October 25, 2011
“The people’s mic” could drown out discussion of curriculum standards at tonight’s unusual Panel for Educational Policy meeting.
The Department of Education has convened an off-schedule and highly irregular PEP meeting just to discuss new curriculum standards that are being rolled out this year.
At most PEP meetings, panel members listen patiently, but mostly silently, to members of the public before signing off on the city’s education policy proposals. Tonight, the panel won’t be voting on anything. Instead, they’ll listen to presentations by the architect of the Common Core standards, David Coleman, and his chief champion at the DOE, Chief Academic Officer Shael Polakow-Suransky. They’ll also sit in on workshops where meeting attendees will practice the same skills city students are being asked to bolster this year. And they will answer questions from the public for 25 minutes.
The city is requiring attendees to submit questions on index cards, and officials say the questions that get read aloud will likely be limited to ones that relate to curriculum.
That won’t stop some attendees who have been planning since last week to apply the tools of the Occupy Wall Street movement at the PEP meeting. Activists in the “Occupy Public Education” outgrowth plan to bring “the people’s mic” to the meeting, which obviates an actual microphone because humans, rather than electronics, amplify what is said.
Occupy Public Education also plans to make waves outside the Seward Park campus, where the meeting is being held, by conducting a “teach in,” according to Julie Cavanagh, a teacher-activist who has helped organize the efforts. The teach-in is set to focus on budget cuts, class size increases, high-stakes testing, and other issues.
And some individual community members say they have been empowered by the “Occupy” movement to bring their specific concerns to the chancellor.
Jose Gonzalez, a father of two, plans to protest the way his school, P.S. 73 in the Bronx, has managed parent involvement. Gonzalez said the parent-teacher association has not communicated financial matters to PTA members in accordance with city rules. On Saturday, Gonzalez emailed his concerns to Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott directly. On Monday he launched a protest, complete with hunger strike, in front of P.S. 73. And tonight, he plans on occupying the PEP.
“Citywide and nationwide we’re talking about the 99 percent and accountability and responsibility of funds and money,” Gonzalez said. “How can we be fighting citywide and nationwide if we as individuals aren’t doing anything in our own schools?”