Klein Reviews His First Year
a return visit to an issues forum at the Community Service
Society of New York after a year on the front lines as Schools
Chancellor, a still optimistic and determined Joel Klein reported
on the progress he has made. “It has been a long and exciting
year in many ways, but,” he cautioned, “even though public
education is the single most important domestic issue, we,
as a society, don’t take it seriously.” Two facts, in particular,
trouble him: people can opt out of public education if dissatisfied,
lessening the policy traction that would result “if we were
all tied to this together,” and everybody knows “there is a
crisis in education” but there has been little change because
education is “not a culture built on performance.” Nevertheless,
the first year has been a good one, he believes, because the
culture is starting to change.
described dividing the city into ten regions with an intense
focus on instruction. A rigorous core curriculum is being implemented
with the help of in-school coaches, and “unprecedented” resources
and data-driven soft assessment systems are being devoted to
professional development. Chancellor Klein believes effective
principals are key to successful schools and 50 million dollars
is being invested in a leadership academy and intense training
of principals, especially for roles in the toughest schools.
A new initiative with major funding brings a parent coordinator
into every school. Still “a work in progress,” parent coordinators
will, ideally, provide helpful alignments between parents,
teachers, and principals. With funds from the Bill and Melinda
Gates Foundation, very big high schools are being broken up
into smaller, specialty schools. Middle schools continue to
be a challenge and much thought is being put into their reconfiguration.
recruitment and retention are very much on the chancellor’s
mind; he seems willing to take on the United Federation of
Teachers (UFT) in his efforts to change the culture. “Schools
need to run on trust, not a contract system where grievances
dominate,” he explains. He meets with UFT president Randi Weingarten “all
the time” for “open and candid dialogues.” In labor-management
relations, “There are natural areas of alignment and disagreement.
Just make sure disagreements don’t become disagreeable, and
look at issues of mutual interest.” He would like to see veteran
teachers assigned to the most difficult schools and believes
the current practice of placing new teachers in the most challenging
situations is “not sensible.” We must show greater appreciation
for our teachers, he advises, and excellent teachers should
receive financial rewards.
the Fiscal Equity Campaign and Governor Pataki’s reluctance
to comply with the State Supreme Court decision that would
give a fairer share of state education funds to New York City,
Chancellor Klein stated, “The court is clear. We need a compensatory
remedy, not more commissions. I would like to see a political
solution.” When asked if Mayor Bloomberg is willing to make
this an issue, Klein replied, “You’ve just heard it from the
Community Service Society is a 150-year-old independent, non-profit
organization devoted to helping New York’s poor and strengthening
communities. It provides direct services, creates model programs,
and influences public policy. Efrat Abrams, former chair of
the Society’s education committee and a keen observer of the
city’s education scene, liked what she heard from the chancellor. “He
is listening, he is thinking, he is getting his priorities
right. He is trying to make it work,” she said approvingly.#
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