With the new year comes some encouraging news from New York City, where the new mayor, Bill de Blasio, did something that his longtime predecessor found unfashionable. De Blasio actually appointed an educator as the new chancellor of the city’s school system.
De Blasio has decided that the city’s public schools and their 1.1 million students have had all the alleged “reform” they can take. He also wants to reduce the focus on high-stakes testing, which, he believes, has “taken us down the wrong road,” according to the Education Week article linked below.
State and federal requirements, unfortunately, will limit what the new mayor can do to curb standardized testing, but the schools chancellor is one of his top appointments. Unlike cities in Texas, New York runs its school system, and de Blasio campaigned for changing or undoing many of predecessor Michael Bloomberg’s agenda and replacing it with a greater emphasis on educational policies that have been proven to work, such as more prekindergarten and other early-childhood programs.
And, the new mayor is signaling that he values the input of educators. His choice for new schools chancellor is Carmen Farina, a former teacher, principal and community and regional superintendent who spent 40 years working in New York public schools before retiring during the Bloomberg administration.
Time will tell, of course, how de Blasio and Farina work out. But consider that Bloomberg, during his 12-year tenure, appointed three schools chancellors, and none was an educator. They were a corporate executive, a publishing executive and a former deputy mayor. And, Bloomberg’s education agenda was heavy on expanding charter schools and tying student test scores to education-related decisions.
By contrast, one urban education expert told Education Week that Farina actually knows what needs to happen in classrooms for children to be successful.
“This will be the first time in many years that New York has an (education) leader who understands curriculum and instruction,” said Pedro Noguera, a New York University education professor.
This is another reminder, folks, that elections have consequences, in Texas, no less than in New York. For many years now, Texas voters have been electing a governor and a legislative majority that have pursued the same unproven education “reforms” as Bloomberg while mostly ignoring the real education experts, Texas’ educators.
You can start undoing the damage this year – at the polls. In the upcoming weeks, TSTA will be evaluating the educational priorities – or lack thereof – of candidates for governor, other statewide offices and the Legislature. Keep an eye on this space and our website, http://www.tsta.org/, and then decide which candidates will listen to and value the viewpoints of educators. And, then, vote for them, beginning with the party primaries, which now are only two months away.