[ProgressiveEd] Draft of Letter Re: Waivers

[email protected] [email protected]
Wed, 2 Apr 2003 08:30:35 EST

PENNY, public statement on Waivers:
The April 1 deadline for announcements of which schools have been granted 
waivers has come and gone.  It's no surprise that we haven't heard anything 
from the Department of Education yet.  In fact, it's heartening.  Hopefully, 
it's a sign that the Department is basing its decisions about curriculum on 
more than a quick look at test scores.
PENNY is a coalition of small, progressive, successful public schools in New 
York.  Most of our schools applied for waivers, even though we do not agree 
with the policy of imposing curriculum on schools (or on students).  
Curriculum development is a process that works when it involves knowledgeable 
teachers working closely with students.  When teachers don't know their 
students, or when the curriculum is imposed, students and teachers become 
robots who "covering the material".  Our schools embrace a different model 
for developing curriculum.  We look at each student's needs and interests.  
Teachers develop materials that will engage each student.  There is activity, 
discussion, reflection, learning.
PENNY wholeheartedly endorses Mr. Klein's efforts to create quality schools 
throughout New York City.  Although these efforts are heroic, we believe they 
miss the mark.  Improving our schools must start by building on the current 
successes.  Schools that do intensive in-school staff development are 
successful.  They focus on ways to help each teacher learn how to support 
students' learning.  They deal with the development of curriculum, classroom 
management, assessment, creating learning relationships with students, and 
communicating with parents.  Teachers need supportive communities in which to 
develop.  They need clarifying discussions, not mandates.  They need to 
express their ways of seeing their students and their understanding of 
curriculum.  There has to be an exchange of ideas.
Artificial curriculum mandates, in the hopes that people will be "on the same 
page" as a result, close down the very open discussion out of which ideas can 
flourish.  Mr. Klein has acknowledged the importance of teacher initiative in 
his public statements that "it's not about curriculum; it's about the 
relationship between the teacher and the student."  Yes, PENNY schools want 
our waivers because they will say publicly we continue to develop rich 
curriculum for our students.  More than that, we want to work within the DOE 
to create real staff development based on real discussions about teaching and 
learning.  Thank you.