One story I've been following with a mild degree of interest is the controversy over PTAs hiring teaching assistants in their schools. Apparently, for the last several years, certain well-to-do schools - mainly on the Upper East and Upper West sides - have been using PTA money to hire extra staff for their schools. The teaching assistants don't engage in instruction, but they are another set of eyes, ears, and hands around the classroom.
Frankly, the idea seems pretty good to me. The only problem is that the teaching assistants were not unionized, which brought about a complaint from the UFT, which brought about a change in policy from the DOE, which set off a lot of upset parents in those neighborhoods.
The disturbing thing to me has been the backlash against these parents who are trying to do the best they can for their children. As one woman wrote to the New York Times, "Thank you to the United Federation of Teachers for trying to level the learning field. "
Now don't get me wrong. I'm all about closing the achievement gap, but this is ridiculous. We should be trying to close the gap by bringing up the poor schools, not by bringing down the good schools. That's a solution out of Stephen Colbert's head. (Seriously, it is. Here's the link.)
We have to keep in mind that our goal is not just educational parity. Our goal is the best possible education for every student. That includes the rich kids. So while we should focus our efforts on raising the level of achievement for those on the bottom end of the spectrum, our efforts should not try to limit the options available to those on the top end.
Also, for what it's worth, it looks like they may have found a solution (to the teaching assistants issue, not the achievement gap. We're still working on that one.)