It's teacher hunting season!

Friday, July 17, 2009

The Mis-rule of Joel Klein that NY Times has ignored

On the New York City Department of Education Chancellor Joel Klein, there are major problems in news media reportage, except for WNYC and a couple of reporters for the tabloids, the city's media (notably, the New York Times) are merely repeating the press releases of the city Department of Education.

This is a terrible civic example to the children and the public. In history classes there are warnings against the concentration of power in one person. It is called autocracy, the word is treated as a dirty word. Yet, there is no critical discussion of the ills of this kind of leadership.
As to specifics of his mis-leadership,
1) Klein has misallocated resources into no-bid contracts for consultants. Millions have been spent on these consultants, while schools have scrimped on teaching staff and resources.
2) On January 21, 2003, Klein adopted the misguided "Everyday Math" program. This poorly conceived constructivist approach to teaching math was twice (several years prior) rejected in California after careful studies of the program. (See the New York Sun and the City Journal on this issue; and this assessment by David Klein, a California professor of mathematics.)
3) He has exerted a social class bias in closing down schools. The closed schools has happened extensively in schools with high minority and low income student populations in the Bronx, Brooklyn and Manhattan. It has not happened in southern Brooklyn, eastern Queens or Staten Island. In the wide-spread closure of large schools he has foreclosed the opportunity for students to have options in their English classes, their foreign language choices or chances to study in Advanced Placement classes. Now, there is no possibility of taking AP classes, there is only one choice (within one grade within a school) of English class topic or foreign language. No more French, German or Italian, just Spanish.
4) The city has neglected to provide special education resources (special education-certified teachers and classes) in schools. Now, special education students are injected into regular education classes. As students and teachers will tell you, this move often leads to greater disruption in the class. This neglect of special education has forced the United Federation of Teachers to launch a campaign for monitoring the denial of special education resources.
Why the neglect of special education resources? For one matter, the appearance of large percentages of special education students in schools is seen as a negative indicator. The solution? Just erase the special education students.
5) The graduation rates are a distortion. As WNYC reported in May, a Columbia School of Journalism PhD candidate (Jennifer Jennings) showed that the number of high school graduates does not match the number of in-coming ninth graders. Before Klein, students had the opportunity re-take classes. True, it was common for students to take six years to graduate. At least this was better than being pressured to leave the school for commercial trade schools or GED programs. A real Regents high school diploma is better than a GED certificate.
6) The value of a New York City public education remains troubled. The CUNY schools are having to put the vast majority of NYC school graduates through remedial education in English and mathematics.

These comments address just the beginning of the ways that Klein has mis-served the city. These examples of wrong-headed policies would have been addressed *publicly* had they been subject to open discussion by an independent body. The Senate is to be praised for not renewing mayoral control. After seven years, it is a demonstrated failure. Bravo to Brooklyn's Senator John Sampson for aiming to have greater variety of voices on the new Board. Let's hope that the new Board will have some real independence and power.

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