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School Reform Alone Lacks Effectiveness
Guest Author: Theodore “Ted” C. Kraver, Ph.D.
Educators need to embrace the long range transformation of the entire education system, a 20th century school system.
Yesterday I watched an hour and a half web cast from the Hoover Institute that was over in 60 minutes. The main speaker was Joel Klein, reforming Superintendent of NYC Schools from 2003 to 2011. I met Mr. Klein when he visited Arizona to speak at a GVS education conference at Skysong. Mr. Klein is a lawyer and is currently executive vice president of News Corporation. Chester Finn, Jr. Sr. Fellow and President Emeritus of the Fordham Institute, Sr. Fellow of Hudson Institute was in a supporting role. Chester was a big help to us when we founded our Success Charter School in 1995 on 7th Street and Monte Vista.
http://edexcellence.net/events/joel-klein-on-lessons-of-hope-how-to-fix-our-schools will take you to the on video of Joel Klein’s presentation. Klein talked about his new memoir in book format, Lessons of Hope: How to Fix Our Schools, Harper 2014.
New York City Schools have the same student population count as Arizona’s 2100 public schools. Joel Klein was tasked by Mayor Michael Blumberg to initiate reforms at the school level including creating 100 charter schools (AZ has over 500). Another 500 new schools opened, many small and distinctive. Mr. Klein battled the status quo and political favoritism while installing an accountability system and giving principals greater authority. Student choice went up along with salaries for high performing teachers. The decline of NYC schools was halted and higher graduation rates, and improved test scores resulted.
I was disappointed. All the talk was qualitative. I had heard it all before from some reports on improving education that focus on a narrow set of aspects. I am a STEM’er and Joe Friday fan …” Just the facts maam.” What was the annual percentage decline before the reforms were made? What are the data and statistics on lower dropout rates and improved test scores? What were the salary increases and for what percentage of the teachers? How many of the 2000+ students had at least one grade level of sustained improvement?
National studies on academic performance data on small vs. large schools shows no significant difference. The data on charter vs traditional schools shows the same. The data does show that outstanding principals and teachers produce enhanced results. But there are a very limited number of high performers, and it takes them ten years on the job to reach this level. I heard little on how the human resource system, external of New York City Schools, was going to deliver all-stars to the rest of the schools and classrooms. Mr. Klein confirmed that only half of new teachers were in teaching careers by year five equivalent to the national average.
I am glad for NY City Schools that some progress was made. But until national thought leaders like Joel Klein and Chester Finn need to move out of their narrow areas of school reform. They and their colleagues need to embrace the long range transformation of the entire education system a 20th century school system. A non-improving system where 30 percent dropout, 40 percent graduate when not ready and grade inflation makes everyone look good in astronaut terms is not A-OK.
To cheer you up a bit after my STEM columnist bit, try…. http://tinyurl.com/nv8juhq