By Ann Neary
Begin by respecting educators. Show that respect by appointing an educator as Chancellor. Business people have transferable skills certainly. But as one who spent 30 years in business before becoming a teacher, what is often lacking is the empathy needed to work with children. Then show your understanding further by turning over your eight appointments to the Panel for Education Policy to educators who have that heart sense.
Bring back comprehensive high schools. They have a place in our large school system. They mirror the existing diversity by offering a myriad of academic challenges, after school activities, sports teams, and clubs. Children can test their wings on many levels all within the school community. No data has shown that creating multiple small schools on one campus has benefited any student.
Support partnerships with the community surrounding the schools. Because of the “choice system” allowing students to select a school, our students travel long distances every day. They are not connected to the community in any way. Job opportunities cease to exist, parents are not able to be a part of the school fiber; there is no pride in place.
Allow teachers within classrooms the freedom and flexibility to be innovative. U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan was recently quoted in the New York Times as saying, “do not be loose on goals but tight on how to get there.” We all want our students to be ready for the next step, and college and career ready. Teachers know there is more than one way to get there.
Support teachers to prepare our students by offering creative, useful and timely professional development. Afford them what we all want for our students: multiple ways to access and use knowledge.
In NYC we know that struggling schools have a disproportional number of high needs students. Give NYC schools the resources needed to help those students succeed.
When expanding student choice of schools by building charter schools, ensure that all financial data, political donations, student demographics-including suspension rates and attrition-are transparent. Give the same advantages offered charter schools to public schools. Do the same with the new small schools. And if you decline to disclose, do not compare these schools to existing schools.
Finally, listen. Listen to what children are saying about their educational experiences, listen to what parents want for their children, listen to what teachers need in order to prepare their students for the future that we envision for them, for our city and for our country.