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Who's Schools Are They: New York City Union Plays Brain Dead for Feds

A top aide to Mayor Bloomberg said yesterday the city will stick with its choice of a universal reading curriculum - despite criticism from an adviser to President Bush.
"We're not drawing a line in the sand, but we feel we can stand behind this program," Deputy Mayor Dennis Walcott said after a Bush education policy adviser called the city's new highly touted reading program untested.

"We're going to address the questions Washington has and prove our case," Walcott said.

At stake is the city's share of $68 million in federal reading money slated for New York State. The federal government can withhold the money if it deems the city's plan unsound.

Earlier in the day, Mayor Bloomberg sounded less committed to the plan, giving his schools chancellor, Joel Klein, some wiggle room in case the program gets the ax.

"We'll see whether this is the right curriculum. If it isn't, he'll change it," Bloomberg said during his weekly WABC-AM show. "But I think it probably is. ... You'll never please everybody."

Course in phonics

The debate comes three days after Klein rolled out reading and math programs to be used in all but 200 top-performing schools starting in September.

The plan includes "Month-by-Month Phonics," a course that blends literature and language drills to teach young students how to sound out and understand words.

Klein's Deputy Chancellor, Diana Lam, said "Month-by-Month," coupled with more student time devoted to reading, intensive teacher training and classroom libraries, would raise reading performance.

But some literacy experts, including Bush education adviser Reid Lyon, warned that unlike other reading curriculums, "Month-by-Month" lacks proof that it works.

Only reading programs supported by scientific research are eligible for funding under the new federal education law, called No Child Left Behind.

Officials with the U.S. Education Department said it was premature to critique the city because grant applications aren't due until the summer.

Lyon, a researcher at the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, helped draft the federal education law. But the department makes the final call on whether New York's plan passes muster.

City school officials said the phonics curriculum has proven results in the Bronx and Brooklyn schools.

But teachers union President Randi Weingarten - who supported the idea of a citywide curriculum this week - said: "People like Lyons are respected voices in the literacy community. If they are raising questions, their wisdom should be respected and the program reexamined."



— Alison Gendar
City tells W it's hooked on 'Phonics'
New York Daily News
http://www.dailynews.com/news/v-pfriendly/story/54475p-51050c.html
Jan 25, 2003


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