Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Governor Cuomo and His Grand Experiment

Governor Andrew Cuomo has proclaimed himself the student lobbyist. This is, apparently, because no one else in the state cares about students. Certainly teachers don't care. They're so utterly worthless they can't even be trusted to grade the tests of students in their buildings. And parents don't care either. So it's on Andrew Cuomo, alone, to take on this monumental task.

Oddly, Governor Cuomo pontificates about what schoolchildren need, but refuses to do any homework himself. Were he doing homework, he'd know there is no research to suggest his latest miracle drug, a longer school day, would improve education. Were he doing homework, he'd know that class size is what parents want. He'd also know there's plenty of research to suggest reasonable class sizes actually help children.

The notion that a kid who hates school and cuts class will be turned around by more of it is absurd. And please, don't tell me about charters. The chances this kid has parents proactive enough to apply to one, let alone participate as required, are abysmal.

Last year, my beginning English class hit 34 and was split into two. Kids I'd had to keep quiet, in the smaller classes, were finally able to talk as much as they wished. In a language class, that's a great thing. This year, since there was another section, my beginning English class hit 34 and stayed there. It's a lot harder to reach the kids who most need my help while keeping the classroom a reasonable place to learn.

Beyond that, it's incredible that Governor Cuomo can just come out and say he wants more with no particulars whatsoever. If there is to be an extended day, it ought to be for the enrichment of kids who will want and/ or love it. You need help with trigonometry? We can help you after school. You want to learn how to play the guitar? We'll teach you. You want to learn how to play the accordion? Sorry, that's beyond the pale and no one is gonna help you do that.

In any case, education is about quality, not quantity. Governor Cuomo needs to educate himself before presuming to lecture others. He should find out what works before advocating passionately for things like junk science evaluation schemes. He should learn how important class sizes are before talking about how long the day is. It's kind of strange that a guy who's always complaining about how awful schools are would advocate more of the same. It's even more amazing that a guy who claims to advocate for children takes 250 million away from them because the city and union can't agree on a junk science evaluation system.

I'm just a lowly teacher, but even I saw how well Rahm Emannuel's push for a longer school day worked out. Rahm knew nothing, hardly the POV for someone who wishes to lecture on education. If Governor Cuomo wishes to advocate for a longer school day, it behooves him to offer specifics on how and why he will make it a better school day.

And if he can't do that, it behooves him to stop talking, at least until he has the remotest notion of what, if anything, it is he's talking about.
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