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Sunday, November 21, 2010

An Open Letter to Dr Susan Furhman

Dear Dr Furhman,

As an NYC public school teacher, I am truly offended by Mayor Bloomberg's decision to nominate Cathie Black to the position of schools chancellor without any public process surrounding his decision.  I am further offended by the decision of the panel you are heading to conduct the meeting on Tuesday in secret.  While I can see why you would not want it to turn into a public spectacle, I do believe the public absolutely has a right to know how decisions are being made about something that affects them in such a personal way.

It is not only Mayor Bloomberg's attempt to circumnavigate public processes, however, that concerns me.  It is also his willingness to hire individuals so out of touch with people they will be overseeing.  It's my view that public education is, unfortunately, grossly misunderstood by the vast majority of corporate reformers.  Student test scores are not reliable indicators of school, teacher, or student quality.  As metrics, they cannot be used in the same manner profit would be in a private corporation.  Judgements made about teachers, students, administrators, communities, and schools based solely (or even largely) on these unpredictable and imperfect measures do far more to counter efforts at meaningful educational reform than they do to improve them.

Furthermore, the drive to charterize public school students to the fullest extent possible is sadly being driven in large part by a number of people who will make a good amount of money off of charter schools, especially if they can convince the public that public schools are little more than drop-out factories with inept staff and neglected students.  Cathie Black appears to be a full backer of the charter movement despite her complete lack of experience with any public schools that are not charter schools.  I further fear that she will treat test scores in the same misguided and ultimately dangerously negligent way Chancellor Klein has.  That I lack further information on which to make comment concerning Cathie Black is testament to the poorly perpetrated manner in which Bloomberg's decision-making process occurred.

Mayor Bloomberg's decision to appoint Cathie Black has done little more than alienate those who take public education so seriously in our city and in our country, and galvanize the corporate-minded charters-are-the-only-silver-bullet-solution group who would sooner kick out an entire class of students who don't fair well on a worthless set of standardized tests than attempt to engage in meaningful efforts to ensure all of our students have the right to a quality education.

I therefore implore you to advise Commissioner Steiner to deny Mayor Bloomberg's request in hopes Bloomberg will be forced into a more public selection process that will ultimately result in the selection of a more qualified candidate.

I will post this as an open letter at my blog, An Urban Teacher's Education.

Sincerely,

The Reflective Educator

Please send your own comments to Dr Furhman at SusanF@tc.columbia.edu.  And thanks to Leonie Haimson for the idea.

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