Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Ben Shanahan Testimony from July 11, 2007 DoE hearing on Contracts for excellence

This is what I said, word for word:

Good Evening.

My name is Benjamin Shanahan, and I am a high-school student, entering 10th grade at Hunter College High School in Manhattan. Although my school is not under the New York City Department of Education, I have previously been a student in the DoE public school system. I do have a sister in the public school system, and as an intern for Councilmember Jackson, I have a good idea of how the system works.

I would first like to say that I appreciate the money that is being given to schools in order to reduce class and school size. I believe, from personal experience, that these things allow for a relationship to develop between a student and his or her teacher. This kind of relationship can really improve our chances of becoming interested in a subject, and we have a greater likelihood of learning.

At the same time, I would like to share my concerns pertaining to the “Time on Task” section of the Contracts for Excellence. The handout I received on the Contracts says quote: “The City proposes taking steps to give teachers the tools they need so that they are more effective educators and so students spend more time learning.” While I do see a proposal to lengthen both the school day and year, I see nothing about giving teachers more or improved tools in your expansion of this topic.

I also see two things that bother me pertaining to the conditions for students. One of these is the proposal to create opportunities for struggling students at some schools. If you want to improve the quality of education throughout the city, giving these opportunities to some schools just won’t cut it. In my school, free tutoring is available once a week for each department, either after school or during lunch. Teachers who already teach at the school are the tutors, and because I understand the difficulty of hiring full time tutors, I feel we should use this system, where the department staff could rotate which weeks each member would be tutoring.

The other topic that bothers me is your proposal to increase testing. I believe testing should be used as a tool to evaluate students’ progress, but it should not determine promotion. If you want to know what a student has learned, you need to have significant communication with teachers—who are in the classroom every day—parents—who know their kids best—and the kids themselves—who know their own progress. Their promotion should be based on work they do within their own schools. If you judge a student by a number, you are not viewing them as who they are—a living, breathing, thinking human being. What I ask is simply: who’s to say that the information in the test is the information all students must know?

Thank you for your time.


Dana! said...

I'm really concerned with proposals of adding more time spent in school. First of all, it just doesn't make sense. You can't fix a broken education system by adding more of what doesn't work. Do these kids of proposals imply that efficiency in the system is impossible so we have to add more time to the day and year so that students pay for time inevitably wasted by the system?

Secondly, students already spend so much time in school or doing homework, papers and projects for school. Perhaps failure is seen in schools where homework is an ineffective method of teaching. A school whose students do more homework effectively has a longer day, while a school whose students do less has a shorter one. Maybe a lengthened, strengthened day, accompanied by the abolition of homework would be a good thing.


Seth Pearce said...