One More Reason I’m Hesitant to Weigh In On The NYC Mayoral Race

So apparently the new “hot issue” among our great City’s slate of mayoral candidates is referred to as as the “Cincinnati Model” of education reform . . .

As anyone who knows me understands – whether through my work in Albany, as a friend, in charitable endeavors or within the private sector – education is a policy issue that has always been close to my heart. Consequently, whenever I hear about something innovative like the “Cincinnati Model,” I’m immediately intrigued. On its face, I like the concept of linking schools as closely as possible to their communities – but, as the below article notes, the actual results (at least in this instance) have not yet proven themselves to be a true panacea.

Nevertheless, compared with what I’ve seen out of “No Child Left Behind,” and even some of the better reforms instituted by Governor Cuomo and Mayor Bloomberg, I admit I’m enthused by a concept that essentially resembles something like community policing: in other words, creating stronger and more direct connections between public servants (in this case teachers/educational officials) and the neighborhoods/parents/kids they’re serving.

We’ve seen this work before in other areas and, theoretically, it should be even more effective when you’re dealing with an area of government designed specifically to assist a neighborhood in a non-threatening manner. Now, I’m not so naive to suggest that teachers (especially in often over-crowded urban schools) don’t face major obstacles every day. But at least they’re not carrying quite the same burden as cops in terms of having to continually prove that they’re not just some “stop-and-frisk” occupying army. Clearly, more research needs to be done, but the basic concept of integrating educational performance, knowledge about family circumstances, preventative health care and psychological well being absolutely seems to make sense at an intuitive level.

The thing is, however, that we’ve also been told the same about countless other ideas in the past – all of which share something in common with this one: very little quantitative proof. I’d love to believe this proposal really is the answer. If it turns out to produce measurable improvements, I’ll be the first to embrace it, to work for it, and to help get it funded. But especially among this particular group of NYC mayoral candidates, despite all my hope, I remain exceedingly cautious. Show me the data folks. I’ve watched (or tried to watch) the last few debates. It has been painful. The greatest City in the world surely deserves better. How about this would-be mayors: Try articulating something truly coherent about education other than: “Endless potential!” (Public Advocate, Bill de Blasio) or “It makes so much sense!” (Speaker Christine Quinn)….  Really? That’s what you’ve got??? (Well, in fairness, most of them have been VERY coherent when it comes to begging for union support…)

This is New York City, people! We are the crossroads of the globe! And when it comes to something as important as education, we need a mayor capable of speaking in paragraphs – not soundbites. We should be the pioneers of education reform! The Cincinnati Model may indeed be a good answer. Let’s just make sure we’re not aspiring to become Cincinnati. Not casting aspersions. Just sayin’…. Despite Weiner’s weiner, we still have a chance to find the leadership we need.

The clock is ticking. Education would be an outstanding place to start giving all New Yorkers the sort of election our City most certainly deserves.

[“Mayoral Candidates See Cincinnati as a Model for New York Schools,’ The New York Times, 8/11/2013]

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