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It's been months since the liBloomberg-Klein Complex introduced Opportunity NYC, a program that would pay students for academic achievement, specifically: standardized test scores. This story has been covered by all the major media outlets, the vast sea of NYC edublogs and even the Colbert Report. Still, no one has asked: "What do real fe students think about 'Cash for Kids'?" At Monday's NYC Student Union meeting, students voted unanimously in disapproval of the program. Here are some student opinions from the press release:
"It insults hard-working, low- income students by conveying the message that they could not possibly value education in itself and must need some sort of incentive in order to perform better in school." -- Laura Johnson, 17"A student that tries to earn the money but barely misses the cut off score to earn the money will only become frustrated and give up." -- Hasanur Rahman, 16
"[Opportunity NYC] propagates the test prep culture and detracts from other important aspects of education." -- Shauna Fitzgerald, 15
"The cash being used in this program could better be used to solve citywide problems affecting all students like class size and school resources." -- Ben Shanahan, 15
I tend to trust the opinion of my peers and was one of the students who eventually voted for the resolution disapproving of the program. Still, I personally believe there might be some benefits to the program:
- As my friend and fellow Student Union member Ashu Kapoor said: â€œIt's nice to know that the city is coming up with new and creative ways to help New York City public school students.â€
- A lot of students just don't care about school and this might encourage them to get involved in school. (However, as other students at the meeting noted, that involvement would be temporary and wouldn't bring the longterm results that we need.)
- It just might work.
Unfortunately, "it just might work" is not a good enough rationale for a program on this grand a scale. The DOE needs to come up with incentives for students to get into their education but this program has too many holes in it. Maybe instead of Cash for Kids, the DOE could add money to a college fund to be managed by the city and given to these students once their high achievements have made the dream of a college education more realizable. That would turn this short-term program into one capable of longterm successes.
President Bush and Chancellor Klein are spending time together today, the Daily News reports. The meeting is a chance for Bush to congratulate Klein on the Broad Prize and talk up the upcoming No Child Left Behind reauthorization. The Washington Post noted yesterday that NCLB might be in for a name change; perhaps Donna Shalala's (I think sarcastic) suggestion of "Children First!" is more likely than she thought. (Via TAPPED)
The MacArthur foundation announced its latest group of $500,000 "genius grant" winners today, and among them is Deborah Bial, the founder of the Posse Foundation, which cultivates groups of talented city kids to attend elite colleges on full scholarships. Bial was inspired to start the program by her work in New York City schools, where kids told her they'd be more likely to go away to college and to stay there if they went with their "posse" from the city. Since 1989, the foundation has sent hundreds of New York City students to college. I've been in schools the day kids hear that they will be going to Vanderbilt University or Middlebury College for free, and you just can't put a value on their happiness and relief.
Today marks the 50th anniversary of the first day black students successfully attended the all-white Central High School in Little Rock, Ark. Amid harassment and threats of violence, the students were escorted by soldiers whom President Eisenhower had deployed to Little Rock to do battle with the segregationist governor, the state militia he controlled, and the many ordinary Arkansans who opposed the Little Rock school board's vote to integrate. Although none of the Little Rock Nine graduated from Central (and in fact the governor closed all of the city's high schools the next year rather than integrate), their attendance was a watershed moment, at least emotionally, for Little Rock and the rest of America.
But now the nation's schools are as segregated as they were in the late 1960s, districts are trying to rejigger school zones in racially suspect ways, and black students are disproportionately punished and referred to special education. And of course in June the Supreme Court struck down voluntary integration programs that considered students' race in assigning them to schools.
At 4:30 p.m. tomorrow at Long Island University's Brooklyn campus, a panel of education experts will grapple with this troubling reality in a symposium titled "The U.S. Supreme Court vs. Equality in Education." Several of the panelists are New York City principals and parents, and I'll be there to hear what they have to say. I just hope some of the news is good.
On the heels of last week's news that New York State would stop accepting federal abstinence-only sex education funds comes singer Elton John's announcement that he will donate $300,000 to support HIV/AIDS education in the city's middle schools. The donation will allow the National Urban Technology Center to lead computer-based health classes in 60 middle schools, doubling the number of schools the organization is serving. John's donation comes at a time when HIV infection rates are rising, especially among minorities and the poor, and the time schools spend on health and sex education is falling. It's just too bad that kids in only 60 middle schools will get to benefit from improved AIDS education.
You can tell the chancellor what you think at tonight's Panel for Educational Policy meeting (6 p.m. at the DOE. Map). On the agenda are military recruitment in the schools and the learning environment surveys, among other issues. You can sign up for the public comment portion of the night beginning at 5:30 p.m. Check out the Insideschools calendar for more events.
Brooklyn may be getting an advertising-themed high school next year, the Daily News is reporting. Borough President Marty Markowitz is leading the push for the school, which will have the American Association of Advertising Agencies as its lead partner. The DOE says the idea of the school -- which Markowitz hopes will attract more minorities to the overwhelmingly white advertising field -- is "very interesting" but that it hasn't yet been approved.
The advertising high school would join the Ghetto Film School's cinema high school in the Bronx in 2008. One school not opening next year? The parent-proposed District 15 middle school, Brooklyn Prospect Charter School, whose proposal the SUNY chartering board recommended not move forward after the first round of charter school applications. Organizers are confident they'll be able to secure approval for a fall 2009 opening date.
After yesterday's exhausting experiment in liveblogging, I'm going to take it a little easier today. But I do want to direct your attention to some important news: New York State has decided to turn down federal funding for abstinence-only sex education. Previously, the state received the second largest number of federal dollars for abstinence-only sex ed, which studies have shown to be ineffective. Many health advocates were pushing the state to abolish abstinence-only sex ed, even though it meant giving up federal funding. Because the state doesn't actually require sex ed, this change won't necessarily bring comprehensive sex ed to schools, but it does at least diminish the incentive for districts to misinform their students.
Wow. A ton of people came out to testify today. We'll be here all afternoon. I'll try to summarize most folks' main points:Joan McKeever Thomas, UFT parent liaison for Staten Island: "If the DOE's proposed changes [to the regulation governing School Leadership Teams] are institutionalized, many SLTs -- which show and continue to offer so much promise -- would become rubber stamps for the principals."Randi Herman, first vice president of the Council of School Supervisors and Administrators: "A meaningful role for parents and the community cannot be left merely to the discretion of this mayor or any successive mayor. It must be part of the law. ... Even then, vigilant oversight is needed by [the City Council] to ensure that the spirit as well as the letter of the law is being carried out." (From written testimony)
Patrick Sullivan, Manhattan representative on the Panel for Educational Policy: "The changes DOE is proposing will result in parents being more reluctant to participate since decisions about how to allocate their school's budget will be made before they are engaged by school administrators in the development of the [Comprehensive Education Plan]. Ultimately, the proposed changes to A-655 threaten to weaker rather than strengthen SLTs."
Kim Sweet, Advocates for Children's executive director: "District Family Advocates and their supervisors have no authority whatsoever over the principals; they are not even in the same chain of command. ... We have no objection to District Family Advocates, to the extent that they may help parents work their way through the often impenetrable bureaucracy. Our objection is that parents with complaints are being funneled to the District Family Advocates, rather than to DOE officials who have the authority to respond to their concerns. This structure does not promote parent engagement; it promotes parent disenfranchisement." Shana Marks-Odinga, Alliance for Quality Education: "Without sufficient details, parents and other stakeholders at the school-based level were unable to participate in the [Contracts for Excellence] planning process in a substantive, meaningful way. In this first year, we were operating under a short timeframe, but this process did not allow for real deliberation. ... Public engagement around the 2008-9 Contract for Excellence should begin in October 2007 to ensure a meaningful process."Jim Devor, acting president of the Association of CECs: Under the proposed SLT regulation, "most of the major decisions will already have been made" by the time parents enter the process.
[At this point, the meeting had run so long that we had to move so another committee could use the Council Chambers. That space was internet-less which is why this entry is so late!]
David Quintana, member of the Chancellor's Parent Advisory Council: "Most parent coordinators serve a function as 'principal coordinators' ... they are overinflated [and are] not serving the purpose they were intended to."
Tim Johnson, CPAC chairman: "To parents, [the parent engagement initiative] looks and feels like yet another reorganization. ... It doesn't change anything on the ground for parents. ... We haven't seen the commitment from the chancellor that our issues are as important as those of other stakeholders."
Leonie Haimson, Class Size Matters and NYC Public School Parents blog: One reason for the chain of command issue Kim Sweet described is that "district superintendents are no longer in district offices. Now, they're working with schools outside their districts and are not empowered to intervene" in the schools they supervise.
Susan Shiroma, president of the Citywide Council on High Schools, to Robert Jackson: "I implore you that the voice of high school parents not be lost. ... I can't find president's councils that represent high schools."
And to finish the (very, very long) hearing, Robert Jackson: Is the DOE "really trying to eliminate the coordination of parents' voices? Sometimes I wonder."
Whew. Whatever improvements come out of the initiatives Martine Guerrier discussed earlier, all the testimony I heard today suggests it will take time and hard work for the DOE to earn back the trust of the most involved parents.