Just a caveat. These are my personal opinions. None of these are the opinions of the board of education of which I am a member.
The month of January has been a very busy month for education in New York State. Three important events have happened. First, a commission appointed by the governor on education reform has issued its initial report. Second, the governor gave his State of the State address and included several of the eight recommendations of the commission in it. Third, the governor presented the executive budget of the state. This is the first step in NYS getting a state budget by April 1 – the official date a budget is suppose to be in place.
The Education Reform Commission issued its initial report with a final report coming later in the year. There were eight major points in the report.
- Institute full day pre-kindergarten programs (particularly in high need areas.) I do believe that early education is important. High need areas are those that generally have the poorest children. Parents cannot necessarily afford to send their children to a private nursery or preschool. Unfortunately, I also feel that this particular area is in direct contrast to the state’s view as kindergarten itself is not mandated in NYS.
- Integrate community and social services into the school system. Having all services that are needed in one location frequently allows those most in need in our society to not fall between the cracks.
- Extend the school day and school year. There are a lot of issues here. First, when do students in high school striving for that “well-rounded student” colleges are looking for find time for extra-curriculars and sports? Second, who is going to fund this initiative as schools have a limitation on the amount they can raise the tax levy? Third, how are families going to react?
- Improve teacher quality by recruiting top students into the field, increasing clinical experience and establishing a rigorous professional entrance exam. You would think this would make sense, common sense. Unfortunately, a good number of NYS schools are not hiring new teachers at the moment as they are trying to cut expenses.
- Increase the collaboration between high schools and community colleges to create “College in the High School” where a student may receive an associate degree (focusing on career and technical education) in six years of high school. This idea is marvelous. As it is, I do not think that career and technical education gets enough credit. People in NYS still think of BOCES as a location where trouble students are sent or where those who cannot “hack” classroom learning go. Both of these premises are so far from the truth it is almost laughable. Allowing an associate degree to come from six years of high school with a CTE focus would be a plus for these students.
- Increase the use of technology, particularly in areas suffering from a narrow curriculum and increase the use of technology in individualized student testing.
- Streamline the process of merging or consolidating school districts. If the governor truly wants to reduce the number of school districts in NYS, this will have to happen. Right now, as with a lot of processes in NYS, this process is complicated and lengthy.
- Increase transparency and accountability of the educational system. Nothing but good can come from increased transparency and accountability.
I will have more on the budget and State of the State and the impact on education in the future.