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The Morass of Gifted Education

A freshman congressman approached Sam Rayburn, the legendary Speaker of the House of Representatives and complained that the Rivers and Harbors Bill provided funding for infrastructure projects in virtually every town in the nation, whether or not they had “rivers and harbors,” and suggested there was no need for the bill. Rayburn, perhaps apocryphally responded, “Son, you’re messin’ with the testicles of the universe.” Klein is “messin’” with the criteria for selection of students into Gifted and Talented programs, to many, the jewels of their universe.

If you want to fill an auditorium just announce the topic is zoning or gifted and talented. Back in the halcyon days the Board of Education had citywide standards for selection of students into Intellectually Gifted Classes (IGC) in the elementary schools and Special Progress (SP) classes in the Junior High Schools based on scores on Citywide Reading and Mathematics tests. The Board even had criteria for the selection of teachers of IGC classes – Abe Levine probably has a yellowed copy in his files – if I remember correctly one of the criteria was that the teacher had to be “cultured” and defined as “regularly attending operas, concerts and museums.” Not a bad idea!

The advent of decentralization devolved the gifted and talented classes issue to local school boards. In some areas of the city the “standard” was being on the executive board of the Parents Association or working for a candidate in a school board election.

 As the middle class, regardless of race and ethnicity began to flee the city gifted and talent classes became an anchor to retain parents. The Astor program had rigorous criteria based on IQ tests, other districts tied their criteria to the Hunter Admission standards. The criteria for “talented” was vacuous, ever meet a grandparent who didn’t think their little Johnnie wasn’t “talented”?

Last year a Brooklyn Regional superintendent made a comment some interpreted as ending gifted and talented classes in the region. A thousand parents and a host of elected officials packed an auditorium and excoriated the absent superintendent. Klein’s announcement of the creation of a citywide “test” to measure “giftedness” is the height of arrogance, and typical of the Imperial Chancellor who rules by edict, and expects his subjects to show proper obeisance.

The current hodge-podge of programs is far from perfect. The current term “screened program” means that schools get to pick their students. Occasionally a school stands out; high tests scores while the surrounding schools have mediocre scores. The press raves and points to a “charismatic,” leader, and the principal basks in the limelight. Closer looks frequently unearth a screened program, what a surprise! The school carefully handpicks their kids and the scores are high!

In the real world retaining middle class families in the City is an important goal and creating and maintaining effective, supportive programs within schools is vital. Programs whose sub-rosa goal is to segregate students by race and/or class are unacceptable. A transparent look at gifted and talented programs is long overdue. The Mayor may have handed the Chancellor the scepter and orb, however; parents, teachers and elected officials should use this opportunity to bring sanity back to the school system.



  • 1 institutional memory
    · Nov 16, 2005 at 10:24 pm

    Chalk Up Another One For McGraw-Hill Education?
    The article in today’s Times mentions that the test that will be used for entrance into gifted programs will “most likely be designed by a national company.”

    I’ll be mighty surprised if that national company isn’t good ol’ McGraw-Hill Education, who already rakes in millions of dollars a year providing many of the tests used by the state and the city, in addition to the highly overrated Grow Report.

    If you aren’t entirely familiar with Bush buddy Hank McGraw’s company, here’s who we’re giving the store to: “McGraw-Hill Education is a leading global provider of electronic and print products for the pre-K through 12th grade, higher education and professional markets. McGraw-Hill Education is a unit of The McGraw-Hill Companies, a leading global information services provider meeting worldwide needs in the financial services, education and business information markets through leading brands such as Standard & Poor’s, BusinessWeek and McGraw-Hill Education. The Corporation has more than 280 offices in 40 countries. Sales in 2003 were $4.8 billion.”

    Rumor has it that they’re considering changing the company name to “The United States Ministry of Education.”

  • 2 institutional memory
    · Nov 17, 2005 at 10:31 am

    One more note: A few years ago, to the best of my recollection, the Office of Civil Rights declared that a single-test criterion for admission to the gifted program was illegal. This would seem to complicate the issue further. I’m sure Attorney Klein’s crack legal team will sort things out.

  • 3 northbrooklyn
    · Nov 17, 2005 at 9:03 pm

    Great article, Peter. oops! I better watch it…nyeducator will be grumbling about me being a suck-up. Ah, well. My hair is white, my skin is tough.
    I’ve worked in a few schools [poor to working class] and have found in all of them that I could probably pull together a class [20 to 24] of kids [multi-aged] who would fit the criteria of gifted, if the criteria for gifted students followed closely the perspective of Teacher College and others who have really spent time on this subject. Gifted kids are not the ‘smart’ kids, per se. They are quirky, sometimes difficult, some even disturbed. But there something different about them that can not be tested or measured.
    We spend so much time on the low performing students-which we should-we ignore two important groups. One, the students who come every day, work real hard and give us the percentages that save our collective behinds. We do nothing for them.
    Then there are these unusual children that pull it together at the last minute, throw a hail mary pass, and pull the entire class up test-wise….’course some tines they crash and burn and that is an awful time.
    I could go on and on about this particular subject but I am so tired I’m nodding out as I’m writing this. I look forward to other posts.

  • 4 no_slappz
    · Nov 19, 2005 at 10:53 am

    The Gifted Program in NYC public schools is a force that slows the outgoing tide of parents who won’t put their kids in a mainstream public school program.

    Of course some parents take a different approach. They simply enroll their kids in private school, like both of our senators.

    Meanwhile, there are administrators, such as Gloria Buckery, who think the gifted programs have no place in the public school system. I attended last year’s meeting at Hudde Middle School where her remarks were exploited by Lew Fidler, Carl Krueger, Kevin Parker and one or two other political opportunists.

    Fidler followed his grandstanding at Hudde with a plan to create gifted programs for 10% of students at each school in the city.

    Meanwhile, critics of the program, like Buckery, are incensed that even though more than 75% of public school students are black and hispanic, the majority of gifted-program students are white and asian. The critics then run outside in search of a rat to smell.

    What Fidler and his supporters fail to realize is that if his plan were followed, the racial imbalance would tip further in favor of white and asian students.

    Test results show many schools around the city have NO students scoring in the top two quartiles of the city and state exams. At schools like those, the administration will face two choices: sharply and unilaterally reduce entrance requirements, thereby rendering the programs pointless; or attracting better students from other schools.

    The latter approach — if it were possible to implement it — would lead to attracting more white and asian students to the low-performing schools. You can be sure that approach would fail to be accepted.

    That brings us back to identifying “gifted” students. The are currently about 40,000 students in the program. Fidler would arbitrarily include 10%, or nearly 120,000 students in the program.

    But based on the standard deviation of IQ assessments, “giftedness” does not include the top 10%. The group is smaller. No more than about 6% of the student population.

    Meanwhile, let’s face facts. The student body of Stuyvesant is now about 50% asian, 40% white and 10% everybody else. Elite colleges have reported similar percentages regarding the demographics of qualifyied applicants.

    Some students work harder and achieve better results. The city and the public school system lose when educators fail to acknowledge these realities.

    Let’s acknowledge what makes a successful student, and let’s acknowledge the gifted program is successful mainly because most of the time the most meritorious students are enrolled in it.

  • 5 paulrubin
    · Nov 20, 2005 at 9:56 pm

    While I work in a high performing gifted program that would of course be decimated by involving the DOE in its selection of students, I heartily endorse any effort to water down and/or destroy gifted education in NYC. See I live in the suburbs along with hundreds of thousands of other ex-NYers who fleed NYC and its public school morass. We don’t want our children to not have extensive arts and music and science and social studies, etc. We want our kids in gifted programs but with meaningful measurable standards. So Mr. Bloomberg and Mr. Klein, feel free to keep messing with the last vestiges of what works in NYC for the middle class so more people can flee and my property values can go through the roof. Yay!

  • 6 paulrubin
    · Nov 20, 2005 at 9:57 pm

    Oops, that’s fled, not fleed. I guess I’m not gifted enough. Though I do like museums :)

  • 7 Realist
    · Nov 20, 2005 at 10:16 pm

    It seems to me that Klein’s greatest weakness, or at least one of the greatest, is his failure to recognize that every child is different. To succeed, schools must respondto the needs of each individual child.

    In Special Ed, this principle is legally recognized, through the IEP system. We all know of instances where administrators and “the system” have tried to thwart that law and intent by changing IEPs to match administrative convenience, as opposed to student needs. But at least the system exists, and parental pressures and legal challenges can be used to try to make the system work.

    In the area of Gifted and Talented Education, however, there are no such mandates. G&T is whatever the administration in power wants it to be. The locally developed programs like Astor and Eagle attempted to provide some level of gifted education, responding to the needs of parents and children in a local community. Each program met, or at least tried to meet, the needs of a particular, identified population.

    Were there enough programs? No. Did some of them play favorites? Certainly. And some of them were expanded to respond to those criticisms, sometimes successfully, and sometimes in ways that weakened their academic integrity by diluting the definition of “gifted and talented” for political, rather than educational reasons.

    Both Buckery’s attacks on the G&T programs in her region, and Fiddler’s 10% proposal, were political, not educational. And Klein’s new “uniform” system is just as political, and will do as much for G&T education as his rocking chairs and rugs did for early childhood, and his “workshop model” did for the teaching of foreign languages.

    If the Mayor wants to “improve the schools”, he has to put an educator in charge, not a lawyer.

  • 8 NYC Educator
    · Nov 24, 2005 at 1:41 pm

    “Of course some parents take a different approach. They simply enroll their kids in private school, like both of our senators.”

    You’re wrong there. Charles Schumer sent his daughters to public schools.


    “And when I got to Harvard I found, much to my surprise and my delight, that the education I received in New York City public schools kept me right there in the ballpark. And I found I had something else these other kids from the fancy private schools didn’t have. It was sort of a knowledge for how the world works. Of knowing people from all different backgrounds, how to solve a problem quickly. For lack of a better word, you call it street smarts. If you can combine that with a good education, there’s no stopping you. So I want my kids to go to public schools because I think it’s a better education overall.”

  • 9 no_slappz
    · Nov 25, 2005 at 10:44 am

    NYC Educator, I am not wrong about Schumer. What you don’t know is this: he kept his kids in public school as long as they were in the right schools and the right programs. His younger child was in the gifted program in public school until she failed the entrance exam for Stuyvesant. Schumer, the hypocritical cheerleader for public schools, then enrolled her in the Trinity private school.

    How do I know this? A relative of mine was his child’s classmate.

    Schumer, like any poltical figure, spends plenty of time attempting to sniff out the onset of groundswells among his constituents. If he senses the presence of a mass movement, he attempts to determine the direction in which it’s heading, then he positions himself in what appears to be the front of the moving herd, and declares himself to be leading the charge. Even when the issues are mere pseudo-events or temporary phenomena.

    He has accused cereal makers of pricing conspiracies; he is currently accusing oil companies of pricing conspiracies; he previously claimed the US government could lower oil prices by selling oil out of the strategic petroleum reserve; he claimed the way to lower gun deaths was to outlaw assault weapons; and in the article you cited, he claimed he was 100% against tuition vouchers.

    He’s so deeply opposed to tuition vouchers that he’ll remove his child from the public school system before he’ll support a plan to restructure the system into a form suitable for the education of his child. Your child, well, that’s another matter.

    In other words, he’s demonstrating that the current system is good enough for those who can’t afford the price of escape — which is tuition at a private school — but not good enough for him.

    He’s demonstrating that educational choice is avalable to those with enough money to step away from the public-school monolith, but educational choice — and quality — is not available to the vast sea of students who are trapped by lack of wealth in the statist public school system.

    But he won’t support a plan that permits you to direct your tax payments to the school of your choice. Nice.

  • 10 NYC Educator
    · Nov 25, 2005 at 9:29 pm

    Actually, I read he had a daughter in Stuyvesant. If he sent his other daughter elsewhere for high school, I don’t really know enough to question his motives.

    Even if you’re right, which I doubt, that doesn’t negate the fact that he sent his kids, mostly, to public school, which he did not have to do.

    I’ve yet to see Senator Schumer review movies he hasn’t seen, books he hasn’t read, or classes he’s never observed, so I’ll still have to consider him a more reliable source than you, noslappz, with your usual lack of documentation.

    I’ve now seen the Wal-Mart movie, and I must also doubt your claim that they closed before Walmart opened. They clearly show the store, in operation, with the employees and managers discussing the impact Walmart will have.

    They show them closing the store down and trying to sell the proerty, which has been seriously devalued due to Walmart’s arrival. Were this false, as you claimed with your usual utter lack of documentation, Walmart would have excellent grounds for a lawsuit.

    Pardon me if I sit while I wait. And kindly document your claims if you wish them to have credibility.

  • 11 no_slappz
    · Nov 26, 2005 at 12:12 am

    NYC Ed, Schumer’s older daughter went to Stuyvesant. The younger one didn’t make the cut and is currently in private school. The facts are as I have stated them, and, as I mentioned, my source is my relative, a former public school classmate of the senator’s daughter. As they say, you could check it out.

    As for his motives, if they elude you, perhaps it’s denial, and you feel stung by a Democrat who mislead you.

    Second, the WalMart movie fiction was debunked in the Wall Street Journal. The reporter interviewed the hardware store owners — both old and new. The store closed before WalMart arrived, reopened under new ownership, and is currently thriving. This is another case which you could easily verify by simply calling the hardware store.

    As far as what the film shows, well, you have to be kidding. You think because the film was edited to suggest that WalMart opened its store before the hardware store closed that the visual implication is an expression of fact? Wow, you are gullible. Clearly this little lesson should teach you about the power of cinematic persuasiveness.

  • 12 no_slappz
    · Nov 26, 2005 at 12:50 am

    NYC Ed, if you care to check with the management of the Ohio hardware store that replaced the H&H crew you encountered in the greenwald’s fictional romp through the aisles of commerce, dial up the following:

    Ace Middlefield Hardware Inc
    (440) 632-1028
    14980 S State Ave
    Middlefield, OH 44062

  • 13 NYC Educator
    · Nov 26, 2005 at 7:42 am

    You’ll pardon me, noslappz, but I’m not quite as gullible as you may think.

    I used to be. In fact, I once believed that Iraq had WMDs and ties to Al Queda, and that war with Iraq was necessary. I believe the Wall Street Journal was adament on that point.

    Your willingness to make assumptions about Schumer’s motives, about which you know nothing, are right in keeping with your willingness to opine on films you’ve never seen, books you’ve never read, and classes you’ve never observed.

    Frankly, if he’d sent one of his daughters to a private high school, I couldn’t care less. But I have no idea whether or not that’s true, and can’t find any source to back it up. Nor can you, apparently.

    I suppose I could write that I have a relative who says you’re wrong. But why bother?

    Your information about him, which you’ve backed up with nothing more than something you claim to have heard, comes from a demonstrably unreliable source-you.

  • 14 no_slappz
    · Nov 26, 2005 at 8:52 am

    NYC Ed, you claimed you “couldn’t care less” if Schumer sent one of his daughters to private school. That statement contradicts your earlier action, your response to my previous post in which I noted, among several matters, that the senator was not the public-school parent he has pretended to be.

    If you really couldn’t have cared less about the subject, what motivated you hit the keyboard, responding to only that single point in my post?

    That aside, diatribes, screeds, polemics and pamphlets, and the polemicists and pamphlateers behind them are pretty easy to identify. One can read reviews and analyses of the works to acquire all that’s necessary for discussions.

    As for your assertion that I am a “demonstrably unreliable source”, well, for that claim to be true, you would have had to demonstrate my unreliability. You would have had to disprove statements of mine.

    You haven’t. And you can’t. Why? Because nothing I’ve written here is untrue. Every statement is verifiable. But, as your tone conveyed, you can’t be bothered with fact checking.

    You have shown yourself to be among those who will argue that OJ Simpson didn’t murder his ex-wife and Ron Goldman simply because the jury in his criminal case decided to acquit him.

  • 15 NYC Educator
    · Nov 26, 2005 at 9:45 am

    No, I said I couldn’t care less if Schumer sent one of his daughters to private high school. That does not negate the fact that he sent her to public school before that, and that his other daughter went entirely to public school.

    Still, you have failed to establish even that. Stories about your relatives and acquaintances, I’m afraid, cannot be substantiated, unlike the link I provided.

    “You have shown yourself to be among those who will argue that OJ Simpson didn’t murder his ex-wife and Ron Goldman simply because the jury in his criminal case decided to acquit him.”

    I’m afraid it doesn’t take much to verify your lack of mind reading skills, and you have once again demonstrated your propensity for baseless assumptions.

    Please keep them coming. I find them highly amusing.

  • 16 no_slappz
    · Nov 26, 2005 at 1:02 pm

    NYC Ed, you’re dancing away from your own statements. That’s one of those obfuscating skills people employ when they can’t support their own conclusions.

    You simply asserted my statement was wrong while claiming I was an unreliable source. Yet you provided no information disproving any of my statements. You seem to like mixing a little proof-by-assertion with some ad hominem.

    Your belief that Schumer sent his kids only to public school is based on a statement he made many years ago — before he was faced with the disturbing reality of enrolling one of his kids in a public high school that wasn’t Stuyvesant.

    That you doubt the statements from my relative is irrelevant. You can contact the senator’s office for verification. But I’m sure you won’t take such an obvious step. Likewise, with the hardware store in the Oliver Stone WalMart movie.

    Meanwhile, you can rightly claim I, as an anonymous poster on a message board, have no credibility. That’s true. I can state anything without regard for the truth.

    However, claims of unreliability won’t wash until you — or anyone, for that matter — demonstrate my claims are false. Fact checking. Clearly something for which you’re not prepared.

    My basis for determining you are a de facto OJ believer is this: your credulity regarding Schumer’s claim, which is based on nothing more than a long outdated assertion he offered to his supporters.

    His patronzing statement about having an edge at Harvard because he became street smart in Brooklyn is just too rich with condescension, as well.

    That aside, you’ve demonstrated your willingness to accept claims of those whose reputation or authority you won’t challenge.

  • 17 NYC Educator
    · Nov 26, 2005 at 2:51 pm

    I’m afraid it doesn’t take much to verify your lack of mind reading skills, and you have once again demonstrated your propensity for baseless assumptions.

    Please keep them coming. I find them highly amusing.

  • 18 no_slappz
    · Nov 26, 2005 at 4:49 pm

    NYC Ed, I see you keep redacting the content of your posts to the point that there’s nothing left but a few repeated sentences that recount the least significant elements of your opinions.

    That seems to be another dodging and deflecting tactic of yours.

    Just to amuse me, answer this: do you believe OJ Simpson murdered his ex-wfie and Ron Goldman?

  • 19 NYC Educator
    · Nov 26, 2005 at 5:22 pm

    Actually, my cousin informs me that aliens from outer space were behind the entire incident.

    Before you respond, bear in mind that claims of unreliability won’t wash until you — or anyone, for that matter — demonstrate my claims are false. Fact checking. Clearly something for which you’re not prepared.

  • 20 no_slappz
    · Nov 26, 2005 at 5:51 pm

    NYC Ed, based on your statements in previous posts, you admitted you don’t have many thoughts of your own, but I had believed you were able to answer a simple yes-or-no question with a simple yes or no. Apparently not.

    You’re afraid to go even that little distance.

    Regarding the evidence nailing Simpson. It’s incontestable, as the jury in his civil trial concluded. The weight of evidence of his guilt is backbreaking. As for exculpatory evidence — none. Only those who willfully choose to ignore the facts see it differently. You have painted yourself as a member of that crowd.

  • 21 NYC Educator
    · Nov 26, 2005 at 6:14 pm

    I regret to inform you your mind-reading abilities have not improved.

  • 22 no_slappz
    · Nov 26, 2005 at 6:56 pm

    NYC Ed, still no yes-or-no response to my simple question about Simpson’s guilt.

    You are truly an equivocator.

  • 23 jd2718
    · Nov 26, 2005 at 7:18 pm

    NYC Educator,

    please just leave him alone.


  • 24 northbrooklyn
    · Nov 27, 2005 at 11:29 am

    Thank you Jonathan-
    One small point about any of our elected officials placing their children in public schools…there are a lot of crazy people out there and when a public official’s name becomes more of a household word or as they gain in power the crazies have no problem with threatening the family. As Schumer has become more influential, I have no doubt the crazies have become even more frenzied. Public schools do not have the
    capacity to protect the children of the famous/powerful/influential. And you as a citizen, no matter how well-informed, are not going to find out if a child was placed in a private school because they didn’t make it into a flagship school or because there is a security risk.

  • 25 no_slappz
    · Nov 27, 2005 at 1:27 pm

    northbrooklyn, while you make what appears to be a valid point, it’s lacking.

    You claim public schools do not have the capacity to protect the children of the famous/powerful/influential.

    Really? All that police presence at public schools makes them less safe than private schools? While I have no doubt private schools retain some providers of security services whose operatives are not plainly visible, there’s little talk of it.

    But now that you’ve piqued my interest, I’ll check with the private school teachers I know for some color on this topic.

    Meanwhile, I don’t believe all the children of prominent elected officials receive security services from the US government while they attend colleges all around the country, if not the world. Campus security is a constant topic because there’s often so little of it.

    Moreover, other than on an episode of “The West Wing”, I can’t recall any real-life episodes of danger aimed at the children of US politicians, though it could be argued than both Ron Reagan and Patti Davis were a threat to their father.

    Of course Reagan was shot, and his shooter was a graduate of a private school, for whatever that’s worth, as was Peter Braunstein, NYC’s most wanted man. And who can forget Robert Chambers, another product of an elite NYC private school. Then there’s the recently publicized scandal at Poly Prep in Brooklyn.

    That aside, do you have any examples to support your belief? To narrow things down, I concede that wealthy individuals fear kidnapping and therefore put their kids in private schools, but even that threat is not one that morphs into reality in the US. J Paul Getty’s grandson was kidnapped many years ago. Lost an ear. But he was snatched in Italy, I think.

    We live with many fears. Some rational, others much less so. While you may believe well-known people have good reason to fear for the safety of their children, there’s not much evidence backing that view.

    Meanwhile, in New York City alone we have a substantial agency — the Administration for Childrens’ Services — that deals with the abuse of staggering numbers of children from unfamous, unpowerful, and uninfluential homes. The crazies may be out there, but when it comes to those most frequently victimized by them, you’re looking in the wrong socio-economic stratum.

  • 26 Persam1197
    · Nov 27, 2005 at 4:48 pm

    Placing one’s children in an appropriate educational setting is a personal decision. Scrutinizing Schumer’s family decision is incredibly petty. The real question to be asked is why are ALL students not entitled to the enrichment programs offered by the elite schools? In the last decade or more of education, the city has stripped art, music, dance, AP programs, etc. citywide. My school has no music program while Bronx Science has a wonderful jazz band and photography classes among other things.

    I’m all for gifted education; I graduated from LaGuardia, but all kids deserve the opportunity to the very best education has to offer. In 1997, one of the first English Regents had a listening passage about the Suzuki violin playing method. I was teaching at Manhattan Center for Math and Science (an excellent school) that gets many of its students from what the specialized schools do not accept. Most of the kids had no clue because they had never even seen a violin. A number of kids wrote about Suzuki motorcycles because that was the limitation of their exposure.

    I know No-Slappz feels that the CFE ruling is a joke and that state funding
    need not be commensurate to the tax revenue sent to Albany, however, this inequity in enrichment programs certainly could be addressed.

    Finally, many folks outside the educational community may not know this, but most of the large high schools in New York City had programs to get gifted students college-bound. My wife is a product of Bushwick High School’s program. With the break up of large schools into smaller ones, the options for students in underserved districts are much smaller now as these newer schools get their feet wet with inexperienced adminstrators and staff.

  • 27 no_slappz
    · Nov 27, 2005 at 8:46 pm

    Persam, isn’t the endless list of shortcomings and failures of the NYC public school monopoly sufficient reason to chuck the whole structure?

    Since extraordinary schools exist in the city and the country, it’s clear that creating more of them is possible. What’s also obvious is the inability of a state-controlled system to serve the entire school population.

    The citizens stuck with the public school system are like the Cubans stuck with Castro’s government — they’re always asked to sacrifice more because communist triumph is just around the corner. We’re 45 years into the great socialist experiment in Cuba and the communist government still can’t produce electricity 24 hours a day or find oil in the same body of water from which we extract it in mega-ton quantities.

    Persam, please tell me what would happen if all the taxpayers in New York State were forced to cough up $5.6 billion for NY city schools.

    Would those non-NYC taxpayers have to trim funding of the school systems in their own cities as a result? Or would everyone in the state simply find themselves burdened with more taxes?

    I saw that several people in the School Construction Authority were arrested about a week ago for engaging in the massive fraud that is ongoing in that agency.

    As I’ve said, there’s enough money siphoned off every year by the criminals at that agency to finance most of what you advocate. But, as with most monopolies, there’s no incentive within them to stop corruption because one way or another, so many workers participate in the abuse.

    Meanwhile, the school system exists like so many of the worlds dictatorships. When they fail to serve their constituents, humanitarian organizations take up collections and send volunteers to assist the needy. The NY public school systems enjoys the similar benefactions.

    Whether it’s the free tutoring provided by 14,000 Learning Leaders volunteers, or federally funded tutoring programs, or grants from Bill Gates or other wealthy donors, they all pick up where the state-run education system leaves off.

  • 28 Persam1197
    · Nov 28, 2005 at 5:56 am


    I couldn’t disagree with you more! If New York City sends out 37% of tax money to the state and gets back 34% of the education funding dollars, what does this have to do with state tax-payers getting short shrift? Why are NYC taxpayers subsidizing other school districts in the state? As for theft, have you not read about the Roslyn school district? Or Hempstead?

    We have some of the best schools in the world right here in NYC. There is no reason in the world why we have to experiment on new models for educating our kids. We know what works: experienced and qualified personnel, smaller classes, adequate funding and resources, involved parents, vocational training, etc. What you are criticizing is the system in which we work in. Supposedly that’s what Bloomburg’s “Children First” initiative is about. If you think his reforms are bad and the whole system should be “chucked,” so be it. But then you throw out Stuyvesant, Bronx Science, LaGuardia, Brooklyn Tech, Phillipa Schuyler, Townsend Harris, Cordoza, and scores of world-class schools with it.

    The reason those schools are successful is that they get the resources needed. These schools have veteran educators on board, they have powerful PA’s as well as alumni,they offer programs above and beyond what most of the other schools get, and they are selective. Great! So are private schools. Wonderful! So my school should lack even a rudimentary music class because of funding? My kids have to wait until the system is redesigned to your liking? We’re supposed to wait until some private patrons come to pick up the slack?

    We’re not stuck in a monopoly; this is OUR system and we have the right and the power to effect changes in the system to give our kids what they need. Privatization, vouchers, charters, etc. are not the answers. None of these “options” operate at a scale to service 1.2 million kids. By the way, parochial schools are closing sending even more kids back into our system. They no longer have the free labor of nuns and the clergy. The scandals of the Church have forced them as well to redirect funding into settling lawsuits. Obviously the private school systems in NY also have priorities that are less than wonderful.

    As for Cuba, they have a 98% literacy rate which is six points higher than the US. They have an excellent health care system in which everyone is covered. They may have serious flaws in their system, however, they certainly prioritize the education and health of their people with the resources that they do have. So why can’t we as Americans do the same?

    It’s all about fairness.

  • 29 no_slappz
    · Nov 29, 2005 at 10:44 am

    A few thoughts found in today’s Wall Street Journal:

    Texas School Lesson
    November 29, 2005; Page A18

    The Texas Supreme Court did the expected last week and struck down the statewide property tax for funding public schools. But what was surprising and welcome was the Court’s unanimous ruling that the Texas school system, which spends nearly $10,000 per student, satisfies the funding “adequacy” requirements of the state constitution. Most remarkable of all was the court’s declaration that “more money does not guarantee better schools or more educated students.”

    Think about that one for a second. To our knowledge, this is the first time anywhere in the country that the judiciary has flatly rejected the core doctrine of the education establishment that more dollars equal better classroom performance. And it is potentially very good news for students, especially those from the poorest neighborhoods, because it shifts the policy emphasis from money to achievement. Better send the paramedics to check for heart failure at National Education Association headquarters.

    Even more encouraging, the court endorsed more choices for parents and the state’s 4.3 million school kids. It said flatly: “Public education could benefit from more competition.” The Texas Public Policy Foundation, which provided much of the academic research for the court, looked at the Edgewood school district in San Antonio, where donors started a privately financed voucher program. The results indicate that not only have the kids with the vouchers benefited, but so have kids in the public schools that are now forced to compete for students.

    We hope that courts and school boards across the country study the Texas decision — including its comments on school financing: “The Constitution does not require a particular solution,” Judge Nathan Hecht wrote for the majority. “We leave such matters to the discretion of the Legislature.” In other words, it’s not the proper role of the judiciary to intervene in the operation or financing of the public schools.

    That kind of judicial thinking tends to be the exception these days. Over the past two decades, courts in more than 30 states have intervened in education policy and ordered billions of dollars spent on schools in the name of boosting student performance and ensuring equitable financing. The result has been an avalanche of new spending on inner-city and rural schools, but, alas, not much measurable achievement by the kids who were supposed to be helped.

    In one of the most notorious cases, in Kansas City, Missouri in the 1980s, a judge issued an edict requiring a $1 billion tax hike to help the failing inner-city schools. This raised expenditures to about $14,000 per student, or double the national average, but test scores continued to decline. Even the judge later admitted that he had blundered.

    The hope now is that, as Republican Governor Rick Perry and the state legislature search for a new school financing mechanism next year, they will accept the court’s invitation to open up the school system to a wide range of options including charters, vouchers, scholarships and rewards for quality, such as teacher pay for performance. If so, the Lone Star State, once the home of some of the worst public schools in the country, could become the national model for educational excellence.

  • 30 no_slappz
    · Nov 30, 2005 at 4:51 pm

    Persam, you ended you post by claiming “it’s all about fairness.”

    That’s one wrong turn among many in your post.

    “It” is not about “fairness”. Because by “fairness” you mean more money. More money for teachers (which is not an unreasonable personal goal, by the way), more money for schools. But none of that has any proven link to better outcomes among those who are the real issue – the students.

    “It” is about results — student results, student success.

    The NY City public school system has shown competence in some areas, tremendous success in other areas, and failure elsewhere.

    Quick aside. Yes, I know about the scandal in Roslyn. Once again, public servants have ripped off the taxpayers, not unlike the scoundrels at the School Construction Authority. However, there’s a big difference between the two situations. The gay lovers who were arrested for defrauding the Roslyn school system were caught after siphoning off cash for a couple of years. Their crime was uncovered, they were caught and they are headed for jail. Case closed.

    Meanwhile, the scandal at the SCA never ends. Though a few culprits were nabbed last week, you and I both know there are others still there stealing money, and the recent arrests have provided a few more employees with an opportunity to steal . The stealing never stops at the SCA.

    Back to the main discussion. You fail to grasp the limitations of the school system. Your comments — “There is no reason in the world why WE have to experiment on new models for educating our kids….We’re not stuck in a monopoly; this is OUR system and we have the right and the power to effect changes in the system to give our kids what they need.”

    Here’s the best line: “We know what works:”

    You have pretty much used all the statist reasoning for seizing full control of an entire industry. You are singing the song sung by every aspiring monopolist whoever lived. When Henry Ford and his company dominated the automobile market, he became famous for saying “the customers can have a car in any color they want, as long as it’s black.”

    Guess what? GM turned that statement into an opportunity to offer customers an option they wanted, which was cars in many colors. GM became far larger than Ford. But today, because the company was unable to adapt to changes in the car market, it is on the brink of bankruptcy. Why did GM fail to adapt? Union contracts.

    Meanwhile, Toyota, Honda and Nissan opened plants in the US. These days, while the American Big Three carmakers are under serious pressure, the Japanese carmakers building cars in the US are thriving. Their employee roles are increasing along with their vehicle sales. Hmmmm. What’s the big difference between the Japanese companies and the American companies? In a word – unions.

    The Japanese carmakers are forever grateful to the domestic United Auto Workers Union for the share of US car buyers now motoring about in their vehicles.

    Private schools feel the same way about public schools. Parents, like Chuck Schumer, agree too.

    Okay, maybe the parents are wrong. Maybe they don’t know enough to want what’s right for their kids. How about Schumer? Is he too dumb to know what’s best for his kids?

    So you claim you know what works. And the list of workable solutions includes: “experienced and qualified personnel, smaller classes, adequate funding and resources, involved parents, vocational training, etc.”

    The school system employs 86,000 members of the UFT. At least, that’s how many voted on the contract issue. That sounds like a lot of experienced and qualified teachers. In fact, if there are 1.2 million students, as you claim, then the student/teacher ratio, calculated by dividing 1,200,000 by 86,000, is 14 to 1. Sounds pretty manageable to me. Yet my relatives, who are all in gifted programs, sometimes have well over 30 kids in their classes. Explain that one.

    Meanwhile, parent involvement cannot be bought, unless it is bought with actual cash payments to the parents. Therefore, that argument is excluded from the braying for more money.

    Resources? Once again, the bureaucracy, as always, fails. Central planning cannot manage a system serving 1.2 million independent variables.

    Vocational training is part of the system. Automotive High School for one, Julliard for another. Is it possible to improve upon NYC public school vocational training? Absolutely.

    As you acknowledged, “What you are criticizing is the system in which we work.”

    No kidding? As you know, the system has many problems, almost all of which result from its unwieldiness and its bulwarked, moated mentality. Since you can’t work in every public school simultaneously, wouldn’t you prefer to work in ONE school that reflects your views on education? One that allows you to educate kids your way?

    Then again, what assures you that your way is good? Is there more than one successful manner of teaching? How do you measure teacher success? I know how you measure teacher success – by paychecks. On that basis you believe every teacher is equal, at least based on years of experience.

    Thus, old teachers are better than young teachers simply because they are older. And young teachers are less valuable than old teachers simply because they are younger. This is a very interesting form of pay discrimination.

    Admittedly new teachers have a few things to learn about managing classes and so forth. How many years does it take for a teacher to get on top of his game? When does a teacher peak? At the 5-year point? Ten years? Twenty?

    You wrote: “If you think his reforms are bad and the whole system should be “chucked,” so be it. But then you throw out Stuyvesant, Bronx Science, LaGuardia, Brooklyn Tech, Phillipa Schuyler, Townsend Harris, Cordoza, and scores of world-class schools with it.”

    Really? How so? Don’t those schools do it right? Why would anyone chuck those schools after a revolution in NYC public school education? Suppose the school system embraced vouchers. Wouldn’t the administrations of those schools accept kids under exactly the same terms under which they are accepted now? Under a voucher system, wouldn’t those schools have student bodies almost identical to those attending today?

    By the way, have you ever been inside the old Stuyvesant High School, on 15th Street between 1st and 2nd Avenues? It’s just another old NYC school building that attracted many inspired students. They were inspired before they got there. Same as today.

    You claimed: “The reason those schools are successful is that they get the resources needed.”

    Wrong. They succeed because they get the right students for those programs. Schools for kids with severe educational deficiencies can achieve the same relative successes.

    You wrote: “! So my school should lack even a rudimentary music class because of funding? My kids have to wait until the system is redesigned to your liking? We’re supposed to wait until some private patrons come to pick up the slack?”

    Your funding problems are not the result of cheapskate taxpayers around the city and state. Your students do not have a music class because high-cost 30-year teaching veterans must be paid fixed salaries no matter what. If the DOE were not stuck with their paychecks, you would have a music class. But, as you refuse to admit, the security of teachers’ paychecks is more important than a music class for your kids.

    As far as waiting goes, under the current system your kids will wait. How long? Who knows? But you obviously think they will have graduated before the music man arrives. However, we have been warned. There is trouble in River City.

    You wrote: “Privatization, vouchers, charters, etc. are not the answers. None of these “options” operate at a scale to service 1.2 million kids. By the way, parochial schools are closing sending even more kids back into our system. They no longer have the free labor of nuns and the clergy. The scandals of the Church have forced them as well to redirect funding into settling lawsuits. Obviously the private school systems in NY also have priorities that are less than wonderful”

    Private school works just fine. My kids have attended both public and private schools. Currently they are in public school. As far as the scalability of privatization, vouchers and charter schools goes, well, once again, you’re arguing in favor of monopoly power at the expense of competition. The result is what we have – an overburdened system saddled with a sluggish, inefficient and partially corrupt bureaucracy.

    The parochial schools are closing because they cannot charge enough tuition to support their operations. However, if each student came to school with an $8,000 voucher in his pocket, those same schools would thrive. Not that I favor outright support of religious schools.

    And you are right about the problems of the Catholic Church. Part of every dollar landing in many collection plates is used to discharge the settlements brought on my priestly sexual abuse.

    But you fail to understand how the public school system deals with the same issues. New York City pays out almost $500 million a year in liability lawsuits. That figure includes whatever it costs to compensate victims of sexual abuse committed by public school teachers. Thus, the school system doesn’t include a line-item on its financial statements covering lawsuit payouts. But you didn’t know that till now.

    Last are your thoughts on Cuba: “As for Cuba, they have a 98% literacy rate which is six points higher than the US. They have an excellent health care system in which everyone is covered. They may have serious flaws in their system, however, they certainly prioritize the education and health of their people with the resources that they do have. So why can’t we as Americans do the same?”

    Why do you believe Cuba maintains a “98% literacy rate”? Did you hear that from Fidel? Fidel will tell you Cuba is a free country. Fidel will tell you of the immense triumphs of the socialist revolution in Cuba.

    Guess what? He’s lying. Moreover, even if the majority of Cubans can read, you can be sure they are not permitted to read capitalist economists like Milton Friedman or Paul Samuelson. Lots of Marx. Not too much else. And try picking up a little of Ayn Rand’s work the next time you drop into a bookstore in Havana.

    And that business about Cuban healthcare – another lie. The country is far too broke to actually PROVIDE healthcare to everyone. Yes, Cuba has a national healthcare system that covers every citizen. But it is so overburdened and so underfunded that it is another failure in the workers’ paradise otherwise known as Cuba. Healthcare is rationed just like food and electricity and gasoline. However, if you have money, you get service. Few Cubans have the bucks. But Cuba does conduct a hard-currency business with well-heeled patients from other countries who want speedy service. Of course that speedy service comes at the expense of the average poor Cuban. But, that’s a centrally-planned government for you.

    Meanwhile you probably believed that story about Fidel offering to send 1,600 doctors to New Orleans after the hurricane. If 1,600 real Cuban doctors were sent to the US, how many do you think would return to Cuba after their work was done? If 1,600 quacks were sent to the US, how many would return to Cuba?

    Furthermore, Fidel, like those who believe in the dream of the NYC school system, blames the US for his country’s problems. Of course he’s enjoyed a 45-year run as dictator while his unfortunate citizens have waited for Godot, usually a little hungry and definitely with too little to do. They suffer for his intransigence, not US actions.

    If he were to abandon his silly failed socialist experiment and convert the country to a market economy, he’d have the world beating a path to Havana. Instead, Fidel continues to promise his countrymen that soon, soon his communist economy will spring to life. For 45 years, prosperity and success have lurked just around the next corner, where they will stay.