Report Card Details Struggles

According to a recent report, New York is in a state of regression when it comes to adequately preparing its students for the future.

On Tuesday, the Alliance for Quality Education released a college and career readiness report card which grades Albany’s progress in improving public education.

“Overall, this is not a particularly good report card,” said Billy Easton, executive director of AQE.

The report card, entitled “Are We There Yet?” gauged the progress of the state’s education system by looking at seven categories, which included: providing quality pre-kindergarten, creating community schools, providing quality teaching initiatives, expanding learning time, providing challenging and engaging curriculum, creating a positive school climate and reducing suspensions and investing in equity.

Altogether, AQE was only able to give the state a passing grade in two categories. The report card found the state to be moving in the right direction in the provision of quality pre-K and creating community schools; while moving in the wrong direction in all other areas except providing quality teaching initiatives-which received an “incomplete,” because results are too early to predict.

According to Easton, AQE has asked for feedback on its report card from various organizations and individuals.

“Some said we were being too generous, but none said we were being too harsh,” he said. “We agree with the governor. The state should be investing in full day pre-K, high quality curriculum, teacher mentoring, more time for student learning and improving low performing schools by creating community schools. Now that the state is funding these successful educational strategies for less than 2 percent of New York students, the next step should be for the state to embrace the reality that we have a moral obligation to make these programs available to students throughout the state.”

According to a press release by AQE, a large contributing factor to the state’s poor performance is its failure to implement these educational opportunities on a larger scale. While the state has made the effort to create small grant programs, they are currently only serving less than 2 percent of the state’s student population, the release said.

Several other speakers of different capacities provided a myriad of perspectives on the report card results. They included Willie White, executive director of A Village, and David Sciarra, executive director of New Jersey’s Education Law Center.

Sciarra placed much significance upon the state’s low ranking in education funding equity, while providing examples of successes in his own state.

“Ranked No. 43 in education funding equity, New York is well behind the rest of the nation in closing the opportunity gap between high-need and low-need schools. A system built on equity provides all students with high quality curriculum, and access to quality pre-K. In New Jersey, the opportunity gap is getting smaller because we invest in equity. New York ought to do the same,” Sciarra said.

White was more direct in his feelings about where the fault lies.

“I want to personally say to the governor, ‘I’m blaming you for this,'” he said. “People are angry. They are angry that 35,000 teachers have been taken out of classrooms. They are angry that opportunities like art, music, drama and sports are on the chopping block. They are angry that the students who need our help the most are the ones suffering the worst fate with these budget cuts. This report card shows that New York is failing in its commitment to students.”

The Alliance for Quality Education is a coalition mobilizing communities across the state to keep New York true to its promise of ensuring a high quality public education to all students, regardless of zip code. Combining its legislative and policy expertise with grassroots organizing, AQE advances proven strategies that lead to student success, and ultimately create a powerful public demand for a high quality education.

Easton said AQE will be traveling throughout the state with these results over the summer to hear the opinions of other schools and communities. He said the coalition will then reconvene in the fall to start its “No More Excuses” campaign.

“We don’t need any more excuses, we need equal education for all of our students,” Easton said.