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Iron Mike Bloomberg asserts new school rules

The Brooklyn Paper
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Mayor Michael Bloomberg was awarded control of the city’s public schools just days ago but that isn’t stopping him from introducing new rules and regulations.

The reauthorized version of mayoral control offers some changes — Bloomberg must appoint at least two parents to the city Department of Education’s (DOE) Panel for Educational Policy (PEP), which will review the use of no-bid contracts — but mostly keeps the power in Bloomberg’s hands.

“I don’t see this representing any real change,” said Christopher Spinelli, president of School District 22’s Community Education Council (CEC), which advocates for schools in Mill Basin, Bergen Beach, Manhattan Beach, Marine Park, Gerritsen Beach and parts of Midwood, Flatbush and Sheepshead Bay.

“Parents are not going to have any additional authority or responsibility or influence under this new version of mayoral control. It’s still going to be the same top-down system,” Spinelli continued.

“The Panel for Educational Policy has not shown an independent moment in its entire existence,” said Jim Devor, president of District 15’s CEC, which represents Red Hook, Park Slope and Sunset Park.

Devor did applaud the new rule allowing the Independent Budget Office to review DOE data.

“It’s important that we found an independent agency to see how they’re cooking the books,” he said.

Back in charge, Bloomberg wants to implement tougher promotion standards for grades four and six. As per the policy, students who score on the lowest level, level one, on the state’s standardized English and math exams will be held back. However, if the students attend summer school for “intensive remedial support” and re-take and pass the exams, they will be promoted.

Grades three, five, seven and eight already maintain this policy, which is intended to end social promotion, the common practice of sending students to the next grade regardless of their ability to master the curriculum or obtain basic skills.

“When we promote a child to the next grade who can’t handle the work, we’re setting that child up to fail in later grades,” Bloomberg said.

The PEP must approve the new standards. That will likely be an easy task, as Bloomberg appoints eight of the panel’s 13 members.

When Bloomberg first introduced these new promotion standards in 2004, he was met with outrage from parents. Fearing that the PEP wouldn’t approve the new standards, the mayor abruptly removed three panel members before the vote. With new members in place, the policy changes passed.

Since the inception of the new standards, some criticism has remained but the Bloomberg administration has insisted that students are being helped. They say students now have no choice but to master the curriculum, thereby preparing them for upper grades.

The United Federation of Teachers (UFT) called new standards for fourth and sixth graders “a step in the right direction.”

“Ending social promotion is a goal that we all share,” UFT President Michael Mulgrew said. “But we also need to ensure that effective support and intervention services are in place and available for under-achieving students. It is critical that we provide adequate resources so that these students have every opportunity to keep up with their peers.”

Updated 11:48 am, January 16, 2019
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