It’s been a rough start to 2012 for NYC educators. The ball dropped twice on New Year’s Eve, when the city refused to enter arbitration with the union over a new teacher evaluation system, thus causing the state to withdraw $60 million in Race to the Top funds that were budgeted for NYC. State Education Commissioner John King to city: “Drop Dead.” Union President Michael Mulgrew to city parents: It’s not us.
Last week, Governor Andrew Cuomo (humbly) declared himself, “the lobbyist for the students” in his State of the State (easily my favorite State of the ___ title, by the way), thereby pissing off principals and teachers who try their darnedest to do their best despite the limitations, and incidentally, offending a bunch of parents who paid Albany a visit in response.
And just yesterday, entrepeneur and mayor (in that order, according to this) Mike Bloomberg laid out a series of divisive ideas to further cement his (humbly) self-appointed title as “The Education Mayor.” Among them: bonuses of $20,000 for teachers rated highest in the evaluation system still not agreed upon; arguing the benefits of using the “turnaround” model in 33 struggling schools (ie. gutting the staff, despite state law requiring this be negotiated with the union); and continuing to open charter schools (despite the now well-established fact that they don’t do more than neighborhood schools and in more cases than not are actually significantly worse).
No doubt President Barack Obama will have plenty to say about education in his State of the Union address, highlighted, I’d imagine, by him praising states that are making the expected progress in their reform implementation and lambasting states that aren’t (like good old New York).
Outside the classroom, it’s bad. Inside, though – where it truly matters – it’s pretty solid.
This month, everyone of the students I assessed in reading progressed to the next level. The shyest kids have taken the lead in the Justin Bieber dance and singalongs as we prepare for our play. Struggling spellers seem to finally be getting it. Sloppy writers’ handwriting seems neater. Previously flippant authors are suddenly writing deeper and with more purpose than ever. We had a universally-loved trip and students are establishing friendships with new kids who they must have just discovered are in their class.
The state of New York may be dire, but the state of our classroom is just dandy.