DOE Under De Blasio Administration Remains A mystery
Hints given from interview with key de Blasio education ally
By Stephen Witt
In a switch from campaign to administrative mode, Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio has apparently issued an order of silence on Zakivah Ansari, his transition team pick concerned with the city’s Department of Education’s future plans.
Ansari currently serves as Advocacy Director of the Alliance for Quality Education (AQE) is unavailable for any interviews, according to an AQE spokesperson. She is also a mother of eight – six of which are graduates from New York City public schools and have gone on to college, and with two currently enrolled in city schools.
AQE Executive Director Billy Easton granted Our Time Press an interview in lieu of speaking to Ansari.
The AQE was a very strong backer of de Blasio and some of the organization’s views on education could well be an indication on some of the policies under the new Department of Education (DOE). The following is an edited interview with Easton.
OTP: What is your organization’s view on the Common Core Curriculum?
Easton: Our outlook is the idea of raising the quality of teaching and learning, which is the Common Core objective, is good. However, what we see from Common Core is higher-staked consequences tied to testing and we’re not seeing raising the quality of the curriculum, and in fact, we’ve seen lots of cuts to the quality of the curriculum. They put the tests before raising the quality of the curriculum and that’s backwards. There’s too much emphasis on testing.
Our position is there should be a freeze or moratorium on all high-stakes consequences tied to these tests until there are adequate resources to prepare students to meet a higher standard.
OTP: What is your view on charter schools?
Easton: We have been strong proponents of a moratorium on charter schools and that charter schools pay fair rent for using public school space. Under the Bloomberg Administration, some charter schools had an unprecedented amount of special treatment.
OTP: What is your view on Gifted & Talented programs for students from kindergarten through 4th grade?
Easton: “We think all districts should have access to Gifted and Talented programs and the single tests for admissions should be done away with. There are huge racial disparities in the current Gifted & Talented programs and that’s a definite problem because we know students of one race are not more gifted and talented than another race.
We support (even at higher levels) a single-source admissions test. When you overemphasize the role of tests you narrow the types of intelligence you’re measuring. When dealing with admissions policy, tests should be a factor but not the only factor.
How do they see a DOE’s Panel for Educational Policy (PEP) working?
Easton: We support the continuation of the PEP structure with eight mayoral appointees with each borough president having one appointee, but there should be a fixed term for all appointees where the mayor can’t fire anyone on the board. That way there’s room for discourse and disagreement.
What do you want the role of parents to be in the new DOE?
Easton: It’s really important for the de Blasio Administration to provide a real way for parents to become engaged on how the DOE functions. We’re still working on a whole proposal on parental involvement that is still under formation.
Finally, what would you like to see in a new chancellor?
Easton: We’re not advocating for a specific chancellor, but it does need to be somebody that knows New York City schools and be a qualified educator who has respect for parents, students and community schools.