Tuesday, May 1, 2012

New York Education Reform Commission

Print Friendly and PDF So yesterday our governor, Mr. Andrew Cuomo, created yet another commission with the alleged goal of improving NY public schools. He has placed Richard Parsons, former CEO of Citigroup, as commission chair. It is interesting that Mr. Cuomo claims poor graduation rates as one of his pet peeves, yet places at the chair of the commission an individual who fell short of graduating from the University of Hawaii after his 4 years there, but found a law school (Albany) that would admit him anyway.

Prior to his Citigroup years, Mr. Parsons was with Time Warner. Here is a quote from the NY Daily News from 2009: "It's no secret that Citigroup board Chairman Richard Parsons has been working for months to repair the financial giant. But, until now, even his closest associates didn't know he also was wrestling with a personal crisis - how to tell his wife and three children he has fathered a child with another woman. Parsons and model-philanthropist MacDella Cooper are the parents of a baby girl named Ella.The 61-year-old former Time Warner chairman said only: "This is a private matter and I prefer not to talk about it at this time." BY GEORGE RUSH, DAILY NEWS COLUMNIST, Thursday, May 21, 2009

I am hoping that news will come out to either verify the love-child story, or refute it.  I wouldn't want an individual with such skeletons in his closet to even partake in reforming anything to do with education.

Back to the commission.
I wonder how many people remember, or have knowledge of, the NYS "Regents Action Plan" from 1984?  This plan, together with a lot of ongoing politics, began the push in New York for all students to take and pass high school regents exams. Prior to that time it was acknowledged and accepted that the regents exam programs were designed to challenge the stronger students (generally the stronger half).  They must have been valued and respected, since masses of people both in and out of the education industry created a loud roar claiming that all students should be able to pass them.

Unfortunately, the smoke and mirror process then began. A good process would have been to investigate the factors that enabled the stronger students to actually be strong, and use the knowledge gained to attempt to strengthen the weaker students.  That, alas, could not happen, because it is based on the premise that there are stronger and weaker students.  Weak students? No!!  They are only underperforming because they have been underprepared!  They have suffered because less was expected of them!!  They are behind because of poverty!! They have been denied chances because of their minority status!!!

Basically, what happened is that the pride of success was granted to the student, but the onus of failure was placed on factors external to the student. The education system began a decades-long run based on the premise that advances could only be gained by systemic changes, absolving students of any role other than their on-going guinea pig status in the laboratory of NY education.

During this time the entire structure of the Regents Exams changed, along with massive changes in content.  The goal was not devising ways and means to strengthen weaker students so they could compete with the stronger students.  The goal was the creation of a system that would enable all students to pass the tests, while making it difficult for stronger students to "ace" them.  New Yorkers must not have been trusted to create such a system, as large parts of it have been farmed out to outside agents such as Pearson.

Watch this commission closely. Education need not be political, but public education will always be political. Watch closely.

I will, without a doubt, expand these thoughts over time.

Remember: you may need to think outside of the box, but the problem you were solving was inside the box.

"When solving problems, dig at the roots instead of just hacking at the
leaves. "Anthony J. D'Angelo, The College Blue Book

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