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Coalition creates bus for education reform

A resident votes at A+ NYC's tour bus in Jackson Heights for what changes she would like to see in the city schools. Photo by Rebecca Henely
TimesLedger Newspapers

School buses bring kids to places where they can get information and learn, but a bus tour that came to Queens Monday brought information to their parents.

At its stops at the Queens Center Mall, at 90-15 Queens Blvd. in Elmhurst, and in front of Make the Road New York, at 92-10 Roosevelt Ave. in Jackson Heights, residents got a chance to step on the bus and find out about the coalition A+ NYC’s in-progress plan for educational reform in the city.

The coalition, which has been creating a platform to present to the next mayor, identified 27 areas for educational reform concerning students, staff and the mayor’s role. These areas were pasted on jars mounted to walls installed within the bus and parents were able to put paper ballots in the jars in favor of a certain area of reform.

“We’re showcasing this platform to see if people agree with what we had so far,” said Erick Perez, who was giving residents tours of the bus in Elmhurst. “We’ve been getting a lot of people. A lot of people are really excited.”

A+ NYC is made up of 40 different organizations throughout the city and state, including Make the Road, a community advocacy group. Oona Chatterjee, of the Annenberg Institute for School Reform at Brown University, said A+ NYC held about 70 workshops across the city from November to January listening to the communities and finding out what they wanted to see done in the schools. From the input of the more than 1,000 people, the coalition identified the 27 points.

Points visitors on the bus could vote on ranged from more arts programs, more college readiness programs, less standardized testing and more connecting of students to support systems, to the next mayor making education a greater focus, among many others. The points were supplemented by case studies of school reform elsewhere in the country. Visitors to the bus could vote on all points, some or none.

“I’ve been so happy to see people dropping in the tickets and then thinking and talking to each other,” Chatterjee said.

Fiorella Guevara, who was also giving tours of the bus, said that in May A+ NYC will hold a citywide conference on each point.

“People love it,” Guevara said of the bus tour. “People love that we’re out here in the cold asking opinions on education.”

Martha Davila, a Corona resident and volunteer with Make the Road, said she is interested in more opportunities for students and wants more teachers in the classroom to assist the students who need extra help.

“We want to make sure everyone in the neighborhood knows there should be a change so children can get the support they need,” she said.

Reach reporter Rebecca Henely by e-mail at rhenely@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4564.

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