Yesterday, NYU’s Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences hosted a forum with Diane Ravitch of the Brookings Institution, Sol Stern of the Manhattan Institute, a reading expert from Boston, and three math professors from the city to examine DOE curricula and practices.

This is part of an initiative spearheaded by Elizabeth Carson and NYC HOLD to involve the university community more critically in public education, and they came out swinging.

Ravitch, who originally defended mayoral control of the schools, set the political stage with a sharp critique of the utter lack of accountability the mayor now enjoys, and a slam of Children First’s structural and administrative “reforms.” Stern trashed the DOE’s reading curriculum and its micromanagement of pedagogy and told the audience (of about 100) there is a “teacher revolt” going on against the chancellor’s mandates. He went on to say that the UFT is “on the side of the angels” when it comes to reading instruction(!)

The math profs, two from NYU and one from City College, went after “constructivist” math and the DOE’s math curriculum, Everyday Mathematics, saying students were coming into higher ed from the NYC public schools seriously underprepared. The recent 8th grade math scores bear them out. However, evidence on Everyday Math is slim. The curriculum has only been in place two years, and no students currently in high school ever had this Children First math curriculum.

“Constructivist” curriculum at this point is such a loaded term that it can hardly be rationally debated, but the reality reflected in this conference was amazing. The UFT and its implacable critics on the right have found a lot of common ground. Left and right have reached around the big belly of the DOE to shake hands on the foolishness of mandated instruction emanating from a department whose leader knows nothing about education. If Sol Stern finds the UFT is on the side of the angels, and Diane Ravitch publicly belittles Klein and Bloomberg, maybe the DOE should worry. Now the normally arm’s length universities are obviously wading in. I sense a shift in the current…