Six mayoral hopefuls showed up on Tuesday night for the Democratic Mayoral Candidate forum for parents at Eagle Academy for Young Men in the Bronx. Below are highlights of most of the questions asked and answered, reported by Jacquie Wayans, assignment editor at Insideschools and the mother of an Eagle student. The statements are not direct quotes but a synopsis of each candidate's response.

Q1: What would you seek to accomplish within your first 100 days of office?

John C. Liu

Christine Quinn

WilliamThompson

Adolfo Carrion

Bill DeBlasio

Stop the pipeline to prison and create cradle to career instead.

 

Allocate resources so that every neighborhood can have good schools. Extend the school day and expand successful models of existing schools.

 

Choose a chancellor who is an educator. Encourage critical thinking and not memorization for standardized tests. Form a parent academy with a clear message that families should be involved.

Jobs where our children contribute to the economy and climb up the employment ladder.

 

Tax the wealthiest to improve schools. Implement Full day Universal Pre-k. Guaranteed 3 hour after school for middle school.

 

Q2: By show of hands, how many would still support mayoral control?”

All candidates raised their hands, but all said they would implement changes.

Q3: What major initiatives of mayoral control would you keep? What would you get rid of?

Lui

Quinn

Thompson

Carrion

DeBlasio

Albanese

Keep - “The buck stops with the Mayor” but mean it. Rid - shutting down  failing schools and move from testing to teaching.

 

Rid- living and dying by test and move more schools to portfolio model.

Keep - More Eagle Academies (lol). More career & technical education. Rid - from day one – stop closing schools.

 

Keep – accountability and responsibility on mayor. Rid – stop posturing with the teachers union.

 

Keep testing but utilize a better system so that it can be done right. Rid – parents being disrespected.

 

Rid – high stakes testing. Invest in teaching corps with 1 year internship.  Promote pediatric wellness.

 

  • DeBlasio challenged Quinn on the issue of high stakes testing. Click to see NY1 coverage.

Q3: Would you continue to support single gender education?

All said yes.

Q4: Cathy Black – Show of hands that believe next chancellor must be an educator?

All hands went up, except Quinn's.

Quinn

DeBlasio

Liu

Carrion

Thompson

I don’t believe the next chancellor has to be an educator and I will look at all options.

 

Disagreed sharply. We need an educator, the whole system will not respect non-educator.

 

State law requires an educator to be chancellor. As mayor, I would follow state law. Handling schools like  business divisions is not fostering learning .

 

(No longer present. He left early for another panel discussion)

 

We haven’t had a serious discussion on an educational vision and direction in 12 years.

 

 

Q6: Do you support the teacher evaluation system supporting teacher terminations?

DeBlasio

Albanese

Liu

Quinn

Thompson

Yes, I think it is right – the 2 year timeline can work. Bigger challenge is teacher retention.

 

Need to recruit and support teachers. Need to train and use best practices.

 

Teacher evals should be about making teachers better not getting rid of them. The evaluations should be done by educators and not outside consultants. Peer reviews are also important; other teachers don’t want bad teachers in the classroom.

Implement teacher modeling based upon a Texas model.

Use a combination of test, principal evaluations and peer evaluations.

 

 

Q7: Describe a time when the UFT was wrong on a position

See Gotham Schools for a description of their different perspectives. (DeBlasio & Albanese left after that question.)

Q8: Would you continue the co-locations of DOE schools and charters

Liu

Quinn

Thompson

I don’t think the co-locations work. I see stark differences in charters from other public schools and it sends a terrible message to kids. This is classism. It’s playing shell games with our children’s lives.

Both sides say co-locations are not working. I don’t want to eliminate charters as an option, but it is not the answer – however, there is no way to do that without co-location. I would clarify the process and make it transparent.

 

I agree with Liu. Put an end to co-locations. Schools are closed without consultation. Announcements of 72 new schools and only 2 are actually new. Students can’t be second class citizens in their own building.

 

Last Question: Budget – How would you hold the DOE accountable?

Quinn

Thompson

Liu

I’d make the budget municipal-controlled and then parents can get involved and go to the city office to raise their voices. Make a full city agency for balance of power, as every other city agency, and clear reporting.

 

Agrees with Quinn. Would also have annual budgets published and go back to a budget breakdown.

 

I agree but I am more concerned about ending the millions spent at headquarters on no-bid contracts.

 

Each remaining candidate had one minute for a closing statement.

Quinn

Liu

Thompson

I want NYC to have the best schools and best choices. Engage all stake holders in conversation, bringing resources into schools and not central. Take a look at what we are doing well and replicate it. Schedule longer school days, evaluate teachers and move from testing.

I am a product of NYC public schools, came here as an immigrant and didn’t know the language. My wife and my kids are also products of NYC public education. We have some of the best schools in the country and we must reinforce and reinvigorate the system.

Mayor Bloomerg wanted to be known for education. I want NYC to be known as the education city. We must involve all stakeholders again. I would select a chancellor with a background in education. I would move away from this “One size fits all” mentality for our schools. I will not sentence our kids to poverty.

 

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Thursday, 02 May 2013 11:38

Is there a place for G&T kids with IEPs?

As the May 10 deadline for parents to rank gifted and talented applications approaches, one Insideschools message board became a hotbed of anxiety. “Do you know what G&T is supposed to do with kids who get accepted to a G&T school but have IEP's requiring ICT placement?” asked one parent. My son also has an IEP and is in ICT and is G&T. No place for him....” echoed another. The questions about inclusive gifted classes didn’t stop.

Parents want it, educators applaud it, and the DOE supports the idea—at least in theory. But a year after special education reform, there is still not a single combined G&T/ICT class in the city. No one seems to understand why.

"Twice exceptional” or "2e" kids are cognitively gifted children who also struggle with learning and attention disorders. Many of these students' Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) call for an Integrated Co-Teaching (ICT) class, which has two teachers, one of whom is trained in special education. The special education reform rolled out in all schools last year is meant to allow students to attend their school of choice and still receive needed special services, including these team-taught classes.  

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The start of the 2013 mayoral race began in earnest in February when Christine Quinn was the first out of the gate to release her education plan at The Center for NYC Affairs.  Since then, there have been numerous forums with mayoral candidates -  separately or collectively -  with many more to be scheduled before election day. However, there has yet to be an event targeted specifically to parents, an after-work forum that gives parents the opportunity to address potential candidates about issues close to their heart.

Such an event is finally happening on Tuesday, May 7, at Eagle Academy for Young Men in the Bronx. David Banks, head of the Eagle Foundation, invited all of the candidates to come and answer parent questions. The forum is part of Eagle Week, a series of events designed to give Eagle students an opportunity to do community service as well as exposure to engaging speakers and workshops. Banks opened the policy forum to the public so that city parents, educators and community leaders can pose their concerns directly to the mayoral candidates, and. in return, hear their proposed solutions.

Confirmed candidate attendees are: Sal Albanese, Bill DeBlasio, John Liu, Christine Quinn and Bill Thompson.  It will be moderated by Elinor Tatum, Publisher of the New York Amsterdam Newsand Gerson Borrero, columist for El Diario/La Prensa.  A nice community touch is that WBLS will be present in order to run a live audience poll. 

As an Eagle parent, former CEC & PTA member, I encourage all parents to take advantage of this moment. Let's show up and be prepared with the hard, intelligent questions that need to be asked!

See the details on our calendar.

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Fourteen-year-old Marc Brandon Gross, is what's called a “2E,” or twice-exceptional, child: he is a talented singer, dancer and actor who can memorize a script in two days that would take most people two weeks to learn, says his mother Maria Gross. But Marc has trouble communicating and socializing because he is on the autism spectrum.

Marc is thriving as a freshman Talent Unlimited High School -- a sign that children with special needs can be successfully integrated into the city's selective high schools. “They bend over backwards to make sure his needs are met,” says Gross.

While Marc should be a poster child for the Department of Education's new push to enroll more special needs children at the city's selective high schools, his mother is angry that the city is bending the rules for admission to schools like his. Marc passed the demanding audition for the musical theater program last year, but some of the students admitted this year did not.

“That's not right. It's not fair, especially not fair to my kid” who played by the rules, Gross says. At Talent Unlimited, more than 45 students (including 13 special needs students) were admitted who either did not audition or didn't meet the school's audition standards. 

Gross contacted Insideschools to tell Marc's story after hearing that the city placed more than 1,300 students in 71 of the city’s selective high schools as part of a double-pronged effort to match more students to their round one high school picks and to ensure that schools meet the city’s new special education quotas.

Marc has speech and language disabilities as well as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). The school offers intensive support: he is in team-teaching classes with two teachers, one of whom is certified in special education. He gets extra help in math and English. The school also provides after-school academic tutoring. The guidance counselor arranged a special peer support group to help Marc work on his socializing skills.

Marc's family expected him to attend high school at School for Language and Communication Development (SLCD), the school for special needs children where he went from kindergarten through 8th grade. But a guidance counselor at SLCD suggested he try out for a public performing arts high schools. 

Just like thousands of other aspiring performing artists, Marc practiced for weeks and attended rounds of auditions to try out for four of the city’s audition schools: Talent Unlimited, Frank Sinatra, Professional Performing Arts School and LaGuardia. All four schools require auditions for entrance but do not have academic screens. Yet, this year DOE officials said the city assigned students to both Talent Unlimited and Frank Sinatra based on test scores, rather than artistic ability. 

Competition at the city's performing arts schools is fierce; 1,500 students typically audition for 125 seats at Talent Unlimited.

Gross is proud to say her son went through the “appropriate channels of auditioning,” and was awarded a seat. And now Gross is concerned that the admission of dozens of students who did not meet Talent Unlimited’s audition standards – or did not even try out – will compromise the integrity of the program.

Because of his IEP, Marc still struggles academically, Gross says, but he is excited to get up and go to school everyday. "My kid loves the school because everyone is at his level. They can sing, they can dance, and they can act." 

Watch video of Marc performing at Talent Unlimited, courtesy of his sister Lauren Gross:

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Wednesday, 27 March 2013 13:37

Walcott says middle school in CPE's future

Center Park East parents lost their battle to open a middle school in 2013 but say they're heartened by Chancellor Walcott's promise to work with them to find space for a CPE middle school that will open by 2014.

It's no surprise that all of the DOE's proposals were passed at the March 20 PEP meeting, including a resolution to open East Harlem Scholars Academy II in the same buliding as Central Park East I and Central Park East High School. CPE parents had hoped to nab that soon-to-be-open space for a CPE middle school that would allow their elementary school children to continue to receive a progressive education after 5th grade. This is the fifth year in a row that the DOE rebuffed efforts by CPE I and CPE II to open a middle school. But uptown parents won't have to wait much longer for a progressive middle school. 

Raven Snook, the mother of a CPE II student, told Insideschools that Walcott made a promise at the PEP meeting to find a site for the progressive middle school by this summer and open the school in fall 2014.

"While we were all disappointed that the March 20 PEP vote didn't go our way in terms of the co-location of two East Harlem Scholars Academy schools, we were all pretty thrilled when Dennis Walcott himself stood on the stage and promised we would indeed get a progressive middle school for fall 2014," said Snook. "So it was a bittersweet victory."

Education Department spokesman Devon Puglia confirmed Walcott's promise via email: "There will be middle school CPE seats available in 2014. We're continuing to engage with stakeholders in order to meet that goal."

 

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Friday, 08 March 2013 12:57

Ask Judy: Are state exams mandatory?

Dear Judy,

I have daughters in the 4th grade who are supposed to take the state exams this year. I'm told future middle schools will look at these exam results to determine acceptance. The stress my daughters are under during "test prep" is crazy. Is this exam really mandatory?

Fourth grade mother

Dear Fourth Grade Mother,

Yes, the standardized tests are required. Chancellor's Regulation A-501 makes that clear.

Whether or not you think that this system is right, I would advise you to have your daughters take the test.

Fourth grade tests are important because middle schools look at them to decide on admissions. Kids apply to middle school in the fall of 5th grade--before the results of the tests given in the spring of 5th grade are available.

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Q: My son just received an impressive-looking envelope inviting him to participate in the National Student Leadership Conference in Washington, DC. They make it sound like going will be a great thing for him to put on college applications, but will it really count that much? Will it open doors for him? If this is truly a great opportunity, I don't want him to miss out – but it's really expensive! What do you suggest?

A: Would participating in this program be exciting for your son? Probably so. Will participating add a line to his resume that will make a real impact on his college applications? The company organizing the program would like you to think so, but the real answer is: no.

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Thursday, 28 February 2013 11:25

Strike is over but the bus is still missing

The drama of the city’s school bus strike officially ended more than a week ago—but you wouldn’t know it at my kid’s bus stop.

When the bus drivers’ union called off the strike last week, my sympathy for its members—who had lost nearly a month’s pay and gained almost nothing—was mixed with relief at the prospect of finally getting to work on time. My 6-year-old goes to school three miles and a tricky subway ride from our home in Brooklyn. I have a job in Manhattan. The school bus is the magic that allows those realities to coexist.

My relief was doomed to a short life: We waited at our regular stop that day, but the bus never came. It didn’t show up the next day either, nor the next. When the bus finally did appear at our stop—six days after the strike was over—it had a new driver, who looked to be reading directions off the back of an envelope. He seemed like a nice guy, if a little bewildered to be navigating a neighborhood he didn’t know with a bus full of kids, but he couldn’t say whether he’d continue to be assigned to the route. I can’t say either, because the bus skipped our stop again the next day.

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Wednesday, 27 February 2013 16:18

How wrong is it to do your child's homework?

Somewhere between my son's annual science fair last year and his most recent monthly book report, I have turned into that kind of parent. You know, the kind who becomes so attached to designing and building the paper-mâché volcano that their child's involvement becomes quite beside the point?

It started out innocently enough: my idea was for Brooks to write a song about "Scaredy-Cat Catcher," a chapter book we had been reading together. Yes, it was my idea, but in my defense, I only presented it because my son's idea was to repeat a project we had done the last time (which had been my husband's idea).

On the plus side, Brooks was very involved with many aspects of this perhaps overly-ambitious project. We read the book together twice over a period of a few weeks and outlined the basic storyline. And then Brooks came up with the chorus on his own: he simply started to improvise and I picked out one of his catchier melodic phrases that rhymed.

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Wednesday, 13 February 2013 16:40

Charter school chosen over CPE for Harlem

Parents and administrators at Central Park East I and II say the Education Department undermined their efforts to grow into a middle school, giving away ideal "expansion space to a charter school just months after Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott said no space was available," DNAinfo reports.

Central Park East I and II are sister elementary schools that teach hands-on, progressive learning. For the last four years, one or the other has been asking the DOE for space to expand and have been given various reasons why the DOE would not grant them permission.

"Every year it's another excuse," former Central Park East 1 principal Julie Zuckerman told Insideschools this week at Castle Bridge, the progressive, dual language elementary school she founded in 2012 in Washington Heights.

Last year, the DOE told Zuckerman they would not allow an expansion because she was leaving to found Castle Bridge. This year, space is the issue, CPE I and II were told.

But the DOE is phasing out JHS 13, which shares the Jackie Robinson Education Complex with Central Park East 1 and Central Park East High School, opening up ideal space for the progressive elementary schools and high school to expand into middle school grades, parents say. Instead, in a surprise move, the DOE granted JHS 13's coveted space to East Harlem Scholars Academy I & II. East Harlem Scholars Academy I is already sharing the Jackie Robinson building and plans to move into its own building once it's constructed. It will use the extra space in the Jackie Robinson Complex to expand into a middle school: East Harlem Scholars Academy II, according to DNAinfo. 

Zuckerman said Upper Manhattan is saturated with charter schools and is seriously lacking progressive school choices. "In Northern Manhattan, there's not a progressive middle school," she said. 

CPE II mom Raven Snook said she and other parents are planning to rally in support of CPE I and II growing to include a middle school at the Wednesday, Feb. 27 hearing at the Jackie Robinson Complex about the proposed expansion of East Harlem Scholars Academy. (For more information, download their flyer.)

For more on the story see DNAinfo.

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