Tuesday, April 11

Social Promotion

I suppose John Stossel will be all over this. The Sunday Times:
New York Rethinks Its Remaking of the Schools

The New York City schools chancellor, Joel I. Klein , is once again rethinking the nation's largest school system.

Not yet three years since the Klein/Bloomberg brain trust last overhauled the public schools.

You may recall that when most of us last saw Klein he was bad-mouthing the NYC teachers' union on Stossel's show, screeching about the complexity of the contract, and implying that the failure of the New York state legislature to make consentual sexual contact between a teacher and a student of legal age a crime was the union's fault and a satanic plot into the bargain. The fact that Klein was then in negotiations with the union over the next contract was not made explicit. I'm sure Stossel will be pointing out the Bloomberg administration's record of utter educational failure, probably in his next Townhall column.
He has hired Chris Cerf, former president of Edison Schools, the commercial manager of public schools in 25 states.

And that's not counting the ones that have thrown them out. The jury may still be out on Edison, but that's after a less-than-satisfactory stretch both academically and financially while Cerf was president, and if someone hadn't come in and taken the company back private again they'd be out of business in 50 states. So in all, good choice.
These consultants, often in pinstripe suits and ensconced in a conference room on the third-floor mezzanine of the headquarters of the Education Department in Lower Manhattan, are working with a small army of city education officials, all led by Mr. Klein's chief of staff, Kristen Kane. The effort is being paid for with $5 million in private donations.

Well, how Jim Dandy that makes it for New York. An angel (Klein's buddy Jack Welch, maybe?) made a $5 M pit stop, no strings attached, and now Chris Cerf is back in business changing the face of US education.
"This is entire system reform," Mr. Cerf said over a cheeseburger lunch at a downtown bistro. "This is the most important and urgent thing going on in American public education today. If it can be done well and right here, it will be a national pace car for change."

Chancellor Klein, in an interview last week, said: "I see this as truly an evolutionary restructuring."

And if not, well, I guess Bloomberg can run for a third term. By which time we should have some other Big Ideas. And for those of you driving our last model national pace car for change, please check your mailboxes for an important recall notice.

The Big Idea This Time seems to be giving principals autonomy, provided they meet certain requirements. Klein has proof of the potential for success:
Chancellor Klein often offers an example from Edmonton, Alberta. Principals who once had to wait endlessly for the central office to send painters to spruce up a building were instead given the money to get the job done themselves.

Joel Klein makes $250,000 a year. And now no one who reads the Times will ever again question whether he's worth it.

Isn't it past time for a You Broke It You Bought It policy for politicians? You had the solution three years ago, and that makes you just the guy to fix the mess it caused? And remember, these are the jokers who had to scale back their program to squeeze new principals like sausages out of an academy, some with as little as one year of classroom experience, rather than promoting from within. So now they imagine they can get principals to do their union-busting for them, on a school-by-school basis.

But what I really wanted to do was compare Klein's quote above about how crypto-privatization got hallways painted in Edmonton, or as it's better known, the Paris of the Tundra, with some actual clear thinking:
"Isn't it insane to play 52-pickup another time when structure is far less important, far less consequential, than the daily dealings between teachers and students?" asked Diane Ravitch, the education historian and frequent critic of the administration.

Noting that the city's four-year high school graduation rate of about 53 percent had barely budged during Mr. Bloomberg's tenure, Ms. Ravitch added: "It is hard to see why this number will increase as the result of yet another massive upheaval in the structure of governance."

Then there's Stossel's bĂȘte noire, the woman who kept him from teaching for a week by trying to hide the real students:
Randi Weingarten , the president of the city teachers' union, said: "Joel and all his management guru types never talk to anyone who actually does the work — that's what so mind-boggling. Our mission isn't constantly trying to reinvent ourselves into an entrepreneurial model that will get golden globes at the Harvard Business School. How do we help all 1.1 million kids get a decent high school education?"

Amen, if you'll pardon me saying so in close proximity to our public schools. So when exactly does this management guru/MBA President/Sun-tzu shit lie down and die of embarrassment, if nothing else?


R.Porrofatto said...

Heh. Indeed. Kristen Kane, Klein's chief of staff (all those K's!) who is in charge of the $5 million "effort" was an investment strategist with the New Schools Venture Fund (not hard to see where the Edison connection comes from, and maybe that $5mil), before that she was an equity research analyst at JPMorgan, and before that she got her M.B.A. from Stanford. So who better to lead the complete overhaul of the largest school system in the country? (See the word "education" in any of that background?)

You'd think that, as the Enron trial zips along and we've gotten a good look at what our present M.B.A. leader has wrought, the idea of "running America like a business" would be, you know, a little discredited by now.

D. Sidhe said...

Ah, but Enron and Worldcom and Tyco and Halliburton and Global Crossing and Cigna and Adelphia and Health South and Citigroup Arthur Andersen and the entire S&L mess and the water and education and prison and waste management privatization disasters, uh, well, they were all aberrations. Nothing to see here, move along. Bush has signed the corporate reform act, and the CEO book groups dedicated to Ayn Rand have reformed, and everything is now fine.

As Molly Ivins points out, these aren't the bad apples in the system, they *are* the system, especially the deregulated system. Ask the Bush administration, though, and they'll tell you the problem is not *enough* deregulation.

In a fair world, ripped-off pensioners and stockholders and customers and especially employees and neighbors suffering the "externalized" costs like pollution and outsourcing and tax break grubbing, would be able to kick these guys in the kneecaps every Sunday.

R. Porrofatto said...

d. sidhe,

Well said. Such "aberrations" allowed a very small number of people to steal billions from those folks, and then they got a big tax cut. So mission accomplished yet again.

As to the kneecaps, in a really fair world they'd be able to aim a wee bit higher, to what Pastor Giles cherishes as his "boys."

julia said...

Oh, none of this is my most favoritest part.

No, my most favoritest part is how they make them wait five or six months for the results of the tests that their increasingly frantic teachers have been making them cram for, and then the mayor makes an announcement about the percentage of children who failed and are going to be left back, and then it gets wanked about with heartfelt fervor in every local news source in sight, and then they wait a few weeks before they release the scores

We got that? We're threatening eight and nine year olds with repeating a year of school based on a single test, and then we tell them that one out of every fairly small number of them is going to be separated from all their friends and dropped into a little kid's class next year, and then we make them gut it out while the Board of Ed and the Mayor have leisurely strategic discussions about the issue.

And I'm in one of the good schools.