Thank You, Joel Klein
Wednesday, November 10, 2010 - 03:44 PM
Thank you, Joel Klein, from the Silent Majority. The school system has been rightfully challenged during your tenure, and you’ve had some real successes.
Most importantly, you have removed the pall of political venality that filtered down from the Board of Education to community boards, school boards and local politicians. You have given average New York City residents a way to understand whether their schools are failing their kids without years and years of excuses that get swept away with people throwing up their hands. You've also introduced technology, charter schools, and measurements to track new approaches to teaching.
We also know where your best intentions were your nemesis. When you live “by the numbers,” you also suffer by them. Nothing is better than data to prove your point convincingly to fair-minded people, but you wore them on your sleeve as the raison d'guerre. By any measurement -- state tests, NAEP tests, or graduation rates -- there has been improvement. Unfortunately, you were so data-oriented that you couldn't recover when the data was found to be questionable due to grade inflation. That didn't just embolden your critics, but made parents skeptical that the books were cooked. Instead of using the wonderfully elegant Progress Reports at critical times for school closure and the introduction of new programs, they defined all schools every year for every parent until the numbers changed. Data became the reason that over 100,000 high school students have had to endure more overcrowded high schools and be at further risk of academic failure and school closure. Moving forward, hopefully rigorous data analysis will be tempered with reasonable judgment on school closures.
The fight for a sound quality education is a basic right that Brown vs. Board guaranteed and you have fought that fight courageously. Parents also recognize the improvements and hope your successor will balance the need for system improvement with significant community outreach and sensitivity. Data AND People win the day, not just data.
Martin Krongold has been a member of a Community Education Council since their inception and has represented New York City residents on the Citywide Council on High Schools for four years. A graduate of Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government with a master's degree in City and Regional Planning, Krongold has had three children in the public school system. Sometimes he agrees with the Chancellor's direction and sometimes he doesn't. He lives on Staten Island.