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Regents, heat, finals, heat, graduation, heat, and confusing end-of-year schedules are on the minds of city school parents, students and teachers this Thursday in June. So as a diversion, let’s go to Washington, where a visual stunt on the National Mall tried to focus attention on the state of the nation’s schools. The College Board — those creators of the SAT and other standardized tests — set out 857 student desks around the Washington Monument, Adeshina Emmanuel reports in Thursday’s New York Times. Each desk represents one of the 857 students who drop out of high school in the United States every single hour, every single school day, according to the College Board, which arranged the display to underline its effort to urge presidential candidates to put education at the top of their to-do lists. The board had nearly a dozen people, iPads in hand, gathering signatures in nearly 100-degree weather for an online petition that said: “If you want my support, I need to hear more from you about how you plan to fix the problems with education. And not just the same old platitudes. I want to know that you have real, tangible solutions, and that once in office, you’re ready to take serious action. I’ll be watching your acceptance speech at your party’s convention.” More than 22,000 people had signed the petition by Wednesday evening, with most signatures coming from people who had found it online.
The display, part of the College Board’s “Don’t Forget Ed!” campaign — which Ms. Emmanuel reports is the organization’s first venture into public politics — is the work of Adam Hollander, a New Yorker. “We now live in a very visual culture,” he said, his complexion florid after hours in the sun on Tuesday. “Now, you have to see it to believe it. Everybody hears that 857 number, but it doesn’t really mean anything until you’re able to see it.” So far, education has been a peripheral issue in the presidential campaign, though Mitt Romney, the presumptive Republican nominee, did announce his education agenda and team of advisers in May, in which he emphasized more school choice. Speaking of national policy: Gotham Schools reports that the state sent teachers sample questions related to the new Common Core curriculum standards, a national initiative that is ramping up in New York. The Common Core shifts the focus of English lessons from narrative fiction to expository and argumentative writing. In math, it emphasizes word problems and problem-solving. And across all subjects, it favors assignments that deal with authentic, real-world questions. The sample items reflect those preferences. Literary passages are pulled straight from classic literature, including works by Leo Tolstoy for third-graders and Jack London for seventh-graders, and informational texts that are actually in use, such as passage published by the Federal Trade Commission about the dangers of identity theft. In math, students are asked to consider the amount of water professional football players consume and the size of a school locker.
Finally in the news on Thursday: Don’t say we didn’t warn you, but the battle over making teacher evaluation data public drags on in Albany, and the session is supposed to end by Friday. And as SchoolBook reported on Wednesday, any hopes by the city administration to get legislation passed in Albany to give the chancellor greater authority to fire teachers for sexual misconduct remain just that — aspirational. That legislation does not appear to be moving, at least during this session. As the temperature remains sky-high this Thursday, SchoolBook hears that some schools are giving parents the option of keeping their children home. That is on top of an end-of-year schedule that varies from school to school, thanks to the lack of snow this winter. What is your end-of-year experience, and how are you coping with it? Answer the query below. On this Thursday, Schools Chancellor Dennis M. Walcott is speaking at a number of graduation ceremonies. At 9:15 a.m. he speaks at Public School 216 Arturo Toscanani in Brooklyn, and at 2:30 p.m. at M.S. 302 Luisa Dessus Cruz in the Bronx. At 4 p.m. he speaks at the Expanded Success Initiative Symposium, N.Y.U. Global Center for Academic and Spiritual Life, 238 Thompson Street, Manhattan.