Wednesday, November 10, 2010

NYC Schools De-Klein

Reading all of the editorial rodomontade about the exiting schools chancellor, we can't help but feeling we're in the middle of a Chinese communist confessional-gushing emotional tributes more appropriate for Mother Teresa's funeral: "Scour the history of the last half-century, or go back even further if you like. You will find no chancellor who had a greater impact on the New York City schools than did Joel Klein. The city's children are far, far better off today than when he started eight years ago."

Oh, good grief, Joel Klein as a world historic figure? In the NY Post, someone named Jay Greene is pulled from the chorus to give this solo rendition of, "God Bless Joel Klein: "In context, his achievement was impressive: In a nation where academic achievement has been stagnant for four decades despite a tripling in per-pupil spending (adjusted for inflation), and where the urban picture has typically been even more gloomy, he delivered steady progress."

Greene, who heads an educational institute so we can't be sure that he isn't now-or will soon be-on the Bloomberg pad, goes on to try to cut the Klein critics off at the pass by going after what he calls, "Klein Derangement Syndrome;" Never has so much venom been spilled over so little. Joel Klein's departure as chancellor of New York City's schools is sure to produce another round of exaggerated denunciations, just as his tenure over the last eight years has."

This is just a little bit over the top, especially when the hyperbole is flowing like wine from all of the editorial cups-as has the gross disinformation about the city's "educational miracle" for eight years. It certainly isn't the critics of Klein who are deranged-and the Post's geshrie that state ed must immediately rubber stamp Cathie Black smacks of a concern that the entire Potemkin Village will be exposed for the houses of cards that it is.

Crain's Insider nails the Black issue: "It would have been hard for Mayor Mike Bloomberg to pick a schools chancellor less connected to the public school system than magazine publisher Cathie Black. A product of parochial schools in Chicago who later moved to New York, she sent her children to private boarding school in Connecticut. Her only background in the education field: holding a seat on a charter school's advisory board. At her introductory press conference, Black said, “What I ask for is your patience as I get up to speed on all the issues facing K-through-12 education today.”

In our view, this is an appropriate time for a full audit-and we don't mean editorial awedit-of the Klein regime; and the propriety of yet another non educator as chancellor. It's time to cut through all of the crap that coming from the City on the Hill-as Juan Gonzales does brilliantly in his, "two cities," piece in this morning's NY Daily News:

"Klein's legacy is truly a Tale of Two Cities. To Manhattan's wealthy elite, the city's longest-serving chancellor was "one of the most important transformational ... education leaders of our time." That's what Bloomberg called him Tuesday. The chancellor, they say, fought aggressively to reduce the racial achievement gap in education, brought in scores of innovative charter schools and brought corporate management methods to a "dysfunctional" system. But most New Yorkers simply do not agree that he succeeded. Only 30% of city residents believe our public schools have improved under Klein and Bloomberg. So says a poll conducted last month by The Wall Street Journal, a paper owned by Klein's new employer, Rupert Murdoch's News Corp.

Many critics now realize all those trumpeted state test score results over the past few years were grossly inflated. They see how Klein's headlong rush for more charter schools spawned bitter neighbor-versus-neighbor battles for scarce space. His constant reorganizations of the school bureaucracy only demoralized and confused the system's veteran employees, teachers say. The racial achievement gap has not significantly diminished. In short, progress was hardly stellar when you consider the unprecedented increases in state funding for public schools in the past decade."

And while we're going after the Klieniacs, where is that zinger quote from the educational maven Al Sharpton? OMG, has Rev Al come down with a fatal case of lockjaw-even in the face of yet another white corporate chancellor being chosen over a qualified Black or Latino educator? Oh, we forgot that Al is otherwise engaged, busting the governor-elect ("raging") over, what else, the lack of diversity in his transition.

So, let the hearings begin-and let's not rush to give Cathie Black a seal of approval that she simply hasn't earned. It's time for much more honesty and transparency, something that has been in short supply for the past eight years.