Saturday, December 27, 2014

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The Call Blog: Major Reforms Coming To Public School System?

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One of our callers described today's "announcement" as nothing more than a victory lap for Mayor de Blasio. The reforms outlined today were previously proposed in the Mayor's executive budget and in the UFT contract. And it's important to note they need approval from City Council lawmakers and teachers to become a reality.

Mayor de Blasio visited an elementary school in Queens today to outline "major reforms" to the public school system. The Mayor said the Department of Education will make several strategic investments if City Council lawmakers approve his executive budget, and teachers ratify the City's proposed contract deal with the United Federation of Teachers.

The "sweeping changes" include spending $4.4 billion tax dollars to relieve crowded classrooms, removing all 352 schoolyard trailers in four years at a cost of $480 million tax dollars, investing an additional $20 million dollars in funding dedicated to the arts, and devoting 40 minutes every week to dedicated parent-teacher interaction. What do you say?

Do you welcome the effort to spend $4.4 billion tax dollars to reduce the stress of overcrowded classrooms? Are New York City students currently receiving enough arts education? If teachers had a dedicated time every week to reach out to parents, will it help get them more involved? If not, what will? What changes would you make to the Department of Education?

Send your thoughts using the link above.

I was principal for 28 years. The new UFT contract has several worthy points but the questions are

1- will the extra time for professional development take time away from the instructional day

2- will the two periods a week take time away from instructional time and if during the school day each school will incur extra costs in order to cover the class room teacher

3 - teacher evaluation is critical It is not clear in the contract outline it's implementation by Principals

4 - I always maintained arts program which were integrated around Social Studies themes while including technology the arts funding must be applauded since all brain research indicates the impact of the arts on mega cognition The big but is the arts cannot be an add on or stand by itself but must be inclusive within the academic instructional program

Dr G

How does the NYS define mastery?

The Integrated Algebra Regents Exam given in January had minimum passing scores of 65 for general education students and 55 for Students with IEPs. On a 39 question exam a general education student could get 11 questions correct to pass, while a student with an IEP would only need to get 7 questions correct.

How can we say that this is sufficient to demonstrate college and job readiness for students and say that the Regents Exams are capable of measuring teacher effectiveness. That the new Teacher contract codifies this is just another example of how the contract fails students and teachers.


I'm a PTA treasure at my son's school . We call parents , email and send letters home through the mail and with the kids . These parents don't want to be Involved!!!!

Danielle , Harlem

I Believe All 3 of these initiatives are spot on the mark. Parents and teachers know that smaller class size and relieving overcrowding is a key to improving the system. Parents and kids also want - no need - a well-rounded education including arts, music and social sciences rather than squeezing all joy out of education via standardized math and English testing. And More time to connect parents and teachers is absolutely vital to engaging families in our schools - another key to improving student performance. This is a great plan and as a public school parent of 3 I am encouraged.


Tell Evelyn that if she puts her papers in before this June 30th she will get her full retro upfront. If she retires anytime after that her pension will pay incrementally bigger payments over the next six years

Mike from cobble hill

Why spend such enormous amount of the schools allocated money removing the trailers. Remove the children from trailers and use the trailers for storage and/or office space. Free up space in school buildings. Or rent out space for adult education classes or some other use. Be creative.


Hi John;

Deblasio is all about spending but my question is where is this money coming from...higher taxes? I didn't realize that teachers make so much money....maybe teachers should spend more hours in the classroom.

I wish there was a way that single taxpaying NYers who never have and never will use the school system could opt out of paying for school taxes. The new administration isn't doing anything to improve my quality of life including the reduction of law enforcement practices.

midtown east

Parents are as involved as they want to be in my career of 20 years I have found it very difficult to get parents to come on to support their children.


Hello John,

One thing that should be changed or removed is a holdover from the Bloomberg years "Mayoral Control" It was and is bad idea!

Tony, Albany


Thank god we have mayor who is actually going to piece back together everything that Bloomberg ripped apart. The team of DeBlasio and Farina are well on their way of giving us an education system the city can be proud of. Education is not a business. It is the foundation of our democracy. The contract is a good deal- we got the 4 and 4 percent that the other unions got four years ago. The rest of the deal is basically keeping close to cost of living increases. It shows that this mayor is treating teachers like the professionals they are.

Chris from Brooklyn
Teacher/ uft delegate

I teach piano in The South Bronx. It is a wasteland as far as elementary schools music and visual arts instruction. Arts teachers are extremely scarce here because the Bloomberg administration openly de-emphasized arts instruction. I welcome and applaud this initiative, but I wonder where all of the new arts teachers will come from.

Tom- Harlem

The reason Bloomberg always balanced the budget, was because he balanced it by shortchanging school children -- going to school in 3rd world trailers, and on the backs of the working class by denying teachers and other union workers a living wage. De Blasio is investing in the future, not just balancing a budget and I applaud his courage.


The way the contract payments and increases are structured is anticlimactic and frustrating. We have waited lo these many years, and now we are offered a contract that is front-loaded with low increases and low retro-payments. I cant pay MY BILLS this way. Its frustrating that the City would pay us this way.

Tom-Harlem (again)

I definitely welcome the expenditure to ease classrooms that are overcrowded and also to increase arts education in our schools. For years we had arts education in our schools and little by little, program after program was cut. In my school for example we had a full time Art and full time Music teacher for years. Then with budget cut after budget cut, first the Art program was cut and more recently the Music program was cut. Children need and deserve Art and Music in addition to the ELA & Math that is shoved down their throats all day long. Principals said there was no time for the "extras" as they call Music & Art but in my opinion, Music and Art should be a staple of education just as the academic subjects are. Many children I know have blossomed academically after realizing a talent existed in the Arts. We should never deny a child a well rounded education and Music & Art is a necessity not a luxury.

I hope that the dedicated time we will have for parent involvement, will increase parent involvement. It's difficult for many parents due to language differences or limited mathematics ability to help their children. By bringing the parents in and working with them to learn the "new" math and standards, this in turn will help their child. We hope that it does. Involved parents are the link to a child's success.

Arden Heights

Hi John

It's about time major reform to to the public school system it's long overdue, the teacher can't teach if they have to many students in the class some students might need indivual help and the teacher should have time to help that student. More money need to be funded into the art program because some students are excellent artist, all parents need to how their child is doing in school they need to get involved with their child's school talk to the teachers communication is important If they cant speak english the child should be in a bilingual class the common core tests should be given in different languages so the child can understand it properly and can pass it because those tests are important for college.



Governments should not be operating schools. Private companies should and for parents to obtain an education for their children, they should cough up the money. No one is obligated to pay for the education of children who are not their own.

Port Richmond, SI

Hi John,

This mayor is a big sport our money. By throwing good money after bad. There are to many if’s in his proposals. Why is the amount of money quoted such a huge amount just to remove the trailers. I’m sure they were put together in parts and should be dismantled in the same way. Here we go again with visions once again he just continues to quote huge amounts of money towards Arts especially but what about all of the trades that were taken away from the education system in New York City and the boroughs. To even imagine that this mayor has high hopes for the teachers and parents/guardians will have 40 minutes dedicated to interact with one another discussing the students education. How can something like this even get off the ground since out of one class room full of students = Only one or two parents ever showed up for open school week. I would like to know just where is all of this excess room being found to help relieve the overcrowding of classrooms. All that seems to be mentioned is the arts and no one is mentioning their reading and writing and language. They should learn to speak and write in English from the very beginning.

Thank you John,

As a twelve year veteran of the DOE, working in District 75, many of my fellow teachers are feeling like they are breathing fresh air after years of oppression under the Bloomberg reign. A pay raise, realistic teacher evaluation system, addressing classroom size and over crowding and a push to put arts back into schools is awesome....

But I wonder if this will address the situation that many related service live with on a daily basis. As a Speech therapist (one in six in my building) I have to provide therapy in the back of a functioning classroom. How is this children first??

Will speech therapist, ESL teachers, hearing and vision teachers finally come out of hallways, stair wells and backs of classroom to get the space they need?? Will the 12 Occupational and physical therapist who work out of the same classroom in my building finally get a more realistic space to work out of??

I also have not heard anything about SESIS (the online system that collects information about special education students and their services). It is an epic failure that cost the DOE millions to put in place but has yet to be overhauled or addressed in any shape or form. YET all related service provider still have to document the services they provide on the online system, taking time away from students, planning and collaborations with teachers and parents.

Teacher in East Harlem

I LOVE the crowding reduction, trailer removal (finally!!) and arts spending. I do not feel good about the 40 minutes every week for parent-teacher interaction. At my school it looks as though this requirement (on top of the additional mandated teacher development) will cause the cancellation of at least 2 of the 3 days on which all teachers are at school 40 minutes before the start to give extra help to any students who need it. A great many students currently take advantage of this opportunity.

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