Readying Public Schools for Excellence
Competing for school vouchers is going to reshape our public school's educational landscape forever. There is a justifiable fear that our city's poorest communities will be hardest hit from the substantial drain of funding from those school’s unable to compete. So, now is the time to offer an educational experience designed around the needs of our students and their families while increasing benefits and job satisfaction for teachers and faculty without any additional burden to the taxpayer.
By working together, we have all the resources we need to create dynamic learning environments for students to achieve their highest potential through various mentorship programs to ensure every student achieves their post graduation goals whether it's attending college, vocational school, job readiness, or starting their own business through advanced entrepreneur and leadership programs available to all students.
I am proposing a NYC Smart City School Program which I detail below. Each public school will allow the faculty, parents, and students to vote on whether or not they want to keep their school "AS IS" and face potential closures or convert to this NYC Smart City School Program to implement a public school educational experience designed around the needs of the student. I believe that students should come first but I also believe that each school should decide what's best for their kids as well as their community at large.
First, we need to ask ourselves what is our primary goal in terms of educating our youth? Most of us can agree that we want to properly prepare our city’s young people to become happy, healthy, responsible, intelligent, productive members of society. How we get there has been wildly debated for years at the expense of our students’ livelihood and opportunities for success. This ongoing failure has been reeking havoc upon our city’s poorest neighborhoods for decades and now the wealthiest among us are beginning to feel the pressure of lawmakers zeroing in on their wallets who believe we can tax our way out of this hole.
Secondly, most of us can agree that we’d like to see maximum results with the least amount of expenditure possible. Unfortunately, due to uninspired leadership and the lack of political will we’ve grown to accept substandard results while misallocating billions of tax dollars on a system that fails to completely deliver. Although, the finger pointing ends here. Now is the time for us to work together in the best interest of our children and the future of our community.
There’s no one-size fits all solution for every school and for every student but there is an answer that we can all agree upon when we focus on our student’s needs as individuals and as a community combined with our primary goal—creating happy, healthy, responsible, intelligent, productive members of society. It’s the smart and just thing to do.
Although the city’s graduation rate hit an all-time high in 2016 of 79.4% we need to remember that 21.6% (226,600 students) carried on without a diploma or the tools they need to achieve their highest potential, just barely being able to compete for what little jobs are actually available to them. Sadly, not every student who actually earns a diploma is in a much better position than those who were unable to finish.
Leadership and Entrepreneurism
Creating the change we want to see in the world can start at any age, even post graduation. A student is never too old to embrace a love for learning. It only takes one positive mentor to give a young person the inspiration and hope they need to believe in themselves but it also takes a community to provide the tools and opportunities they need to achieve the success they deserve.
It’s imperative that we see every student as having potential to aspire to something greater if that truly is their heart’s desire despite any inadequate school funding, turbulent home life, or differences that make each student unique. Although, we are most effective when when we start our children down a positive path early in their life by exposing them to leadership skills and entrepreneurialism while we clear the obstacles of bureaucracy, standardized testing, and unhealthy life choices forced upon the students, parents, and faculty alike by rigid, self-serving mandates, the misallocation of funds, and socio-economic injustice.
It’s paramount that we instill leadership and entrepreneurship skills through strategic classroom examples that teachers use within their curriculum to instruct math, coding, science, english, home economics, economics, social studies, geography, history, sports, and especially the arts. Beyond these strategic classroom examples we’ll need to launch engaging leadership programs that not only encourage but fosters entrepreneurialism by working with existing nonprofits, and local business leaders, with parent/teacher involvement. By the time each student graduates from high school they will have all the tools they need to seek out higher education, land a good paying job with benefits, or start their own business through advanced entrepreneur and leadership programs available to all students.
Boosting Student Achievement with Later Start Time
A recent study conducted by the Brookings Institution's Hamilton Project found that student achievement could be significantly improved if high school and middle school students began their school day just an hour later. A teen getting up at 7 a.m. is equivalent to an adult getting up at 4 a.m. because teens require 7 to 11 hours of sleep every night and younger students require even more. Unfortunately, under the current system that is rarely a possibility. There are numerous reasons why students are made to start class as early as 7:40 a.m. despite the fact that a 9 a.m start time has been proven to boost student achievement.
Some reasons why our students’ biological need for a full night’s rest is completely disregarded is because of the need to fit in after-school practices for sports or performing arts, time for students to work part-time jobs, and because many parents start their workday early and require adult supervision for their kids if they’re allowed to start their school day at a time that works with their child’s circadian rhythm.
While the topic has been discussed for years, there is no real “will” to make change due to a potential backlash from parents. Allowing schools, teachers, parents, and students to vote on these changes should give school districts the green light they need to make changes that will create a more powerful workforce and future job providers and business leaders our world needs. Each school will be able to decide for themselves if they want to their public school to stay "AS IS" and face closure or convert to the New York City Smart School Program.
No More Standardized Testing
Eliminating standardized testing has been said to be equivalent to rewriting the entire tax code. We've reached a sink or swim moment in public school education and our time to act is now.
The current system is setup to make life easier for admissions teams who want to look at a list of exam scores rather than carefully assess each student based upon their performance by reviewing their projects, papers, presentations and portfolios. Twenty-eight schools throughout New York state are already doing the latter as a part of the New York Performance Standards Consortium. We should adopt a similar model here in New York City and work with local colleges and Universities to adopt an alternate portfolio review for public schools participating in this NYC Smart City Educational Program.
Upon entering sophomore year, each student will participate in a series of interviews by a panel comprised of a teacher, volunteer parent, local business leader, and a senior peer mentor. These interviews are designed to help each student create a post graduation strategy and to facilitate follow-through to ensure their goals are achieved. This strategy can evolve at any point as a student matures and gains a clearer perspective of what they want to do with their life post graduation.
No More Assigned Homework
It’s no surprise to anyone who has children or is a caregiver of those who do what the negative impact of excessive homework has on adolescents and teens who feel overwhelmed by the added burden of starting school too early followed by intensive class study designed to pass standardized testing, followed up by more homework leaving little to no time for play or spend with family. Our students are stressed out feel the pressure to outperform their fellow classmate. It’s one of the great American tragedies that parents, students, and teachers alike feel helpless to do anything about it. What we need is a leader who is courageous enough to cast out the old system to make way for an educational experience that boosts academic achievement and contributes to a happier more productive home life with family and friends.
A recent study published in 2015 by the American Journal of Family Therapy found students in the early elementary school years are getting significantly more homework than is recommended by education leaders, in some cases nearly three times as much homework as is recommended. "The cost is enormous," claims the studies contributing editor. "The data shows that homework over this level is not only not beneficial to children's grades or GPA, but there's really a plethora of evidence that it's detrimental to their attitude about school, their grades, their self-confidence, their social skills and their quality of life."
For public schools to remain competitive homework will only consist of work that your student did not finish during the school day. There will be no formally assigned homework for the year. It’s a bold move whose time has come.
4 Day School Week with 3 Day Weekend
The four day school week has been widely adopted in rural communities to bring down costs and enrich the learning environment with extracurricular development for pupils. Unfortunately, the savings are not substantial because teachers and administration have fixed salaries and hourly workers tend to work just as many hours as schools are usually kept open on Fridays for teacher meetings and extracurricular programs for students looking to enhance their portfolio by graduation.
Instituting a four day school week citywide is designed to benefit the students and their families. Students can use this free day for extracurricular activities pursuing the arts, athletics, science, community service, or get a job if they’re old enough.
Stay-at-home parents will enjoy the extra time spent with their child participating in school recommended activities that foster culture while strengthening the bond they already share. Fridays are also a great time for parents to take their children to doctors during the week without pulling their child from school to do so.
However, working parents with younger children will most definitely have childcare issues which will be addressed so not to add any economic burden upon their families. Each school will have Friday programs for organized play, field trips, art classes, music, science, coding, and all sorts of extracurricular activities that will be set into place with healthy meals included.
The four day school week will make jobs at New York public schools much more attractive to teachers who would prefer having a three day weekend or use the extra day for teacher meetings or running an extracurricular program they’re excited about. Why would a teacher want to work elsewhere for five days a week and at home on the weekends when our public school system is offering a much more appealing offer?
Replace Textbooks with Student-Issued Tablets and Laptops
It’s no secret that school textbooks are expensive, heavy, and are outdated fairly quickly as science, history, and geography are in constant transition. As much as $250 per student can be saved by eliminating textbooks from public schools. This adds up to hundreds of millions of dollars when you consider how many textbooks are needed to educate 1.1 million students here in New York City.
Every student will be issued an “indestructible” tablet or laptop (depending upon their grade level) in place of being given a backpack full of heavy and expensive textbooks. Yes, there is a replacement mechanism to compensate for lost or stolen tablets and laptops as well as state of the art tracking tech to locate the missing or stolen units.
In addition to being issued virtual textbooks, we will launch a literary and art books sharing club for students, teachers, and parents who want to purchase books outside the course curriculum and share them with other members within the virtual book club as an additional money saving mechanism.
Reinventing Lunch for Young Entrepreneurs
It’s devastating to know our young people are being forced to eat lunch sometimes as early as 9:40am and all too typically before 11a while some are made to wait until nearly 2p to eat. It’s difficult for anyone to concentrate when you’re starving. Growing kids deserve to eat regular meals without being forced to go hungry for hours. It’s not healthy and completely inappropriate to blame a lack of space or budget concerns as an excuse to not fix this issue immediately. I'm not talking about, let's look into it, I'm saying that fixing this problem needs to be a top priority and the NYC Smart City School Program will solve this dilemma for participating schools.
Students are rarely given enough time to eat and digest their food, being forced to scarf down their meal sometimes in as little as 8-10 minutes to make room for the next batch of students who need the space to eat. This is completely unacceptable and has been going on for far too long.
I have developed a new cafe style for student dining that replaces unhealthy menus with wholesome restaurant quality dishes. GMO’s will not be allowed to be served to our kids and organic ingredients will be used thanks to a revolutionary NYC Time Bank Land Partner Program. Students, teachers, volunteer parents, and existing paid kitchen employees will work together to create healthy and delicious menus (with all nutritional information being posted). Lunch will be no less than 40 minutes and will include live classical music performed by the school’s music department.
In cases where school cafeterias are too small to accommodate lunches, off campus lunches will be made available at the local Upcycle Galleries near the school that host Social Canteens each with it's own menu. Every New York City public school cafe or Upcycle Shop (with Social Canteen) will incorporate a home economics and culinary program to prepare students who want to enter the foodservice industry. This strategic entrepreneur program teaches math for adding and subtracting fractions and ordering supplies as well as learning about nutrition and other cultures when preparing ethnic dishes while working as a team to offer silver service to their fellow students.
This sort of dining experience will instill the manners and etiquette required for anyone looking to move up the corporate ladder or network with investors and people of influence. It’s these differences between the privileged and disadvantaged that makes all the difference between getting hired, getting that loan they need to start their own business after graduation, or being overlooked for someone more refined who fits within the scope of the company's corporate culture. It’s unfair but a harsh reality we need to prepare our young people for and the earlier the better.
These lunch periods will also double as a Small Group Communications class where students dining will be required to keep a lunchtime discussion journal. A list of topics will be issued the day before to give students the opportunity to do any research if they so choose although only participation is required. These discussions will focus on entrepreneurial opportunities already being taught in their classes and after school programs as well as current events and how what they do can help create solutions for issues facing their local community. After dessert is served students will be allowed a freestyle conversation to talk or not talk about whatever they choose. This Small Group Communications Class will focus on preparing our students to express their opinions based upon simple logic and reason techniques to help them construct insightful and educated discussions. Again, this is another indispensable tool for future job seekers and would-be business owners who plan to network and be taken seriously.
NYC Student Fashion Week
Wearing a boring school uniform conceived by lackluster designers has traditionally been poorly received among our student population who prefer expressing their individuality and sense of style. This attitude is something we should celebrate and not stifle as is too often the case with schools that adopt a strict dress code or school uniform.
We need to inspire our students to become excited about the clothes they wear fostering individuality and self-confidence without burdening struggling parents with the added expense of over-priced school uniforms. So, how do we get students to become excited about wearing a school uniform to enjoy the many advantages that are associated with a more structured attire while eliminating the downside of traditional dress codes? The answer is simple.
I propose that we allow our students to vote via secret ballot to garner an enthusiastic response from the student body as well as achieve an overall success for the program. Secondly, the students need to be involved in designing their school uniforms with styles that compliment all body shapes and sizes with the freedom to customize their look with the accessories and hairstyles of their choosing. Yes, this includes braids, afros, colored-hair, and shaved sides. Third, the cost of these uniforms need to be minimal if not free which is now possible with the advent of the NYC Student Time Bank.
The Student Council of Fashion Designers will work with celebrity fashion designers, local New York City fashion design college interns, and corporate sponsorship to create a program that prepares aspiring student designers for higher education and entrepreneurship. Each season the students enrolled in the class will host a fashion show revealing the additions to their Fall and Spring looks to showcase the variety of pieces within the collection. The program is also designed to teach math and geometry through pattern making and runway production as well as overseeing quality control and distribution. It’s important to note that students are not involved in the manufacturing of mass production as that is an obligation filled via the New York City Time Bank and corporate sponsorship.
To create auxiliary funds for New York City public schools and scholarships for students looking to attend a fashion design college in New York City, these uniforms will be available for sale to schools in other cities, states, and countries with customizable options to coincide with their school’s colors and dress requirements. The school uniform business is a multi-million dollar industry that has traditionally “broke the bank” for struggling parents but not under this exciting new system specifically designed to save each family hundreds of dollars spent on school clothes each year.
In addition to creating school uniforms, the Student Council of Fashion Designers are also responsible for designing athletic uniforms and bespoke gowns and suits for student proms and college/business interviews. They will also be responsible for designing bags, jewelry and other accessories using upcycled materials from the school’s recycling program. Students can use these pieces to customize their look and express their individuality. These fashion pieces will also be used as templates to create accessories for sale at local Upcycle Shops to increase school revenue. Many of these pieces will also be showcased in the New York Student Fashion Week runway show and featured in local media coverage to promote the program and generate additional sales.
The Student Council of Fashion Designers will also be responsible for designing the uniforms for NYCVets (NYCV) and their service dogs who will provide added security and protection to underserved communities in the greater New York City area.
I will access my network within the fashion industry and within the local New York City fashion design schools to create an automatic acceptance program for students who successfully complete the Student Council of Fashion Designer’s program with tuition fully paid for those students seeking higher education.
More Athletics and Sports Programs
Students who enjoy exercise and express an interest in fitness and health are encouraged to enter a certificate or licensing program where they get exercise while they learn how be an instructor or trainer and are ready to work once they pass the course and are of legal age to work in New York City. Preparing students in professional sports is something our city should stand behind and nurture by ensuring learning happens during the day we are able to free up time after school for sports team practice. The Student Council of Fashion Designers will design the athletic uniforms and gear.
NYC Student Time Bank
Educating our youth to understand economics and how our money supply works is critical if we want to put an end to the oligarchy that has taken a stranglehold over our nation and our city. The NYC Student Time Bank is a revolutionary new economics class and entrepreneur program that will proliferate a currency based upon time. The students enrolled in NYC Student Time Bank class will be responsible for running the program, dealing with accounting, and oversee membership while learning the basics of banking in a resource-based economy.
Here’s how it works. Every student will be issued two NYC Student Time Dollars. Each time dollar can be used to purchase one hour of service from anyone within their pre-approved member list for things like tutoring, coaching, prom dress sewing, suit tailoring, home furnishing design and construction, dog walking, babysitting, eldercare, lawn mowing, snow shoveling, or whatever they need for themselves or their family. Conversely, students can earn more time dollars by offering any of these services as well.
Of course, parents have the option to not allow their child(ren) to participate in this program and have full control over whom they do business with. For starters, students will only be allowed to make transactions with other students from their school and their respective parents can choose to block anyone they want from the time bank service list. Allowances are made for family members and friends of the family whom the student wants to earn additional time dollars from for such services mentioned above.
Students can earn more time dollars through school approved community service and through participation in some of the entrepreneur programs within the classes they are already taking. Yes, kids will have the opportunity to get paid time dollars while learning. Students can pull their time dollars together as a class to pay for special events such as prom by contracting vendors within the school’s pre-approved vendor list such as lighting, sound, dj, bands, event design, security, transportation, and catering as well as the creation of prom dresses and suits.
Every Student I.D. Card from a participating NYC Smart City School will become a Student Time Bank Card. The card cannot be used until given permission by the parent or guardian via the parental control panel where parents and guardians can monitor all transactions made by their child as well as restrict or give access to specific family members, friends, nonprofits, and city businesses who are members of the regular NYC Time Bank.
It’s important to note that time dollars are a tax-exempt currency used as a means of providing mutual credit and will not affect the family’s benefits if they’re on food, cash, or rental assistance. Same goes for the regular NYC Time Bank.
Journalism and Virtual Reality Video Production
Thanks to a special Entertainment News Tax I've proposed, New York Smart City Schools will receive a windfall of revenue to finance a new journalism and virtual reality video production program to prepare students seeking a career in media to build an impressive portfolio that many New York college graduates would be envious of. This new program will teach the fundamentals of television news production, print media, social media management, public relations, sponsorship, interview skills, and design as well as learning the fundamentals of statistics and how to use logic and reason to ensure journalistic integrity.
Students involved in this entrepreneur program will also be responsible for publishing the school’s yearbook and newspaper along with a television news program to be broadcast on the five borough public television cable networks. A virtual reality version will also be available online via the app. This revolutionary new program will mentor participating students to become the future broadcasters, publishers, film crews, designers, and coding engineers our city needs in a world full of alternative facts and misinformation. Journalistic integrity and career preparedness are the primary focus points of this academic exercise.
The 5 Borough Drone Marathon, VR Coding, and Space Camp
One of the most popular and lucrative programs for our NYC Smart City Schools will be the innovative drone and VR coding entrepreneur class and after school programs. Students will learn how to build a series of drones from recycling and will race these drones around the waterways of the 5 boroughs as a part of a money making marathon. Students will learn design, 3D printing, upcycling, and construction. Every student will seek out sponsors within their family, friends and local businesses to pledge money for every distance marker and aerial obstacle they’re school’s drone flight team manages to pass.
There are several other exciting drone exercises that provide community service to the neighborhoods surrounding their schools that will be presented in detail at a later time. Such programs include the NYC Parks and Recreation mini tractor dog poop and trash removal drones they will design and code through the learning process of this entrepreneur program. Other projects include the Subway Rat Maze exhibition and Squirrel and Feral Cat VR Show Houses. If you’d like more information please do get in touch.
This drone program is also designed as an introduction to an NYC Smart City School "Space Camp Program for Kids". The students will learn how to create, build, and code drones for use in New York City, space, and Mars. Private enterprise and governments are working together to get humans to Mars. This is a new industry with great possibilities for innovation and new wealth creation. I want New York City students to have the advantage, opportunities, and centralized support to help them achieve their goals.
Empathy Class to Instill Anti-Bullying Mindset
As a society we tend to teach girls and young women how to dress or how to behave to protect themselves from attackers. Conversely, we teach boys and young men how to defend themselves against neighborhood bullies. Yet, we’re not teaching our young people the skills and mindset they need to not be that bully or worse, a rapist. It’s a touchy subject for people everywhere and people’s point of view is often filtered through their gender, age, and culture. Ignoring the issue because it's uncomfortable to talk is no longer an option.
However, there is an incredibly simple fix to this crisis that terrorizes so many of our young people today. It’s called empathy class. It’s taught throughout a student’s academic career starting as early as preschool. Of course, young children are only taught skills in empathy while older and more mature teens address the more difficult subject matter later on when they are old enough to discuss such things.
For example, children in preschool can be shown images of kids exhibiting different emotions including sadness, fear, anger, frustration, happiness, and so on. The students discuss these cards and talk about what the child is sensing thus learning to conceptualize their own and others’ feelings. Students learn empathy, problem-solving, self-control, and how to read facial expressions. These are an essential part of the program so that facilitators and children aren’t judgmental of the emotions they see but instead they merely recognize and respect those sentiments.
Students are also subtly and gradually mixed with other children of varying strengths and weaknesses. Students who are stronger academically learn alongside those who are less strong; shier children get paired with more sociable ones; etc. The goal is for students to see everyone as having positive qualities and to support one another in their efforts to reach the next level. The science whiz may be terrible at basketball, and vice versa. This system cultivates collaboration, teamwork, and respect.
Research shows this kind of collaboration and empathy also delivers a deeper level of satisfaction and happiness for our kids. Incredibly, our brains actually register more satisfaction from cooperating than from winning alone.
Teaching empathy is one of the single most important factors in fostering successful leaders, entrepreneurs, managers, and businesses. Empathy classes help to reduce bullying, increase a child’s capacity to forgive, and vastly improves relationships and social connectedness. Empathy adds to the quality of meaningful relationships, which research also suggests is one of the key factors in a person’s sense of well being. Research also suggests that empathetic teens are inclined to be more successful because they are more purpose-driven than their students who lack empathy and tend to think of themselves foremost. Successful people don’t operate in a vacuum; we need the support of others to achieve the positive results we hope to achieve. By focusing on actively teaching our students empathy they stand a much better chance at becoming much happier adults in the future.
Free Bi-Annual Teeth Cleaning and Orthodontics
Every six months volunteer hygienists, dentists, and orthodontists will visit NYC Smart Schools via NYC Time Bank to offer free teeth cleaning and check-up to prevent cavities and other dental problems. Orthodontics can play a huge role in young children’s appearance and health which are both important factors to consider when entering the workforce later in life. In fact, the American Association of Orthodontics recommends that an orthodontist examine children by the time they are seven years old. Yes. While baby teeth are still in their mouths. Of course, parents have the option to pass on this free service for their child(ren) if they so choose.