Hosted by Leonie Haimson (Class Size Matters)
Standardized Testing, COVID-19, and Opting Out
After a brief introduction about the beginning of the Biden administration and the new President's appointments to run the US Department of Education, Leonie spoke with Akil Bello, Senior Director of Advocacy of the national organization FairTest, Lisa Rudley, Executive Director of NY State Allies for Public Education and President of the Ossining School Board and Jeanette Deutermann, who leads Long Island Opt out. They discussed the campaigns here in NY State and nationally to urge the US Department of Education to provide waivers to states so they could cancel the administration of the federally-mandated 3rd through 8th grade exams this spring, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
She also spoke with Akil about the controversial NYC gifted exams, and the perplexing decision of NYC Mayor de Blaio and Chancellor Carranza to administer these exams again this spring, to children as young as four years old, perhaps for the last time. We also discussed the highly flawed record of Pearson, the corporation that produces these exams.
Redesigning Schools Post-COVID With Jal Mehta
Leonie interviewed Professor Jal Mehta, who recently wrote a very thought-provoking and optimistic piece in the NY Times on how lessons from the pandemic this year has taught us how schooling should be redesigned next year. Dr. Mehta teaches at the Harvard School of Education and is also the co-author of In Search of Deeper Learning: The Quest to Remake the American High School.
They discussed whether the lack of resources and the current emphasis on standards and accountability might constrain schools from encouraging the stronger connections between teachers and students and the autonomy and flexibility in curriculum that he recommends schools should adopt when they reopen in full.
Interview With Activist Shino Tanikawa on NYC School Admissions
Leonie was joined by Shino Tanikawa, NYC parent activist and a member of the Mayor’s Student Diversity Advisory Group, to talk about the new school admissions process announced by Mayor de Blasio and Chancellor Carranza for next year, and how it may affect school integration, funding and opportunities for students.
Interview With CSA President Mark Cannizzaro
Leonie interviewed Mark Cannizzaro, President of the Council of School Supervisors & Administrators (CSA), the NYC principal and administrator’s union, about the Mayor de Blasio’s school reopening plan, whether most students opting into in-person learning will be able to receive it five-days a week as claimed, what led the CSA to issue an unprecedented no-confidence vote in the Mayor and a request for the State Education Department to take over the management of NYC schools this fall, and whether DOE has provided enough support to teachers and principals to improve remote learning that the vast majority of students – about 800,000 – will continue to rely upon.
They also discussed whether Mayoral control should be reformed, whether the state tests should be cancelled this spring, and what schools will need next year in terms of additional resources and programs to address the huge academic and social losses that so many kids have suffered during the pandemic.
In the course of their discussions, President Cannizzaro revealed two disturbing facts: first, though the Mayor and the Chancellor say they are currently working on a remediation plan for next year to be released soon, neither he nor his members have been consulted or asked for input on this plan; and secondly, 60% of NYC schools are facing the prospect of huge budget cuts next year as a result of significant losses of enrollment. So far, the DOE has not given the CSA any assurance that these budget cuts will not occur.
Interview With UFT President Michael Mulgrew
Leonie spoke with Michael Mulgrew, President of the United Federation of Teachers, about his views on the mayor’s reopening school plan and whether it prioritizes the neediest students, whether DOE has sufficiently focused on improving remote learning, the excessive class sizes kids are experiencing in remote learning and the risks to student privacy involved, given the huge number of ed-tech apps that are being used.
He also discussed his views on mayoral control and why it needs to be revamped, whether state tests should be waived this year, and what resources our schools will need from the federal and state government to make up for all the lost learning time and emotional suffering kids have experienced during the COVID crisis and extended school shutdowns.
How Success Academy charter schools violate their students' civil, educational and privacy rights
The show focused on Success Academy charters, NYC's largest charter school chain, which has repeatedly violated students' civil rights while becoming known for high test scores and high suspension rates. Leonie interviewed Laura Barbieri of Advocates for Justice and Nelson Mar of Bronx Legal Services, two attorneys who’ve successfully sued Success Academy charter schools on behalf of students who have been mistreated at the school.
Then she spoke to Fatima Geidi, a former Success parent whose son’s special education, due process, and privacy rights were violated, the last after PBS News Hour interviewed Fatima and her son about the school’s abusive disciplinary practices. Dany Mangrove also related her experiences as a former operations assistant and teacher at Success Academy High School.
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Voices for public education
Leonie and Carol are lifelong advocates for public school children, and their incisive and data-driven arguments for the public good make for great podcast material!