By Paul Wolf:
Dennis Galucki, Founder of the Center for the Study of Art, Architecture, History and Nature sponsors a monthly speaker series at the downtown Buffalo Library the second Tuesday of every month from 12:15 to 1:00. The theme of the speaker series is Imagine Buffalo Niagara in the 21st Century.
Buffalo School Superintendent Dr. James Williams was the feature speaker the other day. I have seen Dr. Williams speak before and find him to be an interesting and engaging speaker, so on my lunch hour I went and listened to what he had to say. Dr. Williams pointed out that that since the federal Department of Education was created there have been six U.S. Presidents and nine Secretary’s of Education, serving an average of 3.4 years. Part of the problem with providing a quality urban education, in Dr. Williams’ opinion, is the constant changing of policy direction every few years.
Dr. Williams stated that more money is not the answer to providing a quality education. The structure of how education is provided needs to change. The school schedule and calendar is still based on when the U.S. was a farming nation. The world has changed but the structure of how education is provided has not changed.
To bring Buffalo schools into the 21st Century Dr. Williams mentioned five points that he supports:
1) A Longer School Year – The current school year consists of 182 days, at 6 hours per day. Dr. Williams would like to see 240 days of school at 8 hours per day. In addition to students needing more hours of learning, teachers need more mandated days of training to increase their knowledge and teaching abilities.
2) Mandated Preschool – Too many children come to school unprepared to learn from day one. Preschool programs are critical to preparing children for school.
3) Accountability System – Teachers and Superintendents should be held accountable. Under New York State law it takes about 200 days and thousands of dollars in legal fees and administrative hearings to terminate incompetent teachers/superintendents. State law needs to be changed. New York City spends millions of dollars paying incompetent teachers to sit in a building and do nothing while on administrative leave from teaching which is a disgrace.
4) Establish A Curriculum – As policy/political directions change due to new Presidents, Governors etc. establishing an agreed upon curriculum continues to change. The current manifestation of a curriculum is several years away from being completed by New York State.
5) Align The Buffalo Public School System With Higher Education – Not everyone is capable of or desires to obtain a Regents education. Not everyone is capable of or desires to attend college, but the skills and knowledge necessary to do so need to be aligned so that students are prepared to perform college level work.
Some additional thoughts expressed by Dr. Williams were that arts and humanities are important. A big difference between private and public schools is the emphasis placed on the arts in private schools. Dr. Williams would like to expose Buffalo students to more arts and culture in and outside school settings. I found it interesting that, according to Dr. Williams, after-school programs are not put out to bid. Dr. Williams would like there to be competition and a selection process for after school programs. I am unclear how after-school programs are selected, but apparently a public bidding process is not involved.
What do you think about the ideas expressed by Dr. Williams to bring Buffalo schools into the 21st Century?
By Paul Wolf: