On Friday, I was asked to elicit advice from NYC parents to Obama for The Nation magazine, which was supposedly working on an article about this issue. I thought this was a good opportunity to get some media attention to the disdain and horror that many NYC parents feel about the prospect of Joel Klein running the US Department of Education. Though I still haven't heard from the Nation, in the process I have received hundreds of passionate letters from parents and teachers who vehemently oppose this appointment, based upon Klein's sorry record here in NYC -- and one email from a parent who praised him.
I suppose I should also respond to the comments of David Cantor, the DOE spokesperson, who is quoted in the NY Times as follows:
The chancellor has spent the last six years building a school system focused on the needs of kids. Along the way he’s angered adults with entrenched interests in policies that have never worked. That’s a trade he’ll make every time.
I actually haven't noticed that this Chancellor has ever tried reducing class size or addressing the other needs of NYC children to receive a decent, well-rounded education but instead has lurched from one faddish theory to another in his attempt to make it look like he is improving our schools. When he's been unsuccessful at accomplishing this goal, he has tried to manipulate the statistics to prove otherwise. But it is true that he has angered adults -- teachers and parents alike-- who have a real interest in trying to ensure that our schools provide a real opportunity to learn.
Anyway, my letter follows -- please everyone, add your own recommendations to Obama in the comments section!
The Department of Education under Joel Klein has been run like a ruthless dictatorship – with no input from parents or educators, and no thought of how the policies he has imposed on our schools have been destructive to our children and their futures.
He has consistently ignored the crisis of overcrowding in our schools, that in many neighborhoods has gotten worse because of rampant residential development, as well as a result of his insistence to insert hundreds of new charter schools and small schools into existing, overcrowded school buildings. In a recent survey, half of all principals say that the overcrowding creates unsafe conditions for students or staff, 29% said that lunch starts at 10:30 AM or earlier, 25% said that they have lost their art or music rooms in recent years, and 18% said they had classrooms with no windows. Thousands of children are being given special services in hallways or in closets.
He has put almost no effort in building new schools, and under this administration, twice as many new seats have been created in new stadiums than schools. The city’s investment in school construction as a percent of its total capital spending is at an historic low, and will drop even more precipitously in the future, if the DOE’s proposed school capital plan goes through
Joel Klein has refused to reduce class size, despite repeated audits and reports from the State Comptroller’s office and the State Education Department showing how under his administration, hundreds of millions of state dollars meant to provide smaller classes to NYC students have been misused. As a result, 86% of NYC principals in a recent survey have said they are unable to provide a quality education because of excessive class sizes.
Similarly, he has argued that even under Mayoral control, the Department of Education is not subject to city law, and thus he continues to defy laws passed by the City Council over the Mayor’s veto, requiring him to take measures against bias crimes and bullying in schools, to allow students to bring cell phones to school, and to obey the recycling laws required of every household and business in NYC.
The Chancellor has moved to eliminate the authority of school leadership teams –made up of half parents, half staff – to have decision-making authority over school budgets, contrary to the state law that created these teams. He has continued to shut out parents from having any input whatsoever, at the school, district, or citywide level.
He has spent literally hundreds of millions of dollars on no-bid contracts, and rather than decreasing the bureaucracy, the number of highly paid bureaucrats at
The only educational philosophy of those running the system is based on trying to improve standardized test results, no matter how much cheating and test prep that involves. Whatever the rise in state test scores that has resulted is not matched by improvements in the more reliable national assessments called the NAEPs. In fact, NYC was 11th out of 12 urban school districts in terms of its gains in the NAEPs over the course of this administration, and there has been no closing of the achievement gap in any subject tested.
In short, he has been a disaster for our schools, and Barack Obama should be forewarned not to name him to any position of authority in his administration – as much as we would like to get rid of him!
Let us pray to God, this second rate place holder does not get near any office of national responsibility. He has fought smaller class sizes, parental involvement, transparency, public meetings with real content, and increased funds real educational needs. He loves consultants and i suspect the Bush methods. His tenure has been a period of lost opportunity in New York City and he should be fired from that position of responsibility as soon as possible.
Dear President-elect Obama,
If you care about the children of this nation and the future of education, please listen to the parents of New York City who have experience with Joel Klein and under no circumstances appoint him as your secretary of education. What Klein has done as Chancellor here, under the direction of Mayor Bloomberg, is to remove virtually all consideration of actual education from the school system and replace it with a business-oriented model, in which measures of “outcome” have replaced actual learning as the standard--just as most educators in this administration have been replaced with businessmen. In other words, our schools have to a large extent become test-prep factories, with our children the “products.” Furthermore, actual avenues of input from those knowledgeable about what goes on in the classroom--teachers, students, parents, principals--have been closed. Unlike your bottom-up campaign, education in New York City has become a top-down one-way street. With Orwellian precision, the hugely expensive Office of Accountability is in no way accountable to parents, students, or the public.
Don’t be misled by Joel Klein’s propaganda. Test scores, claims of increasing principals’ control over their own schools, nods to parental involvement, reports from accountability, assessments and “school report cards” that don’t measure what they claim to--all of it is just for show. What our children have lost under this chancellor--cannot be replaced. Please think about the kind of education you want for Sasha and Malia and how you can provide that for the rest of the country’s children, who are no less worthy. Then think about who is likely to create the possibility for that circumstance. As much as we would like to see Klein depart, we cannot bear to see him inflicted on the rest of the country!
On Joe Klein as Secretary of Education
In two words: ABSOLUTELY NOT.
The only accomplishment under the Klein administration is the reaffirmation of the fact that we should never have a non-educator be in charge of our education system. Mr. Klein is not an educator but an exemplary student of the Bush School of Public Administration -- autocratic, top down (and arrogant) management style, utter disregard of and disdain for stakeholders and constituencies, privatization of public services, competition and monetary rewards as incentives, and the most skillful (and deceitful) use of marketing and PR tactics to advance his agenda are all hallmarks of Mr. Klein's administration.
Many misguided policies have been introduced by Mr. Klein, who despite the public outcries went ahead and implemented them. Under Mr. Klein, parents have been disenfranchised, teachers have been demoralized, the School Leadership Teams have been stripped of meaningful roles, and the Community Education Councils' authorities have been eroded. He has created a climate of fear where teachers and school administrators are afraid to voice their concerns or criticisms of the Klein administration.
Mr. Klein has also been very generous with awarding contracts to private for-profit entities, many of them no-bid contracts. For instance, IBM was awarded $80 million to develop a "super database" where parents can access their children's report cards including teacher comments for all school years going back to kindergarten. As of today there is nothing, at least that parents can access. Mr. Klein has also brought in a consulting firm from Cambridge, UK, to conduct reviews of schools -- tasks that used to be conducted by superintendents and school district staff. Many test publishing companies have seen windfalls under Mr. Klein as a result of increased reliance on standardized tests as the most important indicator of students' learning (an example of a misguided policy, by the way).
Principals are now business managers, with the title of Chief Executive Officer. They used to be considered instructional leaders, who understood and focused their energy on improving teaching and learning in their schools. Furthermore, they are now pitted against each other in a system that provides monetary rewards to principals who improve students' test scores. Gone are the days when collaboration allowed schools to share successes and pitfalls to benefit all students. There is also a talk of offering money to students who score high on standardized tests. I naively thought we should be striving to teach our children the love of learning -- learning for the sake of knowing, not learning for the sake of a few more iTune downloads.
Finally Mr. Klein and the Mayor have relied heavily on marketing and PR firms to cast their “accomplishments” in a positive light. Mr. Klein has boasted that he has increased the high school graduation rates since he took over. However, the numbers are disputed by the State Education Department. Mr. Bloomberg claims to have created 66,000 new school seats, yet there are more schools at overcapacity (meaning more students than the building is designed for) today than before the Mayor took over the control of the school system and our class sizes have not gone down (in many cases class sizes have gone up). Yet, if you are not a highly involved parent, you may think Mr. Klein’s and Mr. Bloomberg’s claims are legitimate and meaningful. The Mayor has launched a subway advertisement campaign claiming his achievements (and I must add, at a time when the school budget is being cut).
I admit there is no guarantee that a Secretary of Education with the appropriate education background would not take a similar path. However, I believe some of the policies and changes instituted by Mr. Klein would never have come about if we had someone who understood the public school system and some fundamentals of what it is like to manage 30 energetic children of diverse abilities and backgrounds in a confined space – an understanding of what it means to educate the future citizens of this country.
Thank you for the opportunity to voice my opinion.
Parent of two children in public schools and a non-formal environmental educator
I am a Spanish teacher at Midwood H.S. in Brooklyn.
According to ACTFL guidelines and studies (1989 or so), language acquisition cannot take place in classes of more than 22 students, yet each of my classes has 34 students (so I think that the DOE is not serious about having students learn a second -- maybe a third -- language).
The principal of Midwood, David Cohen, like many new principals (this is his third year) is what I call a technocrat. The DOE demands that, in order for him to keep his job, he must produce data that says students are improving on their test scores (these can be generated by standard tests, Regents exams, or apparently, by department exams comparing scores on uniform exams from one month to another, maybe two months later). I think this is a rather dubious basis for judging student performance, or how well teachers are getting students to learn in overcrowded classrooms.
I actually like the idea and practice of uniform exams since six teachers in my department are teaching the same classes (at least twelve classes). But using our exams to provide a rationnale to keep a pro-Klein principal in place, one who is only interested in data and technology, and who doesn't mind doing something illegal but convenient for him like having non-special ed. teachers teach Inclusion classes, a pragmatist who puts his interests before students, seems very counter to the good pedagogical principles that teachers should strive for (although I find that new teachers, including Teaching Fellows, are very technologically driven at the expense of their students, and to the dismay of their colleagues, by monopolizing the computers, and even marking their exams in front of their Engrade programs on the computer). Let's get rid of the current sacred cows of standardized exams and computer programs like Engrade, and do what we really need for the students: teach, creatively and from our experience, using what is going on in the real world.
Does anyone remember the first two-day English Regents exam? The first time students had to listen to a long piece, an article, take notes and answer questions and write an essay based upon it? It was an article that McCain wrote for the right-wing magazine, Parade, about his experiences as a prisoner in Vietnam? (A lot of which has recently been shown to be lies.) The next year was no better, and the year after that was possibly worse. Time to get rid of No Child Left Behind laws, and restore teaching to its use of the world and its people's creativity to give a base from which students can grasp the tasks ahead of them.
Dear President-elect Obama,
PLEASE, JUST SAY NO To Joel Klein as Secretary of Education. This is my 36th year of teaching in the New York City public schools. I love my work. I am not worried about losing my job for speaking up on this issue, as I believe that the choices you will be making soon for executive positions can determine the future for our children. Your choice of advisers in education is extremely important. I know you agree.
We all know that having small class size is critically important for quality education. Yes, many of our classes around the City are still extremely large, despite promises to reduce class size. I have 28 first graders in my class. This is not at all the fault of our wonderful principal. Our school, like many others around the City,is so overcrowded that there is no room to create smaller classes. Chancellor Klein seems rather uninterested in leading an effort to build new schools or to find solutions in order to reduce class size.
The Chancellor is not an educator. He is a corporate attorney. During his time as Chancellor, Mr. Klein has increased the use of standardized tests. This has forced many educators to "teach to the test," thus preventing them from quality teaching. This has stifled efforts by teachers to help children develop a deep passion for and love of reading, writing, and math. This year he even introduced standardized tests in first grade. I am fortunate to teach first grade in a school which opted out of those standardized tests for first grade. But, tragically, many teachers do have to give that test.
This overemphasis on assessment with standardized tests is wrong. It is educationally unsound. There are many alternative ways of assessing learning and teaching. As far as I know, Chancellor Klein has shown no interest in considering alternatives.
Chancellor Klein has promoted scripted curriculum, thus tying the hands of educators. He has demanded that most schools (with the exception of a few hundred schools such as the one where I teach) follow scripted curriculum.
What we really need is an inquiry approach to teaching and learning. We need children to ask questions, to use many different resources to find answers, to think critically, and then to act on their learning. We need interdisciplinary teaching. We need a return to the arts. We need family involvement in our classrooms. We need multi-cultural education. Most of this is not possible under Joel Klein, except in the schools which are exempt from the script.In fact, there is so much emphasis on the scripts in reading, writing, and math, that many teachers have no time left for social studies and science. This is a terrible shame.
When Joel Klein was in my classroom during a visit to our school, he observed my first graders conducting an interview of a babysitter who had been a child laborer in Peru from age 7. The interview was conducted in Spanish and was translated into English. It was part of our research about where the food comes from and who produces it for the stores in our neighborhood. The children did role-plays to help them understand what the babysitter was telling them. They pretended to plow the field with the help up a donkey. They pretended to plant the beans and the corn. They pretended that they were 7 years old and weren't allowed to go to school because they had to work all day. We talked a lot about the issue of child labor, as there are millions of children in the world and at least 500,000 children in the US who are child laborers. After the interview, the children wrote pages for a book about the interview. That book would be used for our reading lessons. We painted a mural about the babysitter and the donkey. I wanted Chancellor Klein to witness this interview and to witness teaching which is so far out of the box he has created for teachers. I know he saw children who were excited about learning and who were seriously concerned about the problem of child labor. Rather than inquiring about this kind of teaching, rather than looking seriously at these children who were so interested in learning, I never heard from him again - except
when I wrote to him regarding my objections to the much despised ELCAS assessment test we were forced to give the children. He asked his assistant to answer me. Rather than discussing or even debating about this, the response from the assistant was basically - ECLAS is just fine.
I hope you will select a Secretary of Education and deputies who want to meeting with and learn from teachers,family members, and even young people.
Joel Klein's answer to providing a quality education for children in poor communities in New York City is to give the teachers a script and make them follow the script to help raise test scores. This is disrespectful to the children and the teachers. Rather than bringing together experienced teachers and letting us work with families and children to create curriculum, he simply assumed that he (a corporate lawyer) had the answer.
President-Elect Obama, I know that you embody the concept of critical thinking and inquiry. I know you understand what I am saying in my letter and that you will indeed bring in educators who will enable all of our children to get that quality education without the burden of excessive testing and scripted curriculum. I plead with you to surround yourself with educators with experience from early childhood to post graduate work rather than corporate advisers. I plead with you to appoint an educator who believes in Inquiry as Secretary of Education. I plead with you to have deputies in the Dept. of Education who are educators and who understand the need to do whatever necessary to provide small class size, to allow alternative types of assessment, to enable educators to end the required use (in many schools) of basal readers and workbooks and allow instead for the use of quality literature for teaching reading.
Paula Rogovin. Teacher of First Grade.
Author of these Heinemann Books:
Classroom Interviews, a world of learning.
The Research Workshop, bringing the world into your classroom
Why Can't You Behave, a teacher's guide to creative classroom management.
Apartheid is Wrong, A Curriculum for Young People. Published by the UN Centre on Apartheid and Educators Against Racism and Apartheid.
In response to David Cantor’s comment:
The Chancellor has spent six years focused on building a system defined by the policy ideas of the Gates Foundation, Broad Foundation, Dell Foundation and many wealthy New Yorkers like Caroline Kennedy and Courtney Ross who would never send their own kids to public school yet have no qualms about dictating how my kids should be educated.
And to dismiss parents who care about smaller classes, arts education and shielding their kids from Klein’s relentless bludgeon of standardized testing as “entrenched interests” is despicable.
It should be obvious to all why a Klein role in the Obama administration is a non-starter. Let’s focus on changes to mayoral control of our schools and the next mayoral election to bring an end to this.
— Patrick J. Sullivan
Upon hearing the news that Joel Klein has made it to the list of potential candidates for the Secretary of Education in the OBAMA administration my heart skipped a beat. As a New York City parent I could not have heard worse news. Joel Klein has created havoc in the New York City public schools, totally disregarding any common sense in regard to dealing with overcrowding, funding, teachers concerns, administration concerns, safety concerns. The obstinacy reflected by total lack of transparency by Joel Klein, Michael Bloomberg and the DOE is intolerable for us. If you are not in a high end neighborhood in NYC that can raise money for the basic operation of your school you are sunk. One also needs a lot of time for: going to meetings, working with politicians, networking with other parents, creating forums, writing responses to the DOE, keeping up with the press, organizing rally's, petitions, postcard drives-and we still are not heard!
You gave us our hope back, President-elect Obama. Now can you give us an educator for secretary of education, not more corporate insanity, as Mr. Klein exemplifies?
I, too am vehemently opposed to having Joel Klein appointed to any national position as an expert in education. Our two children have gone through the public school system for a total of 15 years. During Klein's administration, the school system has become a dictatorship with no room for individual problems and concerns: (imagine that for an educational system). Due to severe bullying in her school which resulted in two children's suspensions, we tried for 9 months to transfer to an excellent high school in our neighborhood which would have been a perfect fit for our daughter (an honor student). We had meetings with the principal herself who really wanted our child in her school, but even she after repeated attempts at calling the main D.of E.administration, could not do anything for our daughter. We even wrote to the Borough President, the City Council, and our state assemblywoman to no avail. I think when the system gets so rigid it can't do anything at all for the deserving hard working students, its being run from the top in a dictatorial fashion!
Do not appoint Klein to a national post!!!!
The appointment of Joe Klein as Secretary of Education would be the final blow to public education in our country, and typical of how incompetency rises to the top.
This is the man who approved a whopping $80 million for a "data" system that is STILL not up and running properly, and costing our city MORE to revamp in less than one year... who pays monies for "reviewers" to rate schools on bogus and changing criteria, while talking about cutting costs, pays for his new title of Parent Coordinator at each and every school (whose duties are ambiguous at best) while being unwilling to pay for more teachers related to class size reduction..and thinks that testing children as young as Kindergarten shows what learning is going on despite the fact that it proves NOTHING..
I speak as a parent who dealt with Mr. Klein's offices for over a year when our child was suffering in middle school..I could not get answers on what he was having difficulty with from a few teachers so we could help him at home or get proper tutoring, and both the school's and Mr. Klein's bureucracy offered NO help at all. They spun their wheels for months, and ended up telling ut there was nothing they could do for our child. He was in the "middle" as a learner, and both the school and Mr. Klein's offices had NO solutions. Despite our requests for a better school (rather than keep him in a SURR failing school) after he was attacked by a young boy with a switchblade!
I have a year of correspondence and proof of what was going on, proving the incompetency of the school under Mr. Klein's reign, and the responses and PROMISES that went unfulfilled from Mr. Klein's office and his lackeys. The result? They took me to dinner...yes DINNER!... to say there was nothing they could do, and we wound up putting our son in private school at great expense where he is growing and people care!
None of this ocurred with our first son, just six years ahead of our youngest, who went to schoool when Mr. Klein was NOT in charge. He received a very good education from the same schools. Interesting.
The focus is NOT on children, but rather on showing what Mr. Klein has achieved..yet depsite what he claims, ask our children REAL knowledge questions and see what happens. Look at the DOE website..it is ALL about Mr. Klein's achievements, posting after posting..it has become his PERONAL website for the aggrandizement of Mr. Klein, particualrly in the last year when he knew the possibility of needing of a new position.
PLEASE, President-Eelct Obama, do NOT let this person have influence on our schools, unless you want to see them ruined. He is NOT an deducator, just a bureaucrat who cares about Mr. Klein, not our children or our future. We must be able to do better!
I would be extremely unhappy if Obama chose Joel Klein for the Federal Secretary of Education post.
First of all, with the exception of his few years here in NYC, Klein has no experience in education. He has never been a teacher or educational administrator in a school or been involved in the actual work of educating young people - ever!! His background is in law and business, and his policies in NYC reflect this. He treats the process of educating an extremely diverse population as a straightforward business problem based entirely on standardized testing, statistical data collection, and numeric evaluations. There has been no guidance or leadership on issues of curriculum or good teaching methods -- issues that should be central to educational reform, because he knows nothing about these matters!
The overwhelming focus of his administration has been to centralize and computerize everything, including processes that were working just fine, such as applying for PreK directly in your local school. The results have been added bureaucracy and costs, confusion for parents and schools, and results rife with computer errors.
He and Mayor Bloomberg have also ruled with an incredibly heavy hand: dismissing education experts from appointed panels at the 11th hour because their (experienced, evidence-based) opinions differed from their own (naive, untested) ideas of how the school system should be run; making sweeping structural changes to the school system mid-year creating serious disruptions to students, parents and teachers; refusing to comply with court orders to reduce class sizes by finagling numbers and passing the buck; and spending millions of dollars on no-bid contracts on testing and evaluation consultants many of whom also have no background in education.
Parents have also become extremely marginalized in the process. The Department of Education gives a lot of PR to the few scripted parent forums they have, but there is no room for questions and criticism that fall outside of their narrow evaluation criteria. As a result parents' honest input is routinely ignored and does not have an effect on educational policy. I sat last year on a panel of parents interviewed for our school's report card. Our evaluation was conducted by a consultant from England ($$) who would only take answers to the particular questions she had been given by the DOE. The interview came right after substantial mid-year budget cuts had been announced, and followed a few years of other extensive DOE policy changes which had dramatic effects on how our school functioned, such as new grading and school year testing practices, extensive new data collection requirements, changes to hours of the school day, changes to bus routes and systems, new pre-K admissions process, new G & T program admissions, new school evaluation systems, etc. Yet she would not accept any feedback from us that addressed the effect these changes had on the teaching and learning that was possible in the building. It is quite disingenuous to ignore the ramifications of such far-reaching reforms on schools. This kind of bull-headed, "we can never be wrong" attitude towards reform is too reminiscent of the national policies that have gotten us where we are today.
We elected Obama because he promised to move away from this type of governance. The last thing our country needs is to introduce these misguided educational policies on a national scale.
Elementary School teacher and public school parent
Dear President-elect Barack Obama,
Instead of considering Joel Klein for the position of Secretary of Education, I implore you to continue your thoughtful search for a qualified appointee by using teaching experience as part of your criteria.
The only way you will ensure that all states have common standards for education in the USA is to select someone who has the experience implementing the state standards by developing lesson plans according to the established school curriculum. Test scores are not the only way and not necessarily the best way to measure student achievement and a teacher or school’s success. One must also have the foresight to know what will work and what might pose a challenge to students and teachers in the classrooms across this country.
There are many other qualified individuals who should be vetted as possible candidates. Considering presidents and professors of universities where teachers are educated would be ideal. Who better than a professor who engages in thoughtful discussion, debate and evaluation with other educators would have the insight to handle a national education policy? Therefore, members of the academia who actually formulate state standards and lesson plans should be on your proverbial “short list.” Please read the articles* about teaching professionals who would bring more to our nation’s classrooms than an attorney whose only measure of academic achievement in NYC schools is quantitative (and not qualitative) statistics. Don’t our kids deserve a whole education that develops the whole child? Nothing less than what you want for Malia and Sasha.
Notwithstanding the fact that the proof is in the pudding: The NYC Public schools are still over-crowded; very little is in the works to construct more schools (ex. only 2 new high schools to address overcrowding); and, court-appointed funding still being withheld from NYCBOE etc.
The business of education has been politicized. A 3rd term for the mayor means a 3rd term for Klein. Our students are caught in the middle. You know that we don’t have time to re-tool the system when politicians make a mistake. We don’t have a chance for a “do-over” nor can we “scrap” the students as a project and “go back to the drawing board.” Kids are not “widgets.”
You said No Child Left Behind needs to be re-visited and re-evaluated. Great idea! The demise of education in NYC cannot spread to other urban schools. Someone with a broader knowledge of the educational spectrum will have the wisdom and experience to understand how to meet the needs of rural students as well.
The articles below give insight to what should be considered-in part- when choosing a Secretary of Education. You might consider calling the Harvard professor** for such a task.
*Fourteen educators from urban and rural areas and representatives from UFT helped to formulate lesson plans for 4th, 8th and 11th grade students to meet the standards in social studies, ELA, state & US history, and government. See link below:
See what Harvard professor**, Daniel Koretz, says about testing not telling whole story in:
and the latest issue of New York Teacher dated November 6, 2008 (Vol L, Number 5).
I am a proud parent of 3 children attending NYC public schools and I teach as well.
Please consider a true educator for Education Secretary, such as Diane Ravitch, Deborah Meier or Linda Darling-Hammond. Highly qualified leadership matters.
We in New York City have been subjected to the most awful administration of our education system by Joel Klein (via Mike Bloomberg and mayoral control), who has done everything possible to alienate parents, by dictating policy rather than engaging us to figure out solutions to problems such as overcrowding, who has wasted millions and millions of dollars on excessive 'executive' pay, unneeded excessive testing (NCLB doesn't require testing every four to six weeks), and computer systems that don't work ($80 million for ARIS).
Klein has done many destructive things as Chancellor of the NYC public schools, but one of the most destructive has been to dismantle the school districts. The districts used to be huge sources of support for the principals and the schools. Those working in the district had once been principals and teachers themselves, and principals report to me that the relationships they used to have with the district personnel were “almost familial.” New principals were mentored by old. If a principal encountered a problem, he or she could call up the district and get advice from people who had once stood in her shoes.
One principal reported to me that in her first months as a new principal, the district superintendent showed up one morning before school, meeting her unexpectedly in the doorway. The two of them sat downstairs at the security officer’s desk and together went over a document the principal had written about her plans. Similarly, the week after 9/11, the district realized that they had a brand new principal in a school and sent a district representative over to spend the day with her, to give her support and make sure she was all right. Interestingly, this was District 2, the same district that had 4 or more schools in the vicinity of the World Trade Center, schools that had had to be evacuated and temporarily housed elsewhere. Obviously, District 2 had a lot on its plate. But the people in the district remembered the new principal they had just assigned to a school and were nursing along, and they were committed to helping her.
Now, in stark contrast, principals report to me that the only time representatives of the DOE show up is on testing days, when they stand and observe, eyes squinted, arms folded, while the principal unpacks the tests and distributes them to the classrooms. Now, because of Klein’s destructive policies, most of the district personnel, many of them nationally respected educators, have “retired,” and are no longer available to shepherd our schools. Instead, principals are either on their own, as part of the misleadingly-named “Empowerment Zone,” or they’ve had to sign on with privately-run “school support organizations” that they have to pay for out of their own budgets. I was on the School Leadership Team of my son’s school when the principal was charged with choosing a “new” support organization, and we ran around trying to gather information and figure out a workable solution, an unconscionable waste of principals’ precious time – and a complete distraction from the hard work of actually running a school – when we already had an outstanding district support team in place. Shelley Harwayne, we sorely miss you!
As a parent who has been a public school parent for 8 years now, I have seen how hard the teachers and principals work. These are people who not only have experience every day in the trenches, but who have academic backgrounds, advanced degrees, in education. Education is a field, just as law is, or business, and I object strenuously to the characterization that Klein and Co. are working against “entrenched interests.” What they’ve done time and time again is arrogantly refuse to listen to or respect the professional educators who have devoted their lives and careers to educating our city’s children.
As a parent of 2 children in NYC public schools, and a past PTA president and a current Pres. of a Community District Education Council I would greatly enjoy Joel Klein leaving our schools. He has sought to reform public schools in the image of corporations and has insisted upon accountability for every person in the system except himself and other DOE bureaucrats. To satisfy his data driven system, our schools seek growth over substance by pushing standard Test scores that reduce curriculum to test prep. Test scores are looked to for Principal and teacher merit and our children suffer as they are expected to grow their scores each year. As our schools stress the tests, our children cannot alleviate their stress in Art, Gym, or other classes as these have been reduced to unimportant impediments to test score growth.
Any claims that Klein has administrative skill are false. During his reign, we have had 2 overhauls of our schools organization that have left all baffled and bewildered and incapable of truly assessing his performance. He instituted a school budget program that claims to be fair, yet is the opposite since it rewards Principals who get senior teachers off of their school's budgets and punishes schools in middle class areas. He has failed to make any meaningful effort to reduce our students' overcrowded classrooms.
While instituting his special brand of education he dutifully ignores any meaningful input from parent organizations, even those appointed pursuant to statute, teachers, and administrators. Instead, he accepts advice only from his cronies (none with an education background) and paid for consultants. His alleged accomplishments are budget savings and test score improvements that are questioned by independent sources. His real impact: a demoralized teaching staff, a frightened group of principals, and alienated parents. For these and other reasons, I sincerely wish him well in pursuing this higher office.
However, I cannot enjoy our gain in his leaving if he is inflicted upon the rest of the country. We have suffered through eight years of ignorant federal education policies, our nation cannot afford one year more of the ignorance and arrogance that Klein would bring. The failings of the No Child Left Behind policies need to be corrected, not exacerbated. Klein has shown no desire to confront NCLB failings during his reign. He has not made any effort to seek accommodations for NYC in meeting NCLB goals, and in fact has instituted policies that often implement additional standards on our schools-none after consultation with experts, administrators, teachers, or parents. At the risk of 5 more years of him destroying NYC public schools, he should not be given the chance to bring his special brand of expertise to the President Obama cabinet.
Over 100 parents have signed the following letter to President-elect Obama. If you would like to see the list of signatories, add your signature, or sign a longer letter with some policy recommendations, visit pspac.wetpaint.com:
Dear President-elect Obama,
First of all let us congratulate you on your election. Many of us worked ardently to advance your cause, and today we celebrate the bright and hopeful years before us under your leadership.
We write now as parents in the New York City public school system. We would like to urge in the strongest terms that you select a Secretary for Education with deep practical experience in teaching and learning. We feel that there is a fashion now for placing school reform in the hands of leaders outside the field. In our experience in New York this trend is catastrophic; in our view the administration of Chancellor Joel Klein has disastrously neglected the fundamental needs of children. To lead in education one must understand something about children, about human development, about the history of successes and failures in pedagogy.
Please appoint an experienced educator, a person close to the lives of children, to lead our nation's education system.
Everyone here has said it so well already. No way should Klein get any more positions in education. He's a bean counter. Let him go back to being a claims attorney. He totally panders to private firms who think that students are just widgets. He reacts to any threat of a lawsuit by caving. He's created the worst possible environment for parents and students and educators. He's destroyed fabulous and up and coming schools. I've searched this listing for words like 'fear' and its all been said.
Dear President-Elect Obama:
As a New York City Public School Parent, and proud supporter, I am writing to say -- please do not make Joel Klein the US Secretary of Education.
As the parent of 16-year-old twins (both of whom worked for your campaign) I write to let you know how unhelpful Joel Klein has been for the New York City School System. Unlike you, he has shown little interest in listening to children, parents, or the educators who work daily with the children. Like the Bush administration he has used education money to enrich the corporations that create standardized tests and that conduct standardized school evaluations– pointless “report cards” for the schools. He has expanded policing and surveillance in the public schools while basic education has been cut. In a particular note of disregard for the real life experiences of New York City children, he has objected to children having cell-phones at school. No parent disagrees with a policy to prohibit children from having their phones on while at school - but in a city where many children can travel more than an hour to get to their schools and where working public phones are now almost non-existent, this rule has seriously undermined parents' ability to stay in touch with their children before and after school.
While I have grown to respect many things about Mayor Bloomberg's administration, Joel Klein is not one of them. And, while it might benefit New York City to have Mr. Klein move on, I feel obliged to protect the rest of the country from his counter-productive approaches.
Lynn M. Paltrow
Joel Klein does not have the right instincts to bring the changes so sorely needed to our national education system. He approached the task of familiarizing himself with the NYC schools by launching a massive data-gathering operation and ignoring inputs from the people already on the ground. He should have understood that children's education is a humanistic pursuit and that data such as he went after (notably via more and more high-stakes testing) only goes a small way to showing us what is going on in classrooms. And that, in the meantime, it turns off year after year of schoolchildren from engagement with living education rather than static, formulaic test prep, and test anxiety.
Furthermore, Joel Klein alienated both parents and teachers by his actions, policies, and attitudes. Children are greatly influenced by their parents (as President-Elect Obama surely knows; his comments about the importance of parents turning off the TV set, for example, say it so succinctly) and the teacher-student dynamic within the classroom also has great impact on whether a student will be inspired and able to learn. So both parents and teachers need to be on board with any program for running our schools. School administrations, government bodies, and private sector interests are also involved. It is imperative to have an education secretary who can bring these different constituencies into productive cooperation. Klein has been a divisive figure in NYC and this is not what we need at the national level.
My daughter started pre-K the year Klein started as schools chancellor in NYC. It has been painful and frustrating to see her be a guinea pig for his experiments in education. I would hate to see that happen to children around the nation. Klein should not be secretary of education.
As a former PTA President, President's Council President and CPAC member, I was horrified to hear Joel Klein's name floated as possible Secretary of Education. Joel Klein has been a disaster for NYC Public Schools. He has wasted vast sums of public money on standardized testing and a dubious school ratings system while alienating parents, teachers and administrators. He's good at doctoring data, but overall his performance deserves an "F."
As a father of two middle school sons solely educated in the NYC public school system, past president of a PA, currently on the SLT and proud parent who gives school tours to perspective parents, I must speak out. I have heard the words of Mr Klein up close and personal when he speaks about education being partnership between the schools and the parents (as long as the parents abide by all his decisions). He has elevated high stakes testing to an unthinkable degree (the numbers don't lie, do they Mr Bloomberg?). He had to receive a variance to become Chancellor as he hadn't earned appropriate teaching credentials .. and feel free to sing the praises, Mr. Klein, of the public schools your children attend. HE IS NOT AN EDUCATOR. HE IS A LAWYER and that doesn't make him a bad person, it has made him a bad choice to head the Department of Education in New York. He has hired other lawyers to run his no bid, opaque spend fest, without reducing class size or investing directly into the classrooms. Parents will never have a seat at his decision making table. Oh did I metion, its all about testing, Testing and more TESTING not education, and the buckets of money (that would be far better spent for instruction) have been pissed away keeping score. Years from now, when this failed experiment perpetratred on New York City's publically educated children is analyzed after having wasted our students' precious years, will we be thanking the God of your choice because he left NY to run our nation's education into the ground? President elect Obama, have mercy for the educational future of America's children...DO NOT APPOINT KLEIN. Hire an educator, just because.
Please, if you're going to criticize Joel Klein, spell his first name correctly!
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