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Sunday, December 28, 2008

The New York Times has once again published a public relations piece on how wonderful Joel Klein is, and how fabulously the NYC education system has performed. I believe that the smoke and mirrors approach to information dissemination used by the NY Times must be criticized. I have posted the excellent comments of NYC teacher Lenny Brown following the article, to start the discussion.

Betsy Combier

September 3, 2007
School Year’s About to Start, and So, Too, Is a Big Change
Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, beaming over an array of charts and graphs showing New York City’s rising high school graduation rates, turned to introduce Schools Chancellor Joel I. Klein at a news conference earlier this year.
“We have the best schools chancellor,” the mayor said. “Not only the best schools chancellor we have ever had since I became mayor, but we have the best schools chancellor the city has ever had.”
“I don’t necessarily want to be the best,” Mr. Klein replied. “I just want to be the only schools chancellor you have ever had.”
As New York City schools open tomorrow, Mr. Klein is beginning his sixth year at the helm of the nation’s largest school system, and by Christmas he will be New York City’s longest-serving schools chancellor since the title was created in the early 1970s. All signs point to his staying through the end of Mr. Bloomberg’s term in 2009, no small accomplishment in a city that has run through a dozen chancellors since 1978.

But the stability at the top of the system stands in stark contrast to the uncertainty in the city’s more than 1,500 schools, where principals are facing an entirely new world as more than 1 million schoolchildren return, a world in which the traditional superintendents’ offices have been eliminated. Schools are now grouped in loose networks without intensive local supervision.

In the second upheaval since Mr. Bloomberg took control of the schools in 2002 and created a tightly centralized system, this month the administration is cutting principals loose to run their schools like independent franchises. The administration believes that principals are the best equipped to make decisions for their schools, and can best improve efficiency. Their job performance will be measured by a vast new storehouse of data on student achievement used to create a report card on each school — and a record on each principal.
“The latest reorganization is the most radical change in the history of the system,” said Diane Ravitch, an education historian who has been highly critical of Mr. Klein. “For the first time, there are now 1,500 islands rather than one central system of command.”

Mr. Klein, in an interview, said that he and the mayor have brought the “most profound school reform in America.” At the same time, he said, the school system is only adequate.

“I’ve always said that this would take seven years, minimum,” Mr. Klein said, and for the first time he expressed a desire to stay on, even after Mr. Bloomberg, in the hope of finishing the job. “It might be more like 10 or 12 years — a generation of students. If I can continue to do the work that’s necessary, I would like to stay.”

But that would mean persuading the next mayor to keep him. Mayors including Antonio Villaraigosa of Los Angeles and Adrian M. Fenty of Washington make pilgrimages to New York to see how to pursue mayoral control, and Mr. Bloomberg promotes his changes all over the country. Yet at home, parents continue to complain that mayoral control has left no meaningful role for them and that the administration has shown little interest in their views. A recent Quinnipiac University poll signaled the discontent, showing Mr. Klein with a 39 percent approval rating, compared with Mr. Bloomberg’s 70 percent.
Certainly there have been improvements. The dozens of new small high schools that have been created in the last five years posted an average graduation rate of 73 percent, far better than the city’s overall rate, which is on the upswing. Still, roughly half of the high school students in the city do not graduate in four years.
State standardized test results are promising. This year in math, every grade tested showed significant gains in the proportion of students performing at grade level or above. But reading results were not as impressive, mostly because so many students have limited English. The proportion of all New York City students meeting the reading standards remained essentially flat, at 50.8 percent.
Some educators say Mr. Klein has brought so much constant change that it is difficult to know what is effective and what is not.
“What he has is loads of experiments going on simultaneously, but it isn’t clear which of these are working, and a large system like this does need some underlying structure,” said Merryl H. Tisch, a member of the State Board of Regents.
An independent research group long promised by the administration to assess the mayor’s education policies has so far not materialized. Mr. Klein, while insisting that the school system has never been better, also readily acknowledges that the situation remains sobering.

“People are not thrilled with an adequate school system,” he said. “There is still a lot of noise and concerns. I think that’s right, but you can’t get from awful to great by making a speech, or by saying I’ve got a program.”
Much of the way Mr. Klein is trying to transform the system is rooted in his longtime career as an assistant United States attorney general and antitrust lawyer — he is still trustbusting. He has sought to break what he regarded as a vise grip by the teachers’ union on work rules; to divide large failing schools into small schools; to put traditional public schools into competition with charter schools; and to end what he viewed as a monopoly by the mostly white, middle and upper middle class on good public education services.

Since Mr. Bloomberg and Mr. Klein took office, they have created 231 small middle and high schools and welcomed 45 new charter schools. Lawmakers in Albany have approved 50 more charter schools within the next several years.
Tis year, for the first time, the schools are offering cash incentives to students and administrators. Some low-income students will be able to earn $25 a test for doing well on periodic exams. Principals can earn $25,000 bonuses if their schools shows considerable improvement.

All this comes at a time when the city’s Education Department has more financial resources than ever. After a long court battle forced the state to provide New York City schools with more money, the system will see a $1 billion infusion this year — $700 million from the state and $300 million from the city.
But for weeks now, city and state education officials have wrangled over whether the spending plan for $258 million of that money, subject to state approval, is being drawn up properly by the Bloomberg administration. And there are potentially far more significant battles with Albany ahead as the system of mayoral control comes up for reauthorization in 2009.

To secure that approval, the mayor and chancellor will have to quiet an array of critics, from state lawmakers to possible mayoral contenders including the city’s public advocate, Betsy Gotbaum, and the city comptroller, William C. Thompson Jr. In a tacit acknowledgment of the criticism, Mr. Klein appointed Martine G. Guerrier to the new post of “chief family engagement officer” to improve communication with parents. Although many of the tensions have eased, there is still skepticism.
“Why do we have to fight just to have a place at the table?” said Zakiyah Ansari, a Brooklyn parent with five children in the public schools. “The only constant in all this is me as a parent. We are the ones who have to live with the changes, whatever they are.”

There are already reports of some confusion over the latest changes. Hundreds of teachers who had taught in schools that are being shut down gathered in Long Island City last week for last-minute placements.
Many principals said they were not sure to whom they were supposed to turn if they had problems on the first day of school. And in the past few weeks, in some district offices, phone calls went unanswered for days at a time, according to a spot-check conducted by Ms. Gotbaum.

Mr. Klein says that this year all the major restructuring is in place and that this will be the time to judge the results.
“There aren’t a lot of new things they can do,” said Joseph P. Viteritti, a public policy professor at Hunter College. “It’s at the point in the administration now when the agenda has been set and now we have to see what happens. That’s not necessarily a bad thing — you can’t keep reinventing everything for eight years.”

From Leonard Brown, Ph.D. Re: School Year's About to Start, and So, Too, Is a Big Change Written by: JENNIFER MEDINA and DAVID M. HERSZENHORN
Why won't you and your paper ever print the truth and the mayor and the chancellor! Klein and Bloomberg have raped the educational system of New York City. Teacher morale is about as low as concentration camp victims for Auschwitz. Many teachers have been sent to detention centers known facetiously as "rubber rooms". Others have had their classes excessed from out of them even though many have been teaching for over 20 years. They are then sent to other facilities and told to find a job for themselves. No principal will hire these teachers since they cost more than a novice teacher. If they can't find a position, they go around day by day as ATR's (i.e., substitute teachers). Klein and Bloomberg have played a shell game with the student population. They have closed schools, removed the special ed students from the schools, changed the type of students who go to these mini schools, and then claimed eminent victory when the statistics go up. "There are lies, damn lies and then there are statistics". They claim they want excellent teachers in the classrooms but then do every thing they can to defeat excellent teaching. They tell teachers what topics to teach, how to teach, and how to arrange their classroom chairs. They remove veteran teachers from their classes for frivolous, capricious and/or trumped up charges. They remove experienced teachers from the classrooms by excessing them and then replacing them with inexperienced but less costly teachers. They have created a principals academy based largely of young recruits who have had little teaching experience but who have been indoctrinated to abuse and get rid of older teachers. You know, the ones who are not sycophants and tell things they way they see it. This is the legacy of the Bloomberg and Klein dictatorship. And this is the best Chancellor that NYC has ever had? I guess Stalin in the best premier that the Soviet Union ever had. And what about the NY Times? You have "blood" on your hands for refusing to print teachers' points of view even though you have heard the outrage of many of us throughout the tenure of Bloomberg and Klein.

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