'Teaching Bashing' Bloomberg Draws Ire

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg delivered his 11th State of the City address Thursday, in the Bronx. (Ruth Fremson/The New York Times)

'Teaching Bashing' Bloomberg Draws Ire

NEW YORK CITY - Mayor Michael Bloomberg provoked strong rebuke from teacher and public education advocates in his annual State of the City address delivered in the Bronx yesterday.

The Associated Press reports:

Mayor Michael Bloomberg vowed Thursday to sidestep a labor dispute over teacher evaluations and form "school-based committees" to evaluate teachers at 33 struggling schools -- and fire up to half of them.

Bloomberg said he can make the move under a school turnaround provision authorized by federal and state law.

"This year, we'll do more to make sure every classroom has an effective teacher -- and to remove those who don't make the grade," he said in his annual state of the city speech.

As the New York Timesreports, however, many in the audience disliked the implications of the mayor's proposals, most notably his plans for "merit pay, teacher evaluations and a large increase in charter schools." And continued:

[The president of the United Federation of Teachers], Michael Mulgrew, conspicuously declined to applaud during education-related moments of the speech and declared afterward that the mayor was living in a "fantasy education world," proposing ideas that he did not have the power to put into effect.

The city's public advocate, Bill de Blasio, called the education proposals "needlessly provocative," and the Manhattan borough president, Scott M. Stringer, said the mayor was taking "a lone ranger approach to education." The City Council speaker, Christine C. Quinn, was more cautious, calling the plan "very aggressive." All three officials are planning to run for mayor in 2013.

Mulgrew, according to the AP, accused Bloomberg of "teacher bashing" and said the mayor lacks the authority to set up the school-based committees and start evaluating teachers.

But potential election opponents weren't the only ones critizing the mayor. Gotham Schoolsreports the reaction of Ernest Logan, President of the Council of School Supervisors & Administrators, who said:

At first glance, in the public eye, the Mayor's remarks about schools may seem reasonable, but when you dig down, you realize how many of his proposals do little to help struggling schools. These schools are likely to continue struggling, not because 50% of the educators are supposedly incompetent, but because of the DOE's student enrollment policies that place students who are over-age, under-credited, in temporary housing or dealing with involved special education needs in schools that are said to be low-performing. We must stop this kind of warehousing and give these children what they need to succeed.

Also a powerful reaction from Zakiyah Ansari, a parent leader with the Coalition for Educational Justice, that blasted Bloomberg's record on education policy:

Nearly every student in City public schools today started school under Mayor Bloomberg. These are our children and Bloomberg has run out of time, spin and excuses. All the kids in our schools are 'Bloomberg's Kids'; all the results are his to own. Until he makes serious changes and begins listening to parents, he will be 'Mayor 13%'--the mayor who prepares just 13 percent of Black and Latino students for college."

Common Dreams

As I listened to the Mayor's speech today, my hope was that he was going to take real leadership and acknowledge the truth of what is really happening in our schools. Unfortunately but not surprisingly, he did not. The mayor missed a major opportunity today to take a big step forward for our children and our school system by listening to the concerns of parents and the majority of New Yorkers who believe his policies have failed, and moving forward with a new set of reforms that will lift our City out of this educational crisis. Instead, the mayor doubled down on bad policies that - after ten years of mistakes - leave just one-in-four City students ready for college and only 13 percent of Black and Latino children prepared for higher education.

In fact, the mayor's outrageous claim that 'by almost any measure, students are doing better and our school system is heading in the right direction' is not only flat out wrong, but a dangerous presumption for this administration to have and promote. The federal government's National Assessment of Educational Progress Trial Urban District Assessment (NAEP TUDA) test results in December showed that City scores have plateaued since 2009 and the large racial achievement gap persists between Black and Latino students and their white peers has not budged. More than one-third of all City schools are now considered failing by the State. That is not the right direction. We wonder if the mayor is so out of touch with his own constituents that he does not even see the writing on the wall.

The school the mayor chose for his address is itself a symbol of his failed education policies. Yes, graduation rates have improved at Morris High School--but only because the city cruelly forced out the highest-needs special education students. The old Morris HS had a 14 percent rate of self-contained special education students; the new Morris HS campus schools have an average of just two percent. What happened to all those special education students? They now attend other large high schools like Samuel Gompers and Grace Dodge, which the Mayor is now closing down as well. This 'warehousing' of students, according to the state's chancellor, is happening all around the City to cover up the real problems with City schools.

Over the years, my eight children have passed through the classrooms of at least 50 teachers. I can count on one hand the number of teachers who I objected to. I'm offended by the mayor's insinuations that the majority of teachers are ineffective and that it is teachers, rather than the last decade of the mayor's leadership, that is responsible for the state of our schools."


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