In the New York Daily News today, Sol Stern wrote an opinion piece on the problems with the New York City Public Schools. While I agreed with his part on the use of the useless and ideologically driven Lucy Calkins progressive model of learning that then Deputy Chancellors Diana Lamm and Carmen Farina championed, yes the same Carmen Farina who is known as the disappointing Chancellor of today. However, he also blamed the teachers union contract and their lock-step pay raises as a major impediment for the failure of the public schools. What he failed to address was the large class sizes, the DOE policy that encourages principals to hire" the cheapest and not the best teachers for their school", and the deteriorating quality of school administrators, many of them coming from the failed "Leadership Academy". Finally, Sol Stern failed to point out the bloated DOE budget that dramatically increases every year while school budgets remain frozen at 2012 levels and are 14% below the pre-recession 2008 levels.
Probably the most important factor in improving student academic achievement as the lower class sizes that allow for more individual instruction. a less noisy environment, and the ability of a teacher to properly evaluation each student in a timely matter. Unfortunately New York City Public Schools have the highest class sizes in the State and despite assurance that class size would go down during the Bill de Blasio Administration, it hasn't.
In 2005 the DOE imposed the "fair student funding" policy on the schools which forced principals to seriously consider, salary before hiring a teacher. By 2008 as school budgets tightened and money was scarce, the principals were forced to hire "newbie" teachers to stretch their budget. Some worked out, most did not or left the school soon after (84% of the teachers were no longer teaching in the same school they started in five years later). The high teacher turnover and steep learning curve meant less effective teachers and spelled disaster for the unfortunate students exposed to this unstable school environment.
One of the little talked about problems with the New York City Public Schools is the poor quality of principals who are in charge of their schools. The Leadership Academy taught educators that they should be the CEO of their school and accepted applicants with little or no classroom experience. While Carmen Farina has made it more difficult to apply without the proper educational credentials, she has made exceptions. Regardless, 20% of the principals in the New York City Public Schools are "Leadership Academy principals". Worse, is the DOE continues to protect these bad, dangerous, and vindictive principals, despite the many problems associated with their school oversight. Just look at the allegations against Principal Namita Dwarka of William Cullen Bryant High School in Queens and the many problems there, yet she is still in charge. Even in today's the New York Post reported on another vindictive action her administration did to a thirty year veteran teacher.
Sol Stern falls into the trap that if only merit pay was implemented, then teachers would work harder and the students will achieve academic success. Yet Mr. Stern fails to show any evidence that merit pay works in the last century and the reason for that is there is no study that showed merit pay improved teacher and student performance! The reason is that there is a flawed assumption that dangling a few thousand dollars will make teachers work harder. The fact is that most teachers want their children to succeed and work very hard to help them. Giving them a couple of thousand dollars will not make teachers work any harder.
Bloated DOE Bureaucracy:
While already tight school budgets have remain frozen since 2012 and "fair student funding" has limited principals to hiring inexperienced teachers to sacrifice quality for quantity, the Central Bureaucracy continues to consume more and more money. while forcing the schools to pick up more of the cost for the school support staff that was once part of the DOE Central Bureaucracy. For this school year (2016) the DOE budget is 27.2 billion dollars while it was only 19.2 billion dollars in 2012. That means there was a 42% increased in funds coming to the DOE while school budgets remained frozen during the same time period. Just imagine if the schools received a 42% increase. They could hire experienced teachers, reduce class sizes, and provide additional resources.
Poverty & Family:
Let's not forget that the 500 pound gorilla in the schools, the deep poverty and dysfunctional family that is a major reason why many students struggle academically and until those two issues are addressed and solved, the others only add to the lack of student academic achievement.
Mr. Stern maybe you need to rethink your article and see what the real problems are in the New York City Public Schools.