UNDERNEWS

Undernews is the online report of the Progressive Review, edited by Sam Smith, who has covered Washington during all or part of one quarter of America's presidencies and edited alternative journals since 1964. The Review has been on the web since 1995. See main page for full contents

April 6, 2009

HOW THE SCHOOL AUTOCRATS ARE HURTING PUBLIC EDUCATION

Joseph Mugivan, Testimony to NYC City Council - I have been a teacher in New York City for 15 years. I have worked with all grade levels of elementary and intermediate education, as well as with special education.

As education in the schools changed at the beginning of the millennium, the educational system under mayoral control has become more centralized. Prior to this period, teachers developed lesson plans which were approved and monitored independently by the administration of the schools at the local level. Principals and administrators had the independence to use their own professional experience, as educators, to determine the best direction for the students of their school.

In the new millennium, under centralized mayoral control, principals are required to attend to the needs of a new bureaucracy. They responded to their new leaders who offered market-driven programs. These new leaders had little knowledge of how to raise reading and math scores, or to understand how children learn. Some had no experience in education at all.

Interesting and creative learning experiences became suspect, as administrators in schools were assessed by their seniors with visits to their schools and classrooms. The new leaders focused on "instruction" and control with less concern about learning.

Due to this deficiency, teachers were judged primarily by the arbitrary aesthetics of their bulletin boards and classroom walls. Focus was placed on new and untested programs, which usurped the time and creativity needed to meet the necessary state standards.

Prior to these new changes, teachers had the time and encouragement to conform to city and state curricula, and to deliver these mandates in ways that were effective for the students.

Projects were created which incorporated literacy development throughout the entire curriculum, using content knowledge within the resources available, such as text books, library books, field trips, audio visual systems, public presentations, etc. All of the mandated content was processed by the students through writing. . .

With the advent of mayoral control, the teacher's time became monopolized for many months by constant individualized reading assessment with market-force programs that interfered with classroom work. . . These time-consuming new assessments were not related to the state curriculum. . .

The current centralized structure of education encourages fear, control and anger, resulting in the loss of highly qualified and educated teachers, alienation of administrators and student violence within the schools. These are obstacles to effectively meeting the state educational curriculum and providing a nourishing and supportive learning environment.

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