To the Editor:
Betty Rosa’s election as the chancellor of the New York state board of regents presents an opportunity for her to lead significant education reform in New York (“N.Y. Board of Regents Appoints Former Bronx Administrator as New Chancellor” and “Newly Elected N.Y. Chancellor Voices Sympathy for Testing Opt-Outs”).
In addition to courage, which Rosa seems to possess, it will take sound strategies and policies to achieve equity and excellence for all students in the state.
Rosa can become the most powerful education leader in the nation if she convinces New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the state legislature to fully fund education, as outlined in the landmark Campaign for Fiscal Equity lawsuit.
As an education policy, the state’s regents examinations have made small steps to reform graduation policy. However, I recommend five specific actions that I believe will immediately improve the quality of education for the state’s nearly 2.8 million public school children:
Reduce high-stakes tests. Eliminate two regents requirements: science and social studies. Many of the states that mandate a high school exit examination require only two.
Implement teacher evaluation. Though not required by the Every Student Succeeds Act, a functioning statewide teacher-evaluation system is needed to improve teacher performance.
Implement a statewide multicultural curriculum. It is unacceptable that children of color can go through 13 years of public schools and are not taught anything about their respective cultures.
Support the arts. An abundance of research illustrates the benefits of music and arts education. Fully funded music and arts in primary and secondary schools should be standard.
Eliminate testing pedagogy. When the focus is shifted from testing to teaching, children benefit immensely. Eliminate the plethora of formative practice tests currently used to prepare students for the “real” tests.
While comprehensive reform will be required to overhaul New York’s education system, Chancellor Rosa and her colleagues could immediately chart a new course for teaching and learning within the state.
The writer has been a teacher and principal in New York City, and was the senior superintendent for alternative schools and programs in the city’s school system from 2003 to 2005.
A version of this article appeared in the May 18, 2016 edition of Education Week as New York State Chancellor Has a Powerful K-12 Opportunity