New York City School Reforms: Miracle in the Making or Disaster Waiting to Happen?

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Radical reforms have been the order of the day in New York City Schools ever since billionaire Michael Bloomberg won the mayoralty promising to abolish the Board of Education and Community School boards (both of which he has done). The trusty standby Education Week and the feisty alternative weekly The Village Voice assess the consequences from their different perspectives this week in articles that are detailed and troubling.

The Voice article focuses on what it perceives to be the best of Mayor Bloomberg's reform, listing ten advances made. Running down the list of ten items, we immediately noticed that they are heavily concentrated on leadership and bureaucratic reorganization including such worthwhile items as the empowerment of principals, the creation of the "leadership academy" (see TQB of July 11, 2003), and the new Local Instruction Superintendents. The Voice particularly focused on what it found best in the mayor's plan and promised to follow up next week with what is worst.

But what if you can't wait until next week? Luckily, the Education Week run-down of New York City's curriculum is here for you today. Judging by Ed Week's story (and by other accounts we've seen), the new standardized curriculum imposed by Chancellor Klein on all but the top 200 schools in New York City is based on some of the worst aspects of progressive education. Children in elementary school are "engrossed in literary discussions" but "only rarely lead [in] phonics drills." Teachers, for their part, are expected to implement this agenda and are expected to design classrooms "that are conducive to reading and deep discussion," for instance by utilizing rocking chairs and plush carpets (see TQB of September 19, 2003).