Joel Klein, former New York City schools chancellor, has a book coming out today, Lessons of Hope: How to Fix Our Schools.
His timing is great, writes Rick Hess. Two new “gold-standard” studies on Klein’s reforms show promising results.
Klein closed large, low-performing high schools and opened small schools that are more likely to graduate their students and more likely to see them enroll in college, according to MDRC.
The Equity Project, “one of the many boundary-pushing charter schools that opened on Klein’s watch,” is raising achievement for its low-income students, according to a rigorous Mathematica evaluation.
It takes time to see what works, writes Hess. Klein didn’t get everything right, “but he led with courage and conviction, was constantly eager to inquire and learn, showed astonishing fortitude in the face of exhaustive personal attacks, and left New York’s kids a helluva lot better off than when he started.”
Improving teacher quality is the key to improving schools, Klein told New York Times columnist Frank Bruni.
Firing a teacher “took an average of almost two and a half years and cost the city over $300,000,” when he started as chancellor, Klein writes. Due to union contracts, it was “virtually impossible to remove a teacher charged with incompetence.”
Klein wants schools of education to raise their selection criteria and update their curriculum, he told Bruni.
Klein urged “a rational incentive system” that doesn’t currently exist in most districts. He’d like to see teachers paid more for working in schools with “high-needs” students and for tackling subjects that require additional expertise. “If you have to pay science and physical education teachers the same, you’re going to end up with more physical education teachers,” he said. “The pay structure is irrational.”
In an ideal revision of it, he added, there would be “some kind of pay for performance, rewarding success.” Salaries wouldn’t be based primarily on seniority.
In Los Angeles, John Deasy “is the fourth California superintendent in the last two years to be driven from a job that has the shelf life of homogenized milk,” writes Larry Sand of the California Teachers Empowerment Network. The new superintendent, as yet unknown, may be “a Deasy-type provocateur, burning out after a short time or, more likely, we will be treated to a make-nice type who will not rock the LAUSD boat.”