Thursday, May 27, 2010

Christie Cancels Connors School Rehab Funding - Future Uncertain

Democratic Assemblyman and former 4thWard Councilman At-Large Ruben Ramos is appealing to restore the funding that Governor took away from the Connors Restoration Project on Tuesday, May 25th. In a letter to the Governor, Ramos says Connors is in need of repair and that the school is need of upgrades. The plan was intended to bring Connors into the 21st Century with technology, smart learning classrooms, as well as structural repairs.

Governor Christie, who was in Hoboken last week to discuss his plan to cut salaries, benefits and pensions of municipal workers, teachers, and first responders, rejected all facilities funding for areas once considered to be "Abbott" districts (and largely democratic strong holds). However, the Christie administrations' SDA announced state grant funding for 142 Schools Facilities Projects in 59 districts. These are from largely suburban districts from around the state who supported Christie in the Governor election. Hoboken was left off the list despite the interim superintendent's repeated declaration that the money was coming.

On Monday the NJSDA released information regarding 500 MILLION in school facilities funding to 59 school districts. North Bergen (a non-Abbott district) received $3 million in grants. Secaucus, the only other Hudson district to receive funding, got 28 thousand. NO ABBOTT DISTRICT received any grant money from the 37 million distributed. The needs of poor children across the state including those at Connors school were put on the back burner on the very same day that the Schools Development Authority was announcing grants to schools in wealthier communities.

This raises some interesting issues around the Hoboken school district. For instance:

1) Will the Demarest Alternative School still move into Hoboken High School?
2) Will Hoboken Charter still need to move from Demarest School?
3) Will the 8th Grades still be placed in Hoboken High School for the 2010-2011 school year?
4) Will this "non move" have a net positive or negative financial impact on the district?
5) Will the district need more or less administrators for the upcoming school year?

Monday, May 24, 2010

“We’re looking for the least bad solution”

Yes We’re looking for the least bad solution, that was the "official" response from the Mayor's office to WCBS News concerning the moving of the Hoboken Municipal Garage next door to the Jubilee Center and Hoboken Catholic Academy. The 24 hr a day operation would also place toxic chemicals and solvents within feet of some of the most densely populated area in Hoboken (commonly referred to as the Jackson Street Projects).

Thanks to our friends at Hoboken.411 who first broke this story less than a week ago. If not for the extensive online community that exists in Hoboken, I am sure this proposal would have been pushed through. Transparency is simply a code word--- no substance behind it.

Hoboken Public Schools Early Childhood Workshop- May 25

A growing body of research indicates that many children start school not ready to learn not because they do not know their letters or numbers but because they lack one critical ability: the ability to regulate their social, emotional, and cognitive behaviors. Current research shows that self-regulation – often called executive function -- has a stronger association with academic achievement than IQ or entry-level reading or math skills. Tools of the Mind was begun in the district in 2008 and remains one of the many legacies of the curriculum revision process. -Dr. Petrosino

The 2nd Annual Parent Conference is a day of 2-hour workshops on a variety of topics for parents, including strategies for supporting literacy, math and science elements of the Tools of the Mind curriculum at home, transitioning to Kindergarten, and supporting children with special needs—to name a few of the topics that will be covered.

Additional topics covered include dealing with developmental disabilities and children with special needs, various flu vaccines, and behavioral discipline strategies for the family.

The workshops are open to all Hoboken parents and caregivers, regardless of whether they have a child in the public school system.

Complimentary meals are being served before each workshop session, and childcare is also being offered free-of-charge to attendees. The workshops are being held at Joseph F. Brandt School at 215 9th Street (between Park and Garden).

If you have any questions, email Nellie Moyeno, at for more information.

When: Tuesday, May 25, 2010

  • Morning Session: 9:30 – 11:30AM
  • Afternoon Session: 12:30 – 2:30PM
  • Evening Session: 6:00 – 8:00PM

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Mayor Zimmer Welcomes Governor to Hoboken to Propose Reducing Salary, Benefits, and Pensions for Teachers, City Workers, and First Responders

On May 17, 2010 the Republican Governor of New Jersey came to Hoboken, NJ to give a talk to an invitation only audience concerning his "toolkit" for municipal cost reduction. Full details of the event by can be found by clicking HERE.

Ignoring a recent Rutgers University study proving that private sector employees do substantially better than comparable public sector employees, Governor Christie and Mayor Zimmer continue their attempts to paint teachers, police, fire and municipal workers as having high salary, benefits, and pensions. According to the study, private employees make 11 percent more in wages and 5 percent more in total compensation than public workers. But those facts were not on hand in Hoboken this week as the Governor spoke to a very friendly and invited audience.

In my opinion, the state does have a serious long-term budget problem, which will have to be resolved with a combination of reforms and other measures, probably including a moderate rise in taxes. But we should be very cautious and mindfully critical of those who pretend to be concerned with fiscal responsibility, but whose real goal is to dismantle organized labor, collective bargaining, and the safe guards of these generational efforts. Elected officials like the governor of New Jersey and the mayor of Hoboken are trying to leverage a so called crises in municipalities around the state to frighten people into giving them what the governor and mayor, as well as their political supporters clearly want-- a weakening of long term, hard won advances by the working class in civil service employment (education, police, fire, municipal government).

So, we hear calls for "accountability" for teachers and how willing these politicians are to embrace "merit pay" which NEVER includes how they want to pay "good" teachers MORE but is ALWAYS about how to 1) pay teachers less, 2) eliminate tenure, or 3) transfer money away from public schools. This is consistent with a deregulatory, "free market" perspective. The same thinking that has brought us the housing bubble, the financial sector meltdown, and an energy policy that is currently making itself evident with each passing minute of the BP Gulf oil spill.

I think that the current proposals on Christie and Zimmer's agenda (caps on wage increases, paybacks on benefit packages, opening up contracts, eliminating collective bargaining) are voluntary and reflect the desires of the politicians and of their supporters to pull back on unionized labor more than they represent a principled way out of the economic troubles facing the state. There's no way out of this situation without sacrifice and tough decisions--there is no argument there. But who is doing the sacrifice and who is impacted by the draconian decisions is what this is really about IMHO. To be sure, there is a larger, deregulatory, "free market" perspective that says "break up the monopoly and things will get better"-- that is fine as a political agenda...but the data doesn't seem to support it at any level other than the anecdotal.

Governor Christie and Mayor Zimmer are presenting their approach to permanently eliminating the gains of unions as a disguised plan of addressing a temporary fiscal problem. It should not be confused with being a solution or an answer nor should it be applauded as being either the best way or the only way.

We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful what we pretend to be.
Kurt Vonnegut

Picture: Plain talking New Jersey Governor Christie and a beaming Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer this week in Hoboken.
photo NJ.COM

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Petrosino (2009); Encyclopedia of Giftedness, Creativity, and Talent; Rocketry; Saturday U

The following article on using model rockets with gifted and talented students appears in the Encyclopedia of Giftedness, Creativity, and Talent (2009) published by SAGE Publications.

Featuring contributions by some 300 international academics, independent scholars, consultants, researchers, and mental health professionals, the Encyclopedia of Giftedness, Creativity, and Talent is the first comprehensive resource to focus on giftedness, creativity, and talent. The 400-plus A-to-Z entries from the fields of education, psychology, sociology, and the arts review research findings on giftedness, creating, and talent and their applications in education, training, science and the arts, government policy, and everyday fields.

In my contribution to this historic collection, I talk about how a widespread interpretation of Piagetian theory favors an oversensitivity to the things a child cannot do cognitively rather than a more optimistic and challenging emphasis on what children could do easily with the proper instructional sequence, structure, and social support. This more optimistic and empowering emphasis on the child's early competence and strength is both a more empowering basis for science instruction for the gifted child and is in accord with current learning theory. Moreover, much of this work looks upon the child in isolation rather than as a part of a community of learners like that in which rocket scientists engage in on a daily basis.

While I was in the Hoboken School District as the Assistant Superintendent of Schools ("BC" for those following), I oversaw the redesign of the gifted and talented program (expanding the John Hopkins Program
as well as the expansion, course redevelopment, and expansion of eligible students for participation in the Saturday U program). Unfortunately, the Saturday U Program has been all but abandoned by the Kids First Board of Education majority without public discussion, parental input, or a single voice of concern or protest. That means no gifted and talented program for dozens, if not hundreds, of middle school Hoboken Public School children who would have been eligible for Saturday U in the past. 

Hoboken Public School RFP (Request for Proposals) For Superintendent Search

This advertisement is currently running in the Newark Star Ledger. It is NOT an ad for the Superintendent of Schools but rather it is an ad for an entity to conduct the search for the Superintendent of Schools for Hoboken. Recall, last year the Board of Education hired the New Jersey School Boards Association to conduct the search. Evidently, the Hoboken Board of Education majority wants to hire a different firm or at least put an RFP (request for proposals) for someone to conduct the search. Let's see when the RFP's come in- might be worth a look at who applied. -Dr. Petrosino

HOBOKEN PUBLIC SCHOOL RFP FOR SUPERINTENDENT SEARCH The Hoboken Board of Education is seeking proposals from professional firms to assist the board in their search for a Superintendent of Schools. The RFP document can be secured from the Office of the Board Secretary, 1115 Clinton Street, Hoboken, New Jersey 07030 or by calling 201-356-3611. Detailed information about the Hoboken Public Schools can be found on the district’s web site at The proposals should include the firm’s role in the following: the establishment of criteria, advertised search, screening of applicants, candidate interviews, final selection, contract negotiations and public input. Prior experience in New Jersey superintendent searches is desirable.
Source:The Star-Ledger Employment AdsEmployer:
Hoboken Board of Education
Location:Hoboken, NJ United StatesLast Updated:05/15/2010

Monday, May 17, 2010

President Obama Sends Message to ALL Graduates of 2010

Congratulations. Since I couldn’t be at every high school and college commencement this year, I wanted to send a message to all of the graduates in this country who are about to embark on the next chapter of your young and promising lives.

There are generations of Americans who came of age during periods of peace and prosperity. When they graduated from high school or college, they entered a world of comfort and stability where little was required of them beyond their obligations to themselves and their families.

Get Inspired!

Check out these 25 unforgettable graduation speeches

Randy Pausch
Carnegie Mellon, 2008

Ellen DeGeneres
Tulane, 2009

Coach Woody Hayes
Oklahoma State, 1986

John Legend
Univ. of Pennsylvania, 2009

Will Ferrell
Harvard, 2003

Stephen Colbert
Knox College, 2006

Steve Jobs
Stanford, 2005

Conan O'Brien
Harvard, 2000

John F. Kennedy
American Univ., 1963

Russell Baker
Connecticut College, 1995

Kermit the Frog
Southampton College, 1996

Brian Williams
Tulane, 2007

Muhammad Yunus
M.I.T., 2008

Joseph Biden
Wake Forest, 2009

Archbishop Desmond Tutu
Brandeis, 2000

Ursula K. Le Guin
Mills College, 1983

Theodore Geisel (Dr. Seuss)
Lake Forest College, 1977

Paul Hawken
Univ. of Portland, 2009

Bradley Whitford
Univ. of Wisconsin, 2004

Richard Russo
Colby College, 2004

Meryl Streep
Vassar College, 1983

Oprah Winfrey
Wellesley College, 1997

Jerry Zucker
Univ. of Wisconsin, 2003

Fred Rogers (Mr. Rogers)
Middlebury College, 2001

J.K. Rowling
Harvard, 2008

Jon Bon Jovi
Monmouth Univ., 2001

Billie Jean King
Univ. of Massachusetts, 2000

That is not the world you are about to inherit. You are growing up in a time of great challenge and sweeping change. You will search for jobs in an economy that is still emerging from one of the worst recessions in history. You will seek a profession in an era where a high school diploma and a factory job are no longer sure paths to success. And you will raise your children in a world where threats like terrorism and a changing climate cannot be contained within a country’s borders.

At times like these, when the future seems unsettled and uncertain, it can be easy to lose heart. When you turn on the television or read newspapers or blogs, the voices of cynicism and pessimism always seem to be the loudest.

Don’t believe them.

Yes, we are facing difficult times. But America has been through them before. In the 1930s, young men and women saw one-third of the nation ill-clothed, ill-housed, ill-fed, and later witnessed tyranny sweep across Europe and the Pacific. In the 1960s, millions of students participated in peaceful protests—against those who sought to keep them divided by race, against a war they believed unjust—and were met with billy clubs and fire hoses.

So many times in so many eras, Americans your age could have decided to just go about their own business, fend for themselves, and leave our country’s problems for somebody else to solve.

But they didn’t.

You are graduating today in part because those who came before you had the courage to look past their differences, face down their common difficulties, and perfect their union. It was young soldiers who pushed forward at Lexington and at Gettysburg, at Normandy and at Kandahar. It was graduates like you who looked across a continent and built the railroads, highways, schools, and universities that have fueled the most prosperous economy in the world. It was a 33-year-old Thomas Jefferson who wrote the Declaration of Independence; a 33-year-old Elizabeth Cady Stanton who organized the Seneca Falls Convention, the first national women’s rights convention; a 26-year-old Martin Luther King Jr. who began his journey to the mountaintop; and a 20-year-old Bill Gates who started one of the most transformative companies on Earth.

All of these Americans faced long odds. All of them faced doubt. Many grew up in times of discord and difficulty. Yet they knew that while America’s destiny is never certain, our ability to shape it always is. Ours is a history of renewal and reinvention, where each generation finds a way to adapt, thrive, and push the nation forward with energy, ingenuity, and optimism.

That is your charge as graduates—our future is in your hands. The United States is still a land of infinite possibilities waiting to be seized, if you are willing to seize them.

While government plays a role in making a more prosperous and secure future possible for America, the final outcome ultimately depends on you and the choices you make from here on out.

Of course, each of you has the right to take your diploma and seek the quickest path to the biggest paycheck or the highest title possible. But remember: You can choose to broaden your concerns to include your fellow citizens and country instead. By tying your ambitions to America’s, you’ll hitch your wagon to a cause larger than yourself. You can choose a career in public service or the nonprofit sector, or teach in an underserved school. If you have medical training, you can work in an understaffed clinic. Love science? You can discover new sources of clean energy or launch a business that makes the most efficient and affordable solar panels or wind turbines.

Or you may decide to make your mark in ways that may be smaller but are just as important—v olunteering at a local shelter, tutoring or mentoring schoolkids, staying involved in the local and national debates that shape our lives and the life of our country, or raising your own children to be generous and productive Americans.

No matter what you choose to do, know that you have the ability—each one of you—to write the next chapter in America’s story. Starting your careers in troubled times is a challenge, but it’s also a privilege. When I left for Chicago after college to be a community organizer, I, like many of you, had no idea what the future would hold for me. What I did know was that somehow, in some way, I wanted to make an impact on the world around me.

It’s times like the one you’re facing today that force us to try harder and dig deeper. Times like these move us to find the greatness we each have inside and, in doing so, rediscover the greatness that defines us as a nation. These are the tasks lying before you, and I have no doubt all of you are up to the challenge.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Venus and the Crescent Moon: May 15, 2010

Sharp-eyed observers with clear skies and a good view of the western sky may catch a thin lunar crescent a few degrees to the lower right of Venus this evening. Best views will be about a half hour to an hour after local sunset. Face the west-northwestern horizon. If the sky is clear and you have an unhampered view, Venus will be un-missable! The thin crescent moon is below and to the right.

Because the moon and planets share a similar apparent path in the sky, it is not unusual for the moon to appear to pass close to Venus. In fact, the moon appears somewhere near it about once a month. However, most people don’t see these events because they are visible in the evening sky only half the time, and then only for a short period after sunset. The other half occur shortly before dawn, which obviously cuts down the number of people who are outside observing! The apparent closeness varies from month to month as well.

Picture: Abe Megahead, Madison, WI

Quote of the Day

Have you learned the lessons only of those who admired you, and were tender with you, and stood aside for you? Have you not learned great lessons from those who braced themselves against you, and disputed passage with you? -Walt Whitman

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Standing Up Standing Together

The following is an excerpt from the New Jersey Educators Association and centers on a rally that is scheduled in the state capitol on May 22nd. There have been a number of rallies against board of education budgets and in support of the governor's cost cutting measures. This event should be interesting and I imagine will be well attended. As the Newark Star-Ledger reports, Christie will propose 33 bills that constitute an all-out assault on public employees, and which would have a devastating impact on local programs and services in every community in New Jersey.-Dr. Petrosino

The day is Saturday, May 22. The time is noon. Join your fellow NJEA members and thousands of other New Jerseyans for the Rally to Protect New Jersey’s Families and Communities. Bring your family, your friends and your neighbors for what is expected to be one of the largest rallies in Trenton’s history. Gov. Chris Christie’s proposed budget is not only a disaster for public education, it is an all-out assault on New Jersey’s most vulnerable: school children, senior citizens, work- ing families, the poor, the disabled, and the unemployed. It is an attack on hardworking school employees and public workers.

Reporter May2010

Treasury and Education Recognize High Scoring Students in National Financial Capability Challenge

WASHINGTON — Today the U.S. Department of the Treasury and Department of Education recognized high scoring students in the National Financial Capability Challenge. The Challenge, which was unveiled in December 2009 by Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner and Education Secretary Arne Duncan, is designed to increase the financial knowledge and capability of high school aged youth across the United States. To honor the outstanding achievement of many of the participating students, Treasury and Education hosted an event at the Treasury in which select students in the top scoring bracket were recognized by Secretaries Geithner and Duncan.

While more than 76,000 high school students and 2,500 educators from across the country participated in the Challenge this spring, scores on the exam were generally low. Challenge participants scored 70 percent on average, demonstrating that students are not yet making the grade when it comes to understanding how to manage money.

“As we work to reform our financial system to better protect American families, we must also work to provide young adults the education, tools and access they need to make smart decisions for their own financial security,” said Secretary Geithner.

“I’m so proud that so many teachers turned out to help teach students the basics of personal finance,” said Secretary Duncan. “But the low scores on these test show us that, when it comes to financial literacy, we’ve got a lot more work to do to get our students where they need to be,” Duncan continued. “I hope teachers, school leaders, and local officials will work together to make financial literacy a priority in every school district in America.”

Idaho, South Dakota and Wyoming had the highest average test scores while Virginia, Iowa and Wisconsin boasted the highest student participation rates. The greatest number of participating schools and teachers came from Pennsylvania.

Full Story: CLICK HERE
National Statistics: CLICK HERE

National Financial Capability Challenge

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Charter School Teacher Beats Up Child- Importance of Not Using Anecdotes to Reach Big Conclusions

Let's see if the creators of the anti-union, anti-public school movies "The Cartel" and "Waiting for Superman" decide to use this recent clip of a charter school teacher physically cornering and beating up a child in their next movie. The charter school teacher in this clip is not part of a teachers union. Moreover--- there were four or five other charter school teachers in the room while this was going on who just watched. The teacher was fired only after this video went viral and was reported on the local television network.

To be very clear--- the intent of this post is not necessarily to be negative concerning charter schools or the people involved in these institutions. I was on the Advisory Board of the first University sponsored charter school in the country and have been an advocate for a number of other charter initiatives. Rather, the video points out the problems associated when selective pieces of information are strung together to form an argument or a rationale. Of course the teacher was wrong but do we hold all charter schools accountable? In the same manner, demonizing collective bargaining or taking a sophomoric stance towards public education does not help the current dialogue. Education and education policy are complex concepts and attempts to disguise the complexity with "gotcha" techniques should be viewed from a critical perspective in my opinion.

PICTURE: St. Ann's School Yard, Hoboken, NJ (Spring, 1975)
L-R: Brian Riley, David Toscano, John Raslowsky, Benjamin Williams, Anthony Petrosino, Fred Stankiwitz, Mario Ferrara

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The Cartel- Reviewed in the NY Times

The following is a review of the documentary The Cartel by New York Times critic Jeannette Catsoulis published on April 16, 2010. To be fair, not all the reviews have been negative. You can view some of the more positive reviews by clicking on the movie's website HERE. Mr. Bowdon is a Hoboken resident and was trained as a mechanical engineer before moving into news and entertainment. Clearly anti-union, anti-tenure, and pro-deregulation, the film and the message has a somewhat skewed perspective but has resonated with many New Jersey residents (including Governor Christie). -Dr. Petrosino

A mind-numbing barrage of random television clips and trash-talking heads, “The Cartel” purports to be a documentary about the American public school system. In reality, however, it’s a bludgeoning rant against a single state — New Jersey — which it presents as a closed loop of Mercedes-owning administrators, obstructive teachers’ unions and corrupt school boards.

Blithely extrapolating nationally, the writer and director, Bob Bowdon, concludes that increased financing for public schools is unlikely to raise reading scores but is almost certain to raise the luxury-car quotient in administrator parking lots. To illustrate, Mr. Bowdon rattles off a laundry list of outrages — like a missing $1 billion from a school construction budget — and provides a clumsy montage of newspaper headlines detailing administrative graft.

The evidence may be verifiable (and even depressingly familiar), but its complex underpinnings are given short shrift. Instead Mr. Bowdon, a New Jersey-based television reporter, employs an exposé-style narration lousy with ad hominems and emotional coercion. In one particularly egregious scene he parks his camera in front of a weeping child who has just failed to win a coveted spot in a charter-school lottery — another tiny victim of public school hell. Later, confronted with the president of the New Jersey Education Association, Mr. Bowdon performs the rhetorical equivalent of poking a lion with a stick and running away.

Visually horrid and intellectually unsatisfying, “The Cartel” demonstrates only that its maker has even more to learn about assembling a film than about constructing an argument.

Written and directed by Bob Bowdon; edited by Morgan Beatty, David Wittlin, Sam Wolfson and Vinnie Randazzo; music by Mr. Bowdon; produced by Mr. Bowdon and Rob Pfaltzgraff; released by Truly Indie. Running time: 1 hour 30 minutes. This film is not rated.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Marshall, Petrosino, and Martin (2010)- Preservice Teachers’ Conceptions and Enactments of Project-Based Instruction

The following is a paper I wrote with two of my colleagues and was recently published in the Journal of Technology and Science Education. This paper was written largely while I was Assistant to the Superintendent of Schools in the Hoboken School District and done on my own time. However, the work benefitted the district in terms of professional development and curriculum writing and revision. The acceptance rate for this journal is about 12% -Dr. Petrosino

Abstract We present results of an investigation of preservice secondary mathematics and science teachers’ conceptions of project-based instruction (PBI) and their enactments of PBI in apprentice (student) teaching. We evaluated their thinking and implementations within a composite framework based on the work of education researchers. We analyzed survey responses, both qualitatively and statistically, from three cohorts of preservice teachers both before and after apprentice teaching. In addition we interviewed and observed a subset of these future teachers. We found that in general the preservice teachers held superficial views of PBI, as compared to the researcher framework. Participants reported time and curriculum restrictions as major barriers; however, teachers for whom enactment of PBI was presented as an explicit goal, and who were given support toward that end, were more likely to enact authentic implementations, regardless of previous reservations about PBI. Without this additional scaffolding, even teachers with high affinity for PBI were unlikely to implement it authentically.

Keywords Project based instruction Preservice teachers Teacher preparation Project based learning

A Deal for Better Schools- Editorial in NY Times @ a new Teacher Evaluation System

The following is an editorial that was printed in the May 11, 2010 edition of the NY Times. It details briefly a new agreement between the New York Department of Education and the New York teachers union. I would anticipate seeing similar bills introduced in many states bidding for Race to the Top money. -Dr. Petrosino

When school officials and unions work together, students have a real chance to come out on top. That was clear this week when the State Education Department and New York’s teachers’ unions announced agreement on a rigorous teacher evaluation system.

The Legislature should quickly approve the deal. It would improve New York’s schools and the state’s chances in the second round of the federal Race to the Top competition for hundreds of millions of dollars in education grants.

The proposal, which resembles one developed through a similar partnership in New Haven, does away with the shoddy evaluation system under which teachers are observed briefly in the classroom and even the most ineffective ones regularly receive glowing ratings.

The new system would require more intensive monitoring and would finally take student performance into account. Teachers would eventually be measured on a 100-point scale, with 25 points based on how much students improve on the standardized state exams and 15 percent based on locally selected measures. The remaining part of the evaluation would be locally determined, consistent with state regulations, and could include such things as evaluations by a school principal, peer observations, a teacher’s ability to produce lesson plans and so on.

Teachers would be categorized as highly effective, effective, developing or ineffective. Those who need help would be given coaching. Those rated ineffective for two consecutive years could be fired through a hearing process that would take no longer than 60 days. Right now that process can drag on for more than a year.

The State Education Department deserves particular praise, as do the two union presidents, Richard Iannuzzi of New York State United Teachers and Michael Mulgrew of the United Federation of Teachers, the city’s union. They worked on this deal even though their members are angry about impending layoffs. The Legislature should move swiftly on the bill so that the state can meet the next Race to the Top application deadline. It is due on June 1.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Waiting for Superman- A New Documentary and a New Genre

The film "Waiting for Superman" is another in a series of documentaries detailing the apparent failings of the current educational system. We need to be careful and thoughtful about the underlying message about such movies but it is clear that there is both an audience for this new genre as well as a chord that it is striking with a significant and non-trival portion of people. These films are largely anti-union, pro charter and often see de-regulation as an answer to the "problem" of public education. Furthermore, they often highlight a few shinning examples (self selection bias) and hold them up as examples of what "could be done"- it's a technique and it's very effective. What is not so readily depicted is that in states that have strong unions, you have the highest NAEP (National Assessment of Educational Progress) and the latest peer reviewed research shows that students of charter schools do no better and largely do less well than peer public schools. Nonetheless, I think this is a well made documentary and can be both thought provoking as well as educational if used in a critical manner. -Dr. Petrosino.

For a nation that proudly declared it would leave no child behind, America continues to do so at alarming rates. Despite increased spending and politicians’ promises, our buckling public-education system, once the best in the world, routinely forsakes the education of millions of children.

Filmmaker Davis Guggenheim reminds us that education “statistics” have names: Anthony, Francisco, Bianca, Daisy, and Emily, whose stories make up the engrossing foundation of WAITING FOR SUPERMAN. As he follows a handful of promising kids through a system that inhibits, rather than encourages, academic growth, Guggenheim undertakes an exhaustive review of public education, surveying “drop-out factories” and “academic sinkholes,” methodically dissecting the system and its seemingly intractable problems.

However, embracing the belief that good teachers make good schools, and ultimately questioning the role of unions in maintaining the status quo, Guggenheim offers hope by exploring innovative approaches taken by education reformers and charter schools that have—in reshaping the culture—refused to leave their students behind.