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Sunday, December 28, 2008

Teachers Rate Joel Klein: He Gets a "U"

I wrote a performance review of Michael Bloomberg in 2004 and then I assessed Joel Klein in 2005 ("Joel Klein's Performance Review" - see a 1995 bio here). I gave Mr. Klein a "U" rating, holding him accountable for his lack of accountability despite his "new accountability system" in NYC ... a mixture of mumble and jumble.

In June 2008 teachers in New York City were asked to give Mr. Klein a rating and they agree that he has not done an adequate job for New York City's more than 1 million children. Quite a mess he has made.

Teachers want Chancellor Klein to do a better job
Jun 26, 2008 3:14 PM

Five out of six New York City public school educators feel that Chancellor Joel Klein and the Department of Education are not providing schools and teachers with the resources and supports they need to provide high quality education, according to a recent survey by the United Federation of Teachers.

Using the department’s own Learning Environment Survey as a model for evaluation, the UFT sent questionnaires to its 100,000 of its members at the city’s 1,450 public schools this month asking them to evaluate the chancellor and the department just as teachers and principals were evaluated last fall.

“Accountability has to be not only top to bottom, but bottom to top as well,” said UFT President Randi Weingarten (picture at right) in explaining the reason for the survey. “Last year when the Department of Education issued school progress reports, basing their grade in part on the Learning Environment surveys, they focused entirely on the evaluation of school-based staff. In order for accountability to be valid, it must be a full 360-degree evaluation of everyone involved in education. The chancellor and the leadership of the Department of Education must be held accountable for the performance of schools just as principals and teachers are.”

“Wherever possible, we used the exact wording of the DOE survey to create our questions in an effort to be completely fair and objective,” she added. “Educators placed their completed surveys in secret ballot envelopes to ensure the confidentiality and accuracy of the results.”

Some 61,257 educators filled out the confidential evaluation in the week between June 10 and June 18, and the results were tabulated by the American Arbitration Association, the same organization that tabulates and verifies teacher votes in union elections and contract ratifications. Key findings include:

85 percent of the respondents do not believe that Chancellor Klein provides the supports and resources they need for success in the classroom.
82 percent say that the chancellor and the Department of Education are not focused on educating the whole child and 85 percent say his emphasis on student testing has failed to improve education in their schools.
80 percent say that the chancellor is not doing enough to promote order and discipline in schools.
84 percent say the chancellor does not work to support school efforts to reduce class size and provide educators with the tools they need to teach children.
80 percent say the chancellor fails to prioritize the learning needs of all students, including English Language Learners and special needs students.
76 percent fault his efforts to invite parents and community members to play meaningful roles in setting goals and making important decisions about the education of their children.
85 percent of the respondents fault the chancellor’s management and ability to keep the school system running smoothly while 75 percent say he does not communicate a clear vision for it.

“The survey results speak for themselves, but some key themes ring out,” Weingarten said. “One is that our teachers feel that the chancellor needs to do much more to provide the supports they need in the classroom. Another is the need to educate the whole child and put testing in its proper perspective. And they also want the chancellor and the DOE to make a greater effort to involve educators, parents and the community in making decisions about education in their schools.”

Weingarten said the UFT shared its findings with Chancellor Klein. In a letter to the chancellor the UFT urged him to address the concerns educators raised in this survey and incorporate an evaluation of the DOE as part of any future plans to track and improve accountability.

“We hope Chancellor Klein will accept these findings in the constructive spirit in which they are offered,” Weingarten said. “We sincerely believe that any plan to make accountability a cornerstone of school reform should encompass everyone involved in the education of children.”

View the report card results here.

View the New York Times ad on the results here.

Here is Randi's letter to members:

"What's good for the goose
by Randi Weingarten, NY Teacher Jun 5, 2008 12:42 PM

It’s June (as if you didn’t know!) and June for school people means the end of the year, the time when students take tests and are given their grades, and when teachers and even principals get evaluated. For the last couple of years, the DOE has also asked parents, teachers and secondary school students to evaluate their schools in a confidential annual “Learning Environment Survey.” And union members evaluate their leaders every three years, through secret-ballot elections for chapter leaders, delegates and union officers. Almost everybody, it seems, gets evaluated, except those who run the school system.

The UFT’s vision of accountability is comprehensive. Teachers embrace accountability, but it must go both ways, from the top down and from the bottom up. It stands to reason that teachers and other educators cannot fairly be held accountable for results if others do not do their parts. Teachers cannot do it all alone. For all kids to succeed, everybody has to uphold their end of the bargain.

To drive that truth home, back in March, based on the November 2007 Delegate Assembly resolution urging the union to develop a more fair, accurate and transparent accountability system, the UFT designed an “accountability report” as an alternative to the School Progress Reports the chancellor had issued. It rated schools in four areas: Academic Achievement; Safety and Order; Teamwork for Student Achievement; and — last but far from least — DOE Accountability to the School. That section evaluated whether the school had the necessary conditions and resources — the materials and supplies, the facilities and technology, the class sizes and support services and so on — that children need in order to learn.

Not surprisingly, even though the Progress Reports have been amended, adopting some of our ideas — for example, there are now separate grades for each section of the report — the school system never adopted our proposal to evaluate the Department of Education. We hope they reconsider next year.

In the meantime, we have taken the responsibility to conduct an evaluation of Chancellor Joel Klein and Tweed. We are asking all UFT members who work for the DOE, in every title and division, to complete a brief 15-question survey about the chancellor’s, and therefore DOE’s, performance. By the time you read this, I hope you have completed the survey and returned it to your chapter leader.

The survey is very similar to the questions you saw on the Learning Environment Survey (LES) about your principal, except, of course, this is about how the school system as a whole operates, so we substituted the chancellor for the principal. We used the LES framework purposely because school system improvement (not blame) is the agenda here. If the system has confidence in the LES questions, it should have confidence in them as applied to the chancellor.

In addition, we added five new questions to reflect some of the chancellor’s policy choices that the LES did not ask about but which most educators think are important — issues like order and discipline, class size, curriculum, testing, etc.

And to further ensure there is no question about the survey’s integrity or validity, we have asked the American Arbitration Association — the same firm that counts election ballots for many unions, including ours — to tally the results.

To prevent retribution, or even the fear of it, the survey is totally anonymous and confidential. We have heard reports from many schools that principals have been urging parents and staff members to be positive when completing the Learning Environment Surveys, because “you don’t want to make our school look bad.” While I understand the motivation behind that thinking, gaming the system is not what the UFT survey is all about. So I hope the checks and balances we have incorporated give you enough confidence to be completely candid.

Why are we doing this? Our purpose here — unlike some federal, state and local accountability mechanisms — is not to fix blame; it is to fix whatever is not working.

It is also our job — the union’s job — to give you voice. Our thinking is that if many of your colleagues share your views, your voice will be heard and improvements will be made.

Finally, given how individual schools now have much more autonomy, it will be interesting to see if the concerns many of you have raised with me and other union staffers are systemic issues or isolated situations. For example, is the DOE providing you with the supports, tools and conditions to do your job? When I hear that people lack materials, and we raise the issue with the DOE, we are often told that the case we raised is atypical. So (to borrow an over-used word) we need data to support our argument. This survey will supply that data — the evidence, so to speak — for me to make your case.

And if, as the chancellor sometimes claims, I am exaggerating the extent of the problems I see or hear from you, then the data will reveal that, too. In either case, I am willing to rely on what you say in this survey because I have confidence in your judgment. I hope the chancellor will see it that way, too. Regardless, we will publish the results, and let the chips fall where they may.

This was supposed to be the last issue of the New York Teacher. However, if there is a resolution of the city and school budgets for the next fiscal year beginning July 1, or other important news affecting your working life, we will publish a special edition later this month. Our Keep the Promises campaign is still in full swing, and the City Council is still resisting the mayor’s school budget cuts.

We are working day and night to fight the cuts. You can keep up with the latest developments through the UFT’s Web site at And of course we will be in touch by e-mail with your chapter leaders all summer.

Given how much is still up in the air right now, it’s a good idea to make sure you know how to reach your chapter leader over the summer, and vice-versa. If you have a non-DOE e-mail address that you have not registered with the UFT, you might want to make sure we have it, so you can receive any special mailings we send out. Just go to our Web site and follow the instructions to sign up.

In addition, to try to bring services closer to our members, especially in consideration of how much is going on right now, we are keeping our UFT borough offices open through the summer. Just as they are during the school year, staff will be there to answer your questions and help you with any school-related business.

In case I don’t have another chance, let me take this opportunity to wish you a wonderful, restful, reinvigorating, mind-easing summer. I am looking forward to seeing you in the fall, ready to continue the fight for the White House and Congress and, hopefully, for a good school year."

It seems that Queens City Council member John Liu is not impressed either:

March 4, 2008
After 5 Years, City Council Holds First Hearing on Mayor’s Control of Public Schools

Since taking control of New York City’s 1,400 public schools, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg has steadfastly maintained that centralized, mayoral oversight is critical to turning around the vast system. But that view came under sharp attack on Monday as the City Council held the first public hearing on the state law authorizing mayoral control.

During three hours of testimony that was at times tense, Schools Chancellor Joel I. Klein and Deputy Mayor Dennis M. Walcott adamantly defended the system, saying that since Mr. Bloomberg took charge more than five years ago, city schools have dramatically improved in matters like test scores, graduation rates, communication with parents and spending.

Mr. Klein said that improved management within the city’s Department of Education had led to greater accountability and had turned the city into a model for other urban systems seeking to eliminate turmoil from supervision by local school boards.

“In the absence of mayoral control, we’ve never been able to sustain continuity in the Department of Education,” said Mr. Klein, who is the longest serving chancellor in recent memory. “The fundamental governance structure of mayoral accountability and control, I think, is right and needs to be maintained.”

But several council members were skeptical.

“Parents have more information than ever before, but parents don’t have input into policy making, and that is something that many parents have come in very concerned about,” said James Vacca, a co-chairman of the Council’s task force on school governance. “We’re concerned about whether there is any place for meaningful oversight.”

Like other groups throughout the city, including the teachers’ union, the Public Advocate’s office and several universities, the Council is holding a series of hearings this year to draw up recommendations for the State Legislature as it considers whether to renew the law granting mayoral control, which expires in 2009.

Mr. Vacca and other council members suggested that they supported changing the law to grant “municipal control” over the schools, apparently a way to give the Council more power over the education department. He also said he would urge a more formal role for neighborhood superintendents, who have little power over the schools now, and for the Community Education Councils, which are organizations of parents and local leaders that also have little sway over policy.

Several council members called the Panel for Educational Policy, which replaced the Board of Education, nothing more than a “rubber stamp” that had no ability to influence the chancellor’s decisions.

But throughout their testimony, Mr. Walcott and Mr. Klein resisted suggestions that would potentially weaken the mayor’s power over the system, with Mr. Walcott going so far as saying that the current structure is “the best system that has existed in the last 35 years.”

“What we have today should not be undone,” Mr. Walcott said in his opening remarks. “It would be an injustice to our children. Accountability needs to rest with someone, and it should be the mayor, whoever that individual is.”

Still, Mr. Walcott and Mr. Klein acknowledged shortcomings, particularly in terms of community outreach. While the department had spent millions to hire parent coordinators in each of the city’s schools, Mr. Klein said he had waited too long to create the post of a “chief family engagement officer” to oversee the coordinators and work with parent councils around the city.

In testimony, several members of the parent councils criticized some of the administration policies — on class size, testing and promotion, for example — saying that the chancellor had not done enough to consider their opinions.

The Manhattan borough president, Scott M. Stringer, who voted in favor of mayoral control as an assemblyman in 2002, said the Bloomberg administration had exerted more control than the Legislature intended to give it.

“We thought they would be part of the life and breath of the city, but they think they don’t have to respond to questions,” Mr. Stringer said. Referring to the name of the education department’s building, he added, “They’ve gotten caught up in the Boss Tweed mentality.”

The harshest criticism came from Councilman John C. Liu, who suggested that several of the mayor’s education-policy changes had been politically motivated.

“Mayoral control was not meant to be martial law,” Mr. Liu said.

The words provoked a terse response from Mr. Walcott, who said that policy changes were not politically motivated and added, “I totally disagree with you.”

See also:
New York City's Chancellor Joel Klein Has Shut Parents Out of All Involvement in Public Schools Throughout the City

Editorial: The New York City Department of Education is a Sham and Mike Bloomberg is the Flim-Flam Man

Betsy Combier Speaks Out on the Constitutional Mess Created by Mayoral Control of the New York City Board of Education

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