Monday, June 20, 2011

NYC Cuts Teachers But Adds Technology

Our city is reducing its financial commitment to education and laying off teachers, but New York City is also increasing its level of financial investment in technology for classrooms.

Teacher Layoffs

In an era of increasing unwillingness to accept poor classroom performance of students, New York City is making the counter-intuitive step of demanding teacher lay offs. The total reduction is more than six thousand teachers, with more than four thousand of them coming from lay offs.

At first, one might be shocked that a Mayor who ran for election to a third term based on his argument that he had improved the school system would use that term to reduce the number of professionals in the classrooms of our city teaching our city's children. But, there are some uncharitable explanations:
1) The Mayor may have given up on building a legacy of achievement in education. He chose Cathie Black as the Chancellorof NYC public schools, and her selection highlighted how little the Mayor values the educational mission of our city.
2) Test scores, once believed to have improved under the Mayor's leadership, have been shown to have failed to improve.
3) Success is elusive. Only 28% of Black males in NYC graduate from high school. The Mayor may be feeling that he is stuck with the legacy of that performance and should focus on a legacy of cutting government spending.

There is also a reason to be optimistic. The new Chancellor is Dennis Walcott, and Chancellor Walcott's desire to see our city's children receive a high quality education is largely unchallenged. The Chancellor's influence over the Mayor's decisions is often called into question.

No matter how one looks at the upcoming school year, the loss of more than six thousand teachers will not improve the quality of education in our city. Let us pray that our optimism regarding Chancellor Walcott is not misplaced.

Perhaps his commitment to technological advancement in schools is a reason to hold onto our optimism.

Technology Spending

The NYC Department of Education is seeking to spend nearly $1 billion on technology in the next fiscal year for classrooms in our city.

Some of those dollars will go to consultants on technologies issues. Some of the dollars will go to lap tops in classrooms. Perhaps those dollars will be a part of upgrading the level of internet connectivity in the classrooms around our city.

Interestingly, for the 2014-2015 school year, the high stakes New York State Assessment Tests will be given online, and some of the increased capital spending in New York City is being explained as preparation for that online assessment test challenge. New York State has stated that the 2014-2015 tests will be available in a more traditional format in addition to the online format, but  New York City is preparing for 2014-2015 as if there will not be an accommodation for school systems whose technology is insufficient for the online test.

Our city needs to lead the way in the US for investing in technology and for investing in high quality teaching. We may be moving toward a willingness to lead on technology, but we're moving in the wrong direction on teaching.

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