Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr.’s education summit on Saturday at Lehman College was like an amusement park for education-obsessed adults.
The event, Bronx Education Summit: From Cradle to Career, featured a colorful array of information tables ranging from the Bronx Children’s Museum to charter school company New Visions for Public Schools; speeches by Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott and lauded education critic Diane Ravitch; and mini-panels about everything from the rights of English language learners to how to chose the best high school.
There was even a farm stand selling Bronx-grown radishes, homemade birdhouses and T-shirts.
Perhaps the most widely anticipated speaker, Ms. Ravitch gave the keynote address at the beginning of the seven-and-a-half-hour-long affair. While she opened her talk by saying she was going to discuss how to improve Bronx schools, the speech was more of a sweeping indictment of mayoral control of schools. She blasted what she says is the administration’s policy of hiring inexperienced teachers, forging multi-million-dollar contracts with suspect companies without public review, inflating test scores, churning out graduates who are ill-prepared for the real world and replacing large high schools with small ones.
“If mayoral control was successful why are we still closing so many schools?” Ms. Ravitch boomed to thunderous applause and shouts of “That’s right!” and “Yeah!”
Ms. Ravitch also shouted out some Bronx natives, including Riverdale Review publisher Andrew Wolf. Mr. Ravitch said Mr. Wolf was one of the few who blew the whistle on the Department of Education for bragging about test score increases, which later proved to be inflated and inaccurate. She also gave the nod to former Bronx Panel for Educational Policy representative Monica Major, who was charged with voting on changes to schools and who repeatedly questioned and voted against closures such as the one of John F. Kennedy High School.