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NCLB Outrages

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Albany -- A key State Senate player on city school issues says the Bloomberg administration should fire curriculum chief Diana Lam, whom he assailed as taking the wrong approach on reading instruction.

"Frankly, I think they ought to get rid of Lam. That's my personal opinion," state Sen. Frank Padavan (R-Bellerose) said. "She's thwarting not only the federal mandate on reading, but flying in the face of what all the experts are telling us is the right thing to do."

Lam's reading program for city schools, which encourages students to read and write on their own levels, is considered less rigid than other approaches and clashes with the phonics method preferred by many researchers, which the federal government makes a condition for awarding "Reading First" grants. She was appointed deputy chancellor in September 2002.

Schools Chancellor Joel Klein said this week the city will drop Lam's program in 49 troubled schools so it can qualify for $34 million worth of that federal aid.

"Why Klein still feels he's got to hold onto her, I don't know," Padavan said in his unusually barbed critique. "I think he ought to cut his losses and replace her with someone who knows what they're doing."

Klein rejected the suggestion. Contacted Thursday about Padavan's remarks, he said in a statement from his office, "I have the utmost confidence in Deputy Chancellor Lam and am very grateful for the tremendous service she has provided, is providing, and will continue to provide to the city's 1.1 million public school children."

Lam was not available for comment.

Padavan, a veteran lawmaker, is one of the city's six Republican representatives in the GOP-run Senate. That role, and a district that includes some of Queens' top schools, make him an interested party in school governance and funding issues.

He made his critical remarks Wednesday to Newsday when asked about school reform following Gov. George Pataki's State of the State address.

"Well, there are parts that are working, other parts are not working," Padavan said. "There's still a lot of angst on the curriculum issue. ... I don't know where they got her from in the first place."

Padavan, who was involved in legislative talks that ended with transference of power over the city schools from an appointed board to the mayor, expressed more satisfaction with governance issues.

Now that the Justice Department has approved city plans for parent councils to replace defunct local school boards, he said, "we look forward to beefing that up and getting these folks going."

"The parents will get in there and roll up their sleeves and start doing what we want them to do," Padavan said.

— By Dan Janison
Senator: Fire City Curriculum Chief
New York Newsday


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