Preceding Roland Fryer by more than 70 years, the New York City school board voted in 1936 to create "a 'laboratory' to analyze teaching methods and curricula," according to a New York Times article from that year. Unlike Fryer's Educational Innovation Lab, which will be funded by the Broad Foundation and other philanthropic organizations, the 1936 lab was part of a reorganization of the Board of Ed's Bureau of Reference, Research, and Statistics. And while Fryer's effort will cost $44 million, the board member offering the 1936 resolution requested only $156,000 — about $2.3 million in 2007 dollars. The laboratory was to focus on experimenting with new teaching methods and promoting the sharing of successful strategies, though no details were given as to what new methods were being tested. Fryer intends to start out by testing motivational strategies like those he piloted in New York City's Million Motivation Campaign, now discontinued for lack of funding. More on the 1936 ed innovation lab after the jump.
Not only is New York State proposing a "proficiency plus" accountability model that will take both absolute proficiency and student growth towards proficiency on state reading and math tests into consideration, it is also looking at creating a "growth for all" system to reward schools who move already proficient students to even higher levels of proficiency, and, perhaps, penalize schools where proficient students do not make additional gains. This part of the accountability system would not require federal approval, presenters stressed at last week's public forum on the model. According to the presentation by Ira Schwartz of the state education department, many ideas are still on the table for where to set the bar for growth, how to compare students and schools, and what positive or negative incentives schools could expect under the new system. First, the state must determine what schools should strive for in educating students who already test proficient. Is it enough that students continue to test above the proficiency cutoff, or must they show one year's growth or more when scale scores are compared? The question echoes this summer's debate over whether to emphasize the "proficiency gap" or the "achievement gap" in looking at student performance. Asked whether some parents and educators might choose to improve the teaching of non-tested subjects such as art, music, and physical education rather than devoting more resources to helping proficient students score even higher, Schwartz responded that the Regents had specifically asked for a way to hold schools accountable for the growth of all students. Next, the state must decide how to compare schools. New York City's Progress Reports got a nod for their peer group comparison,
Three years ago, Mayor Bloomberg said his 20-point margin of victory in his reelection campaign showed that New Yorkers were happy with his schools leadership. Next year, voters could have a chance to reaffirm that choice — or reverse it. Tomorrow, Bloomberg will announce plans to run for a third term, despite the two-term limit imposed by voters 15 years ago. Although polls indicate that the public isn't happy about the mayor's bid to use the City Council to overturn democratically imposed term limits, they also show that he is popular enough to coast into office for a third term. What would a third Bloomberg term mean for the city's schools? Judging from Bloomberg's attitude when he was reelected in 2005, he will interpret a win at the polls as voter approval of his education initiatives, regardless of what issues New Yorkers actually consider when casting their ballots. His reelection would be a disappointment to his critics, some of whom have already started counting down the days until the end of his term. But it would provide stability for principals and students in schools that have only recently found their feet after the most recent round of disruptive reorganizations. Consistency in the DOE could also generate data that's desperately needed to evaluate the city's recent school reforms. Four more years of Bloomberg would mean four more years of Children First initiatives and four more years of Chancellor Klein, who has long said that he will continue to lead the city's schools as long as the mayor asks him to. A third Bloomberg term would likely herald four more years of business-style, accountability-driven reforms and ambitious experiments, such as the pay-for-performance incentives program organized by Harvard professor Roland Fryer. And, unless the State Assembly mandates parent involvement or checks and balances on the mayor's power in June when it must consider the 2002 law that gave control over the city's schools to the mayor, we're likely to see four more years of top-down education reform that doesn't include parents, teachers, or students in the decision-making process. Solidifying assembly support for mayoral control is one of Bloomberg's major goals for his third term, the Post reports today.