To me what follows is a fabulous example of trying to do the right thing under very constricted laws that need changing.
I know there will be those of you ready to comment negatively on this report. Some of you will argue that Farina goes too far and some that she doesn’t go far enough, but what I saw in this first paragraph is the the kind of leadership in NYC schools we haven’t seen in decades.
“New York City is overhauling its system for evaluating schools, de-emphasizing test scores in favor of measures like the strength of the curriculum and the school environment, and doing away with an overall A-through-F grade for each school, the schools chancellor, Carmen Fariña, said on Tuesday.”
I have often written and emphasized that when I was a student in NYC public Schools during the 1950’s and mid 1960’s and a teacher there from 1970-1986, I was part of a system that allowed for the respect of creativity in the creation of curricula and innovation in teaching methodology that emphasized student engagement and learning though authentic assessments and evaluations. In fact my book, Doing the Right Thing: A Teacher Speaks is based on those sets of experiences as well as others.
For example, in 1941, the NYC Association for the Teaching of Social Studies published this book , A Handbook for the teaching of social studies, which was used as the guide for new social studies teachers in NYC and elsewhere for decades. Its second printing was as late as 1985. It was my student teaching handbook and my textbook for my Social Studies methodology class when I attended Fordham University. This book along with observing its practices used during the student teaching experience taught us how to use student centered developmental lessons which were based on the use of a few essential questions (pivotal questions) and mostly class discussion led, not controlled, by the teacher . Yes, It was written in 1941.
It is only one example of the student centered spirit of education that existed in NYC schools (if of course you were in a building with a positive environment for teaching…determined by the Principal [teacher] in each school). That much has not changed, except that in NYC over the past few decades the role of a Principal has become less about teaching and more about managing.
The Di Blasio – Farina team have hopefully set us back on the right track. Even though they are forced to work within the guidelines set up by the educationally ignorant state legislature and present governor, Farina and her school leaders have found a way back to the right path.
“Mayor Bill de Blasio had pledged to end Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s system of giving schools letter grades, which some parents and educators argued were too simplistic and, in some cases, painted an inaccurate picture.”
“Mr. de Blasio has repeatedly criticized the Bloomberg administration’s focus on test scores and vowed to be more holistic in assessing schools and students. The new assessments attempt to fulfill that pledge by integrating aspects of the quality review and giving them the same weight as test scores.
The new assessments, which will be released for the first time later this fall, will take two forms: a School Quality Snapshot, directed at parents; and a more comprehensive School Quality Guide, designed for school leaders.
The snapshot ranks the school from poor to excellent on questions like ‘How interesting and challenging is the curriculum?’ and ‘How clearly are high expectations communicated to students and staff?'”
When I see those two essential, pivotal questions as the focus of this new attempt, I can be nothing but pleased. Those were the questions posed to me by my Principal and Department Chair when I started teaching in 1970.
I can only see this as a positive step. I hope you can as well.