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September 17, 2010

Historically the term S.O.S. was used to signify that a ship was in peril. However, to the more than 200 parents, elected officials and advocates that came together Thursday on the steps of Tweed Courthouse, S.O.S. was all about “saving our schools” – schools that must now struggle to stay afloat, having been left in the wake of the test score inflation tidal wave . To the folks assembled inside Tweed, S.O.S. is merely “same old stuff” as they chart a course that ignores the storm swirling around them.

Rhythmic chanting of “We’re sending out an S.O.S. / Our schools are in are in a state of distress / We’re sending out an S.O.S. / The DoE must fix this mess” reverberated throughout the crowd as speakers stressed the current state of emergency for more than 230,000 students who score below grade level. Many of these students will be denied the intervention services they need, due to a waiver from the State Education Department that will afford them the opportunity to skirt their full responsibilities to provide effective support to struggling students and their schools. Unsurprisingly, the 369 schools with two-thirds of their students not meeting standards are concentrated in just a few community school districts, largely comprised of low income students of color. The DoE is doing their best to downplay the severity of this situation and justify their failure to launch a comprehensive intervention plan, as they tour the city making Powerpoint presentations and claiming that “at least we’re doing better than Rochester” and reminding us that Lady Gaga doesn’t have a lack of a college degree.

To that end we say “no more excuses”. The DoE must immediately launch a plan that will provide academic interventions for students, and comprehensive supports for struggling schools. Further, the DoE must suspend for a year all high stakes policy decisions that are based on standardized test scores and establish a revised accountability system that is based on reliable, multiple measures of assessment.

Our current system of school governance provides for totalitarian authority. However this authority must be accompanied by responsibility and accountability, which the DoE has yet to adequately accomplish. The proponents of the Save Our Schools campaign will continue to send out an S.O.S until the DoE remedies this mess.


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