Joel Klein’s new book, “Lessons of Hope: How to Fix our Schools” is on my holiday gift request list so I have not read it yet. However, after reading two opposing book reviews I am more at a loss than ever.
How is it possible that two different people have these two views of the same book?
Upon Klein’s departure in 2010, scholars from Harvard, the University of Virginia, and Research Alliance for New York City Schools weighed in on Klein’s tenure. They concluded that his reforms had significantly improved teacher quality in high-poverty schools, and had significantly improved student academic performance compared with a control group of students elsewhere in the state.
The benefit of distance makes results under Klein look even more impressive. Within the past month, two rigorous, gold standard studies showed that Klein’s controversial decisions to close failing schools and experiment with new approaches delivered gains in poor kids’ college enrollment and compensation for individual teachers.
Here is a segment from John Thompson:
In perhaps the most inexplicable passage in his book, Klein cites Anthony Bryk’s finding that school improvement requires trusting relationships. Because each person or group involved in school improvement is dependent on the actions of the others, Bryk explained that teachers, principals, parents, students and administrators must work together and build trust in each other. How that principle is compatible with Klein’s brass-knuckled approach is beyond me.
… Inevitably, Klein’s accountability system would reward some schools merely because they did well with the lucky hand they were dealt. Others would be punished for low performance and further damaged because bureaucrats were incapable of recognizing the full set of challenges that they faced.
My question as a public citizen and a person looking to advance education to ensure every student has a quality education is – Did Klein’s strategy work? Dmitri gave specific examples as to where Klein’s practices worked and John performed a literal research report on Klein’s book but didn’t tell me anything about the results (or even lackthereof) of Klein’s approach.
John also seemed to glaze over these tidbits that were certainly impactful for me, as I saw absolutely no mention of the havoc that union-sponsored behavior takes on school, teachers, parents, students & the public.
From Dmitri’s post:
Klein experienced bureaucratic inertia early in his career, when he taught sixth grade mathematics in Queens. Klein asked for permission to work with the students’ parents after school to help them understand what their children were learning. The response back was: “If you do it, the parents will expect the other teachers to do it, and they won’t want to, so they will resent you.”
This same deadening impulse met Klein decades later when he became Chancellor in New York. As he recalls, “The guiding principle was that rules, rather than trust, were the best way to run a school.” On his first day, Klein asked about a light on his phone. A secretary from the previous administration answered: “Oh, ignore that. It’s just an angry parent. If we leave it on hold long enough she’ll go away.”
Schools in poor neighborhoods did poorly under this regime. They suffered thousands of violent crimes, atrocious dropout rates, and decrepit buildings with major plumbing problems.
More, unspeakable truth from Dmitri’s post:
Wealthy New Yorkers asked for specific student, teacher, and principal placements, and reacted with rage when Klein demurred. For example, Klein met early in his tenure with three principals from the East Side (where Fariña had served as a principal).
These principals told Klein that the worst thing he had done was “sent us excessed teachers from another school.” When Klein responded that the contract required him to give those teachers jobs, the principals said: “In the past, we never got the excessed teachers, because everyone knew our community wouldn’t tolerate them.” Klein asked whose kids deserved those teachers, and the principals answered: “That’s your problem. Just don’t send them to us.”