of a Commission to craft a Constitution for the New York City School system, which will enumerate a value system, the need for resources, and a governance structure to implement this Constitution.

More when the Parent Commission report & recommendations are issued. It will be signed by activists from through out the city: CEC's, PA's, Teachers, School Administrators, and Educational Advocacy organizations.

Anyone interested can e-mail:

Josh Karan
member, District 6 Community Education Council

Feb. 05 2009 11:44 AM
Leo from Queens

SteveR #3 - An overwhelming majority of kids are NOT being educated. They are being taught to read and write. That's it!.

Feb. 05 2009 11:43 AM
Leo from Queens

Beth makes the statement that graduation rates have increased. How do we know that is the case? There have been published reports that failing students are move around to 'new' schools created or removed from regular high schools and moved to GED programs or forced out of the system. This is cooking the numbers a-la-Enron.
This is why we need transparency and a Board that can actually make all information available and summarize it.

Feb. 05 2009 11:41 AM
SteverR from Manhattan

Everything going up-- scores, grad rates, etc., yet people are still not happy. Only in NY!

Feb. 05 2009 11:40 AM
robert from park slope

People seem to be in general agreement that public schools worked better in the 30's, 40's and 50's. How did school governance then differ from the present? What are other factors that have weighed on performance?

Feb. 05 2009 11:35 AM
Leo from Queens

The law should be modified to enforce more transparency and accountability. Currently the DOE under the mayor's control creates and distributes statistics to promote its own agenda and no one really knows how are kids are doing.

But if one looks at individual cases and anecdotes its clear that junior and high school kids are not being educated and that the violence being experienced is much higher in spite of the fact that the DOE claims violence has gone done 32%.

The state should modify the rules to give the Education board or panel more independence as follows:
(1) Allow the same Appointments by Mayor and boro presidents
(2) Require that ALL appointees be educators or individuals involved in education
(3) include additional members appointed by parents and teachers
(4) Policy Board should be able to review all of the DOE documents and issue status or audit reports on an anual basis
(5) Policy board should be allowed to propose and evaluate education policy
(6) The mayor and DOE should not be obligated to follow the recommendations of the board, but it would allow taxpayers and parents the opportunity to have an independent point of view and recommendation from real educators (Not political appointees)so that they can make an independent judgement on the performance of the mayor and DOE.
Currently there is no such transparency and accountability as the board is just a rubber stamp and there is no information on what is really going on in our schools.

Feb. 05 2009 10:43 AM

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