Educators already pushing de Blasio on pre-K

Liza Featherstone

Liza Featherstone Liza Featherstone

Liza Featherstone is the author of "Selling Women Short: The

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Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio already is under pressure from school principals to live up to his campaign promises on education. Good for them. It's not a moment too soon.

About 140 principals have signed an open letter asking de Blasio to roll back some of Mayor Michael Bloomberg's signature education policies, including high-stakes testing, and to deliver on his promise of universal pre-K.

The principals ask de Blasio to keep his promise to reduce the use of standardized tests to the minimum required by federal law and to stop using tests as a way to evaluate teachers or to assign letter grades to schools.

The principals are right: Relying on tests to evaluate teachers and schools rewards narrowly teaching to tests, undermining the goal of a well-rounded school day. For instance, instead of looking ahead to museum trips, more and more children will be busy in class preparing for tests.

The principals also support de Blasio's plan for full-day pre-K for all city children. With plenty of evidence on the effects of high-quality early childhood education on kids' development, they are right to insist that he keep this promise.

It might seem redundant for principals to urge de Blasio to do things he favors. But it's smart because his agenda will face some opposition -- at times from within his own administration.

Many people with enough experience to become the city's next schools chancellor share in the same misguided, test-centered philosophy as Bloomberg, as a New York Times story suggested this week. And de Blasio's mayoral transition team includes consultants to Bloomberg-like Rahm Emanuel, the mayor of Chicago, as well as Jennifer Jones Austin, a former vice president at Edison Schools, a for-profit education company.

De Blasio also will face pressure from people in the finance sector, many of whom oppose his plan to increase taxes on those making $500,000 or more to pay for his pre-K program.

The letter sets the tone for discussion in the coming months and reminds de Blasio that his constituents won't forget what he promised. He should keep in mind that educators know more about schools than hedge-fund managers and highly compensated consultants.

Liza Featherstone lives and writes in Clinton Hill.