"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Friday, January 04, 2008

Klein's Report Card Celebration, Weprin's Inconvenient Truth, and Little Andrew's Sad Fact

A big day for the Bloomberg-Klein Test-Close-Privatize Plan for NYC Public Schools. At least until Assemblyman Mark Weprin came to the microphone. From the NY Times:

It was supposed to be a day to celebrate the city’s best schools. The schools chancellor, Joel I. Klein, trekked to Public School 46 in Bayside, Queens, to announce that the schools that had received the highest marks on the city’s new school report card were to receive a windfall of extra money.

But when he invited Assemblyman Mark Weprin to the microphone, Mr. Weprin, a Queens Democrat, seized nearly five minutes of the news conference to lambaste the grading system and the Bloomberg administration’s focus on standardized testing to measure achievement.

“Our schools have turned — I know the chancellor is standing here, but — to Stanley Kaplan courses in a lot of ways,” Mr. Weprin said, referring to a large test preparation company.

Lacing his comments with apologies for being “impolite,” Mr. Weprin said, “Too much focus is trying to get the right answers on tests and not enough focus on, in my opinion, on learning. And a good teacher doesn’t just teach how to get the right answers, a good teacher inspires, and a lot of that is being lost in our schools.”

Mr. Klein looked down with a bit of grimace, particularly as parents and teachers who were gathered in the back of the room burst into applause.

“Well, as you can imagine,” Mr. Klein said when he returned to the microphone, “I don’t believe that is an accurate view of what is going on.” He added, “I think learning knowledge is a key part, coupled with challenging our children to think, to be creative and to be imaginative.”

Then, with his voice rising, he added: “And yes, to test them on it, so that you know what they know and what they don’t know. If we don’t do that, we aren’t educating our kids.”

. . . .

Asked by reporters to respond to Assemblyman Weprin’s comments, the school’s principal, Marsha Goldberg, sidestepped any debate. “What we do here is that we balance,” she said. “I am not going to say that we never do test prep; obviously we do.” She added: “Our children here feel valued and loved. And we celebrate all their successes whether it be academic or nonacademic.”

Mr. Klein, who toured the school before the news conference, emphasized in his remarks that the school did more than the basics, and had robust arts, music and computer programs. In one fourth-grade class, he encouraged students to tell him what they liked about the school. And he seemed surprised when Andrew Xu, the first boy to raise his hand, replied, “They help us get ready for the state ELA test.” Andrew, 9, was referring to the test for English Language Arts to be taken next week by all students in grades three through eight. “They teach us what methods to use and how to write.”

Andrew trailed off as he tried to elaborate, “Oh, I don’t know how to explain it.”

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