Lew's View: Alarming rollbacks to school reform

Lew Leone is the vice president and general manager of WNYW-FOX 5. "Lew's View" is his thoughts on current affairs. The views expressed are not necessarily those of the station or its employees.

In this commentary, Mr. Leone explains how the mayor's administration is undoing years of education reform.


New York City public schools are failing, and it is very difficult to stand by and watch while Mayor Bill de Blasio and Schools Chancellor Farina are systematically dismantling all of the improvements and reform efforts accomplished over the last 12 years.

This is a real crisis and it deserves the attention of everyone who cares about education. Here are some of the initiatives which are turning back recent progress.

Mayor Bloomberg worked very hard to reduce layers of bureaucracy and put much of the power and decision making into the hands of school principals. He provided professional development and training for new principals and set expectations and goals to hold them accountable for their performance.

In a complete reversal, much of the school management authority and responsibility has returned to a central group of 45 superintendents. And incredibly, out of 15 new superintendent appointees, seven came from failing schools.

Centralization is a problem because it just adds layers of bureaucracy to the system, frustrates parents, limits principals' decision-making power, and most importantly helps to maintain the status quo, which is failure.

The new chancellor has done away with school grades. She claims she doesn't need a measurement system to determine if a school is good or not. She claims "I know a good-quality school when I'm in the building."

Well unless the chancellor plans on visiting and using her extrasensory powers in 1,800 schools, there will be no point of reference for parents to judge schools before enrolling their kids. And little or no data to measure the effectiveness of superintendents and principals.

The New York Times claims that while she was a principal, Farina was a master at convincing ineffective teachers to leave the profession. However in her first year, efforts to remove ineffective teachers have decreased substantially. This is totally in line with the teacher's union, the UFT, which exists to protect all teachers and especially the bad ones.

Essentially what de Blasio and his crew have done is to hand control of the New York City school system back to the union. This will only serve to undo all of the progress of the last 12 years. Bloomberg was able to define the problem, measure results, analyze outcomes, improve the process, and put controls in place to help foster success.

What Farina desires is a touchy-feely, collaborative, and trusting environment with the UFT. Right now the only person who can stop this madness is Gov. Andrew Cuomo. His agenda for education reform is much more in line with what Bloomberg put into place.

Ironically I am fundamentally in favor of mayoral control of the school system, but now I would argue that the governor needs to take back control from this mayor as soon as possible before it is too late for the kids.

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