Studies Examine Klein's Impact On City Schools
It was supposed to be an assessment of Joel Klein’s ongoing work, but a major research conference on the city’s education reform Wednesday turned into a retrospective on the outgoing chancellor's legacy. NY1's Lindsey Christ filed the following report.
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The reforms have been massive, but have they worked? Less than a day after Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced Schools Chancellor Joel Klein would be moving on and be replaced by businesswoman Cathie Black, academics presented 11 research papers on his reforms. The studies explore changes from leadership to teaching to grading to admissions.
"It's a radical regime in terms of the way it regards in central business. Because no other district I know of, except now maybe New Orleans, has taken on the idea that they really don't know how to do their job well and they need to keep experimenting," said Paul Hill of the University of Washington.
A common thread was that the breakneck pace of the reforms make it hard to figure out what’s been working and what hasn’t. Klein changed almost every part of the system and then changed it again and again. It’s hard to isolate the reasons some reforms -- like the graduation rate -- have improved.
One study reveals the city spends $5,000 more per student than when Klein began. That’s perhaps allowed him to experiment in a way his successor likely won’t.
"This combination of trying things out privately, experimenting with them and then when he thought they worked, being able to put them into the schools, greatly helped by having more money available to him to do that," said Leanna Stiefel of New York University.
The research results were generally positive, but one noted Klein might have fallen short on parent engagement -- something Chancellor Klein seemed to agree with.
"There is a broad sense of being left out of the conversation," said Jeffrey Henig of Columbia University.
"We did not, I did not do as well in terms of building community support, explain what we are doing, making sure that our voices and supporters were heard," Klein said.
The chancellor reflected on his own legacy after all the research was presented. He called his work unquestionably the most ambitious school reform effort ever.
"I think it’s indisputable. We played big and we got big results," Klein said.
The research was funded by the Gates Foundation and other groups supportive of the chancellor. Reviewers claim that didn’t influence the findings, but NY1 has learned that a 12th paper was withdrawn after the review panel disagreed with the direction of the research. That paper would have looked at the Leadership Academy for principals -- one of Chancellor Klein’s many controversial experiments.