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NYC Mayoral Hopeful Christine Quinn Talks Education

(Originally Published on Teachers for Education Reform's Website)

By Omar Lopez, Director of Teacher Policy

Today at The New School, NYC mayoral hopeful Christine C. Quinn spoke about her plans for education in a speech she named “Stronger Schools for NYC.”

With this speech, Quinn solidified her stance as the most reform-friendly mayoral candidate - though that’s compared to the other candidates who have campaigned in direct opposition to current NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s education policies.

Quinn’s plan broke down into four sections:

1. Best Practices: She plans on taking the best practices in the current education system and using them to help replicate success. She gave Truman High School as an example of what can be done to turn around a large high school before it’s closed and split into smaller schools. In addition, Quinn plans on conducting a system-wide study with Columbia University’s Teachers College to find out what is working in the system.

New teachers can look forward to having an experienced teacher mentor them in their first year of instruction, using current professional development dollars to pay for it.

2. Learning 24/7: Also in the works is an online, multi-language parent university which will allow parents to see what their children are studying and receive complementary materials if they want to brush up on their skills. A ComptStat for parents called Parent 311 is also planned. This is meant to provide parents with the most up-to-date information on how schools are performing.

3. Comprehensive community schools approach: Inspired by schools she has visited, Quinn wants to build new schools with extra space for doctors and clinics from the community to offer services. She spoke at length about the multiple city agencies that do not currently coordinate. She plans to rectify this by the creating a new office, the Deputy Mayor for Education and Children that will work to bring these agencies together.

4. Literacy and Assessment: Quinn plans on reducing or eliminating field-testing items on standardized exams, calling them a waste of time. Instead, she wants to move toward portfolio assessments. Additionally, Quinn wants computer classes for every high school, to replace textbooks with tablets and have a laser-like focus on reading and writing throughout the system.

After her speech there was a question and answer period. Her answers were uncontroversial, mostly suggesting that the focus of the mayor should be proactively avoiding issues by smarter planning and agency coordination. She also voiced support for charter schools, though she wanted to keep them at the number they’re at now. Additionally, Quinn said she wouldn’t charge charter schools rent.

While Mayor Bloomberg led the charge for education reform in NYC for the last twelve years, reformers (particularly teachers) who want a focus on raising standards, professionalizing teaching and similar issues with the new mayor are going to have to speak up. Reform was the norm under Bloomberg. Under the new mayor, we must advocate for the system’s foot not to be let off of the gas.

Omar Lopez has been involved in the fight to reform our public education system ever since he was a student in the first graduating class of the Beginning with Children Charter School in Brooklyn, New York. Before joining DFER Omar taught English Language Arts in New York City Public Schools at the 5th, 9th and 11th grade levels. Read more about Omar here.