Monday, April 4, 2011

Where the Future Comes to Rehearse

"New York is where the future comes to rehearse."
                    - NYC Mayor Ed Koch, 1986



One of the reasons I wanted to move to New York City is because of its central role in reshaping education policy. Since I began studying education in college, I've been learning about small schools and their promise (only since I've moved here have I seen the problems associated with them).

I've now worked in two large, high-profile urban districts (NYC and DC) and two not-so-large, not so high-profile urban districts (Renton, WA and Knoxville, TN).

Before I worked in DC, I was a naive (understatement if there ever was one) about the proposed reform policies talked about in the media. Most of these reform policies sound good if you don't know much about education, or you don't experience the awful work environments they create. But once you get inside the beast, the way they're being implemented can quickly change your mind. And there are few places they're being implemented with such ferver as New York City.

New York, like DC, is a system desperate to shed "ineffective" teachers. I never met administrators with such a zeal for blaming teachers for education's problems in my first two schools. I had no idea what a school closure did to a community (I still have only a limited understanding since I've never experienced it personally- thank goodness). But if you want to know how unprofessional some administrators can get, look no further than here or here.

New York has a history of serving as a laboratory for school reform and exporting its researchers to smaller urban districts across the country. So I think it's important for people to pay very close attention to what's happening here.

In New York, charter schools operated by boards with no professional educators are popping up left and right. Schools are being forced to compete with each other for the best students. Administrators are given more leeway to make budget decisions than in a lot of other places. Large schools are being given little to no support. People with little to no educational background are often placed in leadership positions. Racial tensions are often exacerbated. Our definition of democracy is being reshaped, and ire is growing.



I especially like the students in the video below at 3:55.



Most people close to schools have felt the effects of these reforms in one way or another across the country, but I, for one, can say that I never understood the gravity of them until I moved to New York.

If New York really is where the future comes to try out, then I suggest you watch out, America. Because what's happening in New York may soon be coming to a school near you.

In July, teachers across the country will converge on our nation's capital to make their voices heard. How are you participating?

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