Letters: School reforms are troubling

If the changes that won unanimous Board of If the changes that won unanimous Board of Regents approval Monday, Oct. 20, 2014, win final approval from the Regents in January as scheduled, they would first take effect with teenagers who entered ninth grade in 2011 and are due to graduate in June 2015. Photo Credit: Daniel Brennan

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I worked for 38 years as an educator in the New York City school system. I support charter schools and oppose Mayor Bill de Blasio's decision to reject some Success Academy co-locations ["Schools chief flips in charter school flap," News, March 8].

Say you're passionate about pizza and you live in a neighborhood where only one establishment is permitted to produce and sell pizza. Imagine those pizzas are unappetizing, but you are compelled to purchase them by law and forbidden to make your own.

Substitute education for pizzas in this scenario, and this is the true nature of compulsory public education. In a free market, anyone who produces an unsavory pizza would soon be out of business. However, in education, competition and freedom of choice, which nurture creativity and excellence, are conspicuously missing.

Many who rail against the power, control and influence of Wall Street, corporations, banks, and the "1 percenters" readily accept government's absolute control of education. The education bureaucracy's monopoly mandates a one-size-fits-all curriculum, awards accreditation to approved colleges and professors to teach that curriculum, requires everyone to read approved text books, administers approved tests, certifies and awards tenure to approved teachers and supervisors, and provides pay raises based on date of hire rather than merit.

After reviewing results of recent achievement tests, some have suggested the education monopoly should not only be charged with violating our liberties but with intellectual genocide.

What we desperately need is separation of schools and state.

Ed Konecnik, Flushing

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As someone who works with teachers in the metropolitan area, and as a parent of two boys in the fifth grade, I take exception to your strong support of New York State's rush to impose teacher evaluations linked to student performance on the new Common Core standards tests ["Sensible tweaks to Common Core," Editorial, March 12].

Before implementing the standards, the state Education Department was slow to offer guidelines to school districts, forcing an impossibly short timeline for developing materials and training teachers. With little or no input from teachers, many districts opted to solve the problem by purchasing packaged curricula with scripted lesson plans.

These slick corporate products include some poorly written test questions and shoddily constructed work sheets. Many of the teachers saddled with these scripts are capable of crafting much more effective lessons on their own.

If students do poorly on the statewide tests, should negative evaluations fall on the teachers, the New York State Education Department or the script? It seems that the rollout of the Common Core is more about imposing central oversight, privatizing curriculum development and testing, and preparing to attach blame for failure, than about improving the quality of our children's education.

Peter Schmidt, Queens

Editor's note: The writer is the associate director of Globe NY Metro, a science education program at Queens College.

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