Tuesday, August 21, 2007

More from Klein on "unleashing" greatness

In the same NY Post interview in which the Chancellor recently made his controversial comments about the need for "rigorous standards" for 3, 4 and 5 year olds, he made a number of other revealing statements, including proposing that 10th graders should be tested and steered either to vocational programs or academic classes where they can be prepared for college:

Klein also sees a future with kids "testing out" in 10th grade and either proceeding to two more years of high school and then college, or a vocational school, depending on their grades and ambitions.”

This was one of the major recommendations of a task force report that Klein sat on earlier in the year – created by Marc Tucker of the National Center on Education and the Economy. Tucker is a real educational entrepreneur and serial enabler of many of the worst ideas in education – including the adoption of high stakes testing in states.

Tucker has been quite influential, despite the fact that according to his bio in Wikipedia, his only degrees are in philosophy and American literature, with a Masters in Telecommunications Policy and classes in theater engineering." The report that Tucker released was called “Tough Choices or Tough Times” and you can read the exec. Summary here: (in pdf) The report provoked much criticism and even ridicule when it was released earlier this year – including the notion that all public schools nationwide should be privatized and operated by “independent contractors” -- or organizations like his.

Yet another notion Klein mentions in the NY Post interview is that “"You can't mandate greatness, you can only unleash it. But you can mandate adequacy."

Klein's view that one can only "unleash" greatness underlies DOE”s latest phase of reorganization – a radically decentralized system of schools run by principals with little central oversight or direction. See the recent postings of Deputy Chancellor Chris Cerf in EduWonk – in which Cerf argues by giving principals broad powers, so much individual creativity will be released that the overall system will thrive :

Only by empowering schools with broad decision-making authority within the context of real accountability for results can we stimulate innovation and maximize the creative powers of our committed educators. Only then, can we move school systems to the next level.”

Why the disconnected decisions of 1500 principals, many of whom are severely constrained by overcrowding, an incoherent organizational structure, and a system of accountability that doesn’t take into account their schools’ differential conditions, will lead to greatness is hard to understand. It is certainly not based upon research or the experience any district in the country. Instead, I fear that it will lead to even more inequality of opportunity for our neediest students -- as is happening right now in New Orleans.

Why? Next year, when all NYC schools will be graded A to F, based almost entirely on test scores, and principals will risk losing their jobs based on these grades, the incentives will increase to restrict admission to the most high-achieving students, and to get rid of all the most troublesome, low-achieving students as soon as possible, whether by forcing them to transfer to other schools, discharging them to GED programs, or giving them long-term suspensions.

Though the trend in these outcomes is hard to determine, given DOE’s lack of transparency, there is compelling evidence that both long-term suspensions and discharges have risen significantly under this administration. There is also very good chance that these trends will now accelerate– because oversight will be almost non-existent, and the new system doesn’t measure any of these factors in evaluating schools. Indeed, the Accountability office continues to deny that these problems even exist.

Finally, there are Klein’s concluding words in the Post interview:

"You can't make significant change . . . without there being a certain amount of resistance and pushback," he said. "There are lots of people who are not resistant [to change], but I simply didn't communicate effectively about what [the change] was. They didn't fully understand. They felt things were moving" and they weren't part of it."

What do people think -- was the overwhelming opposition of parents and teachers due to their not "understanding" what the changes were – or more the result of dissatisfaction with the changes themselves and the autocratic manner in which they were imposed?

In each phase of the reorganization, the views and opinions of educators and parents were discounted and ignored, and faddish notions of how to improve our schools substituted in their place. This is still happening, as evidenced by Klein's remarks in this interview. Certainly, those leading the charge at Tweed could have done a far better job communicating their decisions ahead of time – but it may be that they chose not to do this, knowing this would give stakeholders more time to analyze their proposals, evaluate them fairly, and then mobilize resistance.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Regarding his view on early childhood -
this interview proves that he does not understand children, and that he does not value childhood.

Likewise his views on young adolescents - it is clear he knows nothing about dealing with teenagers.

What a disgrace! With no parenting or teaching experience this interview is more than enough to fire the chancellor and impeach Bloomberg the Education Mayor?

Nothing but crimes against real education!

I did have a good laugh when he stated that "one of his biggest regrets is a lack of communication."