News and commentary by: Whymrhymer

A Washington Post article this morning gives us a good overview of New York City’s school system since it’s takeover by Mayor Bloomberg in 2002. There is no Board of Education any longer in NYC, the school system is now run like a business with Bloomberg at the top of the management chain of command and Joel Klein, formerly a Justice Department lawyer, as second in command with the title of NYC School Chancellor. Every school has a principal and every principal reports to Klein.

There are 1.1 million students in the NYC school system and, up until Bloomberg took control and restructured the system, the drop-out rate was high, test scores were low and discipline was a nightmare. That is still the case in some individual schools because progress takes time and Bloomberg is apparently restructuring on a case-by-case, school-by-school basis.

Bloomberg’s critics (and he has many) point to these so-far untouched schools and call the system a failure while not recognizing and praising the schools that have become successes. One success in particular is a high school in the Bronx, the Evander Childs High School. This school had 3,500 students crowded into classrooms and a graduation rate of 31 percent. After its restructuring, the school building is now the home of six small, independent ‘themed’ high schools with manageable class sizes, improved discipline, and an improved graduation rate. The themes of these smaller high schools may well be the keys to their successes: one school, for example, focuses on aerospace and orients its subject matter to that field; this type of focus keeps the students interested and gives them a direction.

The Post article provides this ‘snapshot’ of the new NYC school system as it stands right now:

“. . . they rolled out more than 170 small high schools with fewer than 450 students apiece. They streamlined the central administration, transforming 32 school districts into 10 regions and slashing $200 million from the budget, largely by eliminating administrative positions. They created a principals’ academy to train administrators, using $75 million in private donations, and established rigorous performance standards for educators.”

If the thought occurs to you that Bloomberg has taken control of a child’s education away from the parents and the communities you would be right but if you perceive this to be a bad thing, I’d say you are wrong. To paraphrase Mayor Bloomberg: “Parents, with relatively few exceptions, are not educators, far too many are not even effective disciplinarians and only one in millions would be qualified to design or run a school system.”

The New York City school system makeover is not complete yet and until it is, there will be much criticism of Bloomberg and Klien and not all of it will be unjustified. Whatever they do right will be alright; they will do some things wrong, it’s inevitible, but they will hopefully learn from their own mistakes and be able to correct them. It is important that they are doing something creative and, so far, productive but far more important is the fact that they are slowly improving the quality of education for the city’s students. The pace of the improvement is too slow for some of their critics but slow and steady will usually ‘win the race’ . . . only if, however, it is backed up by a steadfast determination, a determination that Bloomberg radiates.

Links:

The Washington Post: NYC School Takeover Inspires Fenty, but Critics Abound

The British Press does not praise Chancellor Klein: Legal big shot who’s back among the NY school kids

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