A couple of weeks ago, a new coalition of education, business and government groups came together in White Plains to protest all the “mandates” coming down from Albany—all the rules and programs and reforms that force school districts to spend money.
At the time, a schools superintendent referred to Race to the Top, the federal education reform initiative that is driving a lot of change in NY, as “race to the flop.”
They started an online petition to “Stop Albany From Taking Our Power.”
Today, a different group of educators and business leaders came together in Yonkers to defend those same reforms as not only good policy, but absolute necessity if New York is to produce high school grads who are ready for college.
State Education Commissioner John King—head coach, if you will, of Team Reform in New York—told a few dozen business leaders that the state’s schools have not been turning out quality graduates, but will be better equipped to do so in the future because of the Common Core standards. He’s been giving that message to, well, anyone who will listen.
“Of the students who do graduate, less than half are ready to do college level work,” he said.
Robert Corcoran, president and chairman of the GE Foundation, a big advocate for the new standards, put it like this: “Our education system today, compared to the one I grew up in, is broken.”
There was no mention of the costs of reform—even though the meeting took place in Yonkers, where the city school system has had to cut hundreds of employees in recent years because of budget crisis after crisis.
There is probably truth on both sides. New York’s schools—some of them, not all of them—need to do a better job. But schools cannot continue to take on new expenses, the way their budgets are constructed (lots of fixed expenses, tax cap, etc.).
There is a real, troublesome divide here between those making education policy for New York and many of those who are carrying it out.
Yonkers Superintendent Bernard Pierorazio is sort of in the middle. He’s trying his best to prepare the city’s teachers and staff for the Common Core, all the new tests, the new evaluations, etc. But the city is so strapped that many extra-curriculars have been cut.
“It’s not easy,” he told me, shaking his head.
King talked quite a bit about the promise of technology, in particular of on-line testing.
But someone pointed out to the commish that in many Yonkers schools, you can’t even get on the Internet.