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Who’s in charge? Who should be?

The sight of Progress Reports mastermind Jim Liebman dashing out a side door in the City Council chamber yesterday while angry parents pursued him nicely exemplifies the issue at hand: Who’s accountable to who here?

Liebman is a Tweed technocrat–for which he is to blame–but also a smart and decent man. He had just been grilled by the Council Education Committee for three hours, answering questions that aren’t really in his domain, especially about the high-stakes consequences of the progress reports grades. He was taking the blows meant for Joel Klein, who was, presumably, safely barricaded at Tweed.

The Council members were frustrated because they and their constituents can’t understand the reports. (They probably could if they tried. They were doing their fair share of grandstanding). But DOE has frequently condescended to the Council Education Committee and doesn’t take them seriously. And the issue at hand was serious enough to upset anyone. The DOE is closing schools, 13 at last count, based solely on the Progress Report grades.

The parents and anti-testing activists were frustrated because they hadn’t gotten to ask any questions or testify themselves, and they had boxes with some 6,700 petitions opposing the report, which they weren’t able to deliver to the fleeing Liebman or anyone else at DOE. They were clearly doing some grandstanding of their own but their beef is genuine. Parent input is barely tolerated at Tweed.

The only real decision-makers in the entire education system at this point are the mayor and chancellor, and that is making everyone (except them) a little nuts.

UFT’s task force on school governance is about to hold hearings in all the boroughs to get teacher, parent ande public input into whether mayoral control of schools should be extended past 2009 and if (and how) it should be modified.

The first one, in Queens, is set for Feb. 28 from 4:30 to 6:30 on the 8th floor of the UFT offices, 97-77 Queens Blvd., Rego Park. Check uft.org for the others as they get firmed up. Then plan to attend the one in your borough.

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3 Comments:

  • 1 R. Skibins
    · Dec 11, 2007 at 11:16 pm

    This just goes to show what a dangerous mistake mayoral control has been. We must allow it to sunset, never to be seen again.

  • 2 NYC Educator
    · Dec 12, 2007 at 10:12 am

    Mr. Liebman is certainly smart. Still, it’s hard for me to characterize running away from concerned parents as “decent.” The last time I noticed Mr. Liebman, he was blatantly trying to obscure the fact that the number one concern of city parents was class size.

    While I’m sure Mr. Liebman has many fine qualities, he does little in the way of supporting parent or teacher priorities. Nice though he may be, “He was just following orders” is hardly a worthy defense.

    I’ve no doubt Mr. Liebman would come up with something better, if we could only catch up with him.

  • 3 Patrick
    · Dec 13, 2007 at 9:43 am

    Jim Liebman has taken a lead role in DOE’s PR war against smaller class sizes. In a recent series of emails to Manhattan parents, he argued that only class sizes of 15 have any impact on performance, above that there is no benefit to smaller classes. At the Panel for Educational Policy meeting in September, I expressed my displeasure at Liebman’s obvious attempt to manipulate parent survey results to mask the demand of parents for smaller classes. His office should be focused on dispassionate analysis of school performance, not providing questionable statistics to shore up the mayor’s political agenda. That hardly qualifies him for a “good and decent” endorsement from the UFT. As for “grandstanding”, I disagree with your assessment. A decent man would accept the parent petitions even if he disagreed with the concerns expressed there. Instead he chose to flee and created the ensuing media spectacle. Parents came out to make their voices heard, that’s activism, not grandstanding. We need more of it.