If it wasn't so sad I would laugh how Mayor Mike Bloomberg keeps calling himself "the education mayor". Mayor Bloomberg, like the mayors before him, have shortchanged the NYC public schools of badly need funds and failed to retain teachers due to salary and classroom conditions. Who suffers the most? You guessed it, the student! Bloomberg has put in charge of the Department Of Education (DOE) non educators who are clueless on what goes on in a school, never mind the classroom. These non-educators are lead by the anti-teacher chancellor, Joel Klein who believes good teaching is done by micromanaging the classroom. Let's look at what's needed for a successful classroom and see how Mayor Bloomberg & Chancellor Kein have addressed these issues.
Every study has shown that the lower the class sizes, the better the students do on high-stakes testing. You don't have to be a rocket scientist to realize that a smaller class size comes with it less noise, more interaction with the teacher, and a better understanding between student and teacher. Despite an overwellming majority of New York City residents who want lower class sizes, Mayor Bloomberg refused to lower class sizes. When the City Council added money to lower class sizes in the early grades, Mayor Bloomberg & Chancellor Klein instead used the money for non-classroom uses. Furthermore, Mayor Bloomberg has gone to court to fight a charter proposal for lower class sizes supported by administrators, teachers, and parents.
Unenforced Student Discipline Codes:
Student discipline codes are so vague that many administrators try to convience the teacher to withdraw their complaints. Further, school principals try to minimize student actions so that they don't have to report the incidents to the DOE. The combination of both issues empower the student and makes classroom management an issue even for the experienced teacher.
Many schools are in terrible shape, with rats, mice, and roaches. Air conditioning? Yeah right!
how could any mayor who claims he cares about the students allow summer school in stifling hot classrooms? Many schools still have the old chalkboards with cracks and holes in them. Technology? You must be kidding. My school was wired for wireless, the problem there are no computers to put into the classroom! The student desks in some schools are 40 years old and are in terrible shape. It is a wonder that the children learn as well as they do with the poor classroom environment their subject to.
All teachers in the New York City public schools suffer from inadequate supplies. Lack of a working photocopying machine, paper, chalk, testing materials, and other classroom needs are sorely lacking in the NYC classroom.
DOE has imposed a "one-size-fit-all" approach to classroom teaching rather then letting teachers teach how they see fit. Only the classroom teacher understands his/her students. However, DOE and Columbia's Teacher College believe their cookie cutter approach is the flavor of the day and has been imposed on many of the schools in the city.
Never has teacher disrespect been greater than under the Bloomberg/Klein administration. The micromanagement of the classroom, the imposing of non-professional duties, and their gotcha mentality when teachers are at odds with the administration. Teachers are rarely, if ever consulted on classroom issues and their voices are ignored when problems arise. Further, teachers are no longer allowed to grieve letters to their file and are subject to 90-day unpaid suspension based upon student accusations.
The city has been using a policy of "pattern bargaining" which they select the weakest union and work out a contract. This contract is the "pattern" and is the framwork of all other union contracts. Therefore, city workers are falling behind others in wages. The result is that city teachers average between 15-35% below the surrounding suburbs. In other words the city teachers must fund their own raises by giving up time, days, duties, protections, or a combination of all.
A school system that is struggling with low teacher morale and a teacher retention problem. Boring and overcrowded classes and poor student discipline codes can only result in a school system that is doomed to failure and unable to fulfill its mandate to educate all students.
As long as the Mayor of New York City follows the principles of "education on the cheap" improvements in student performance will not improve above the present levels.
My thanks to nyc educator for the comment "education on the cheap".