Nine years ago, when Mayor Michael Bloomberg took control of the city’s schools, he promised a new era of progress and accountability.
It hasn’t happened. Indeed the troubles of our school system are as vexing as ever. The latest state math and English tests show the proficiency gap between minority and white students in elementary and middle schools is at about the same level as when Bloomberg took over, according to The New York Times.
And there’s an aroma of suspected corruption arising from the Department of Education. Juan Gonzalez, of the Daily News, reported on it. According to court papers, a high-level official at the department, in charge of oversight, had a personal relationship with one of the owners of a company that got a $43 million contract from the DOE.
It’s reported that the Education Department is strongly considering more programs to have many children educated through computers. There seems to be a bias against teacher-based education here and the possibility that thousands of teachers will be laid off because of the city’s financial troubles may encourage bureaucrats to computerize more of the education program.
Diane Ravitch, a recognized authority on American education, warns that the growing trend to use computers to teach children will encourage the computer testing industry. She told me that many testing companies are eager to compete for contracts -- and “this could open the door.”
She believes curtailing the interaction between teachers and students would lower educational standards. “Testing has fostered a very profitable industry. And there are companies just waiting to jump in, to benefit from what they hope will be a growing trend toward computerized education,” Ravitch said.
She is concerned that the competition to get contracts will encourage the industry to make bigger and bigger campaign contributions. And, as she sees it, in the future that could lead to corruption.
Leonie Haimson, of Class Size Matters, a parent leader, deplores what she sees as a trend toward computerized education. In the DOE’s capital budget, she told me, are $540 million earmarked for computerized education. “They want to degrade our children’s right to an adequate education by putting them on computers and depriving them of access to a living, breathing teacher.”
She’s right. We live in an age when some politicians, who have usurped the educators, are trying to supplant old-fashioned learning -- with teachers -- with electronic gadgetry. They may give it a fancy name like “distance learning” but it still amounts to the same thing: saving money on the teacher payroll by putting kids in front of screens.
Many big shots will continue to send their kids to private schools with 15 or 20 students to a teacher while the less affluent folks will have to be satisfied with mass education taught largely by computers.
No wonder a recent Quinnipiac Poll showed that 78 % of New Yorkers disapprove of the way Bloomberg has run the schools. He hasn’t brought the nirvana he promised.