Bloomberg errs again with NYC public schools
By Valerie Strauss
There is unfortunate symmetry to today’s news that Joel Klein had resigned as New York City Schools Chancellor today to join Rupert Murdoch’s outfit, and that he was being succeeded by Cathie Black, chair of Hearst Magazines.Klein, who is becoming an executive vice president for News Corp., had taken the job as chancellor without any experience in education.
Now, Black, a former USA Today publisher who has been serving as chairwoman of Hearst Magazines, is becoming chancellor with no educational experience. The woman responsible for publications including Esquire; Good Housekeeping; O, the Oprah magazine ;and Popular Mechanics will run New York City’s public schools.
That’s twice that New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has deluded himself into thinking that success in business management is easily transferable to success in the public education system.
Klein had worked as head of the publishing giant Bertelsmann and as a federal anti-trust prosecutor when he took the job as head of the 1.1 million student-system in 2002. (He had to get a waiver from the state government to take the job because he hadn’t been trained as a professional educator. Black will need one too). Accustomed to breaking up monopolies, he apparently viewed the public school system as a monopoly and he worked to bust it up — attacking teachers unions and pushing for the expansion of charters, publicly funded schools that are not part of the traditional school bureaucracy.
It didn’t really work out so well for Klein.
Though he and Bloomberg talk about the Klein tenure as a success, the chancellor did nothing to narrow the gaping achievement gap, and it was recently learned that standardized test score improvements that the mayor and the schools boss had touted for years were phony. State officials recently revealed that scores had been inflated, and thousands of parents who thought their children were performing on grade level learned that they weren’t.
Bloomberg had the chance with Klein’s resignation to seek community input into the selection of a new chancellor but instead he chose, again, to ignore the people who elected him.
American schools today need better-trained teachers, principals who themselves have been exceptional teachers, and superintendents who understand that public education isn’t a business but a civic responsibility, and who know that great teaching can’t always be reduced to data points.
At a press conference with Black and Klein on Tuesday, Bloomberg said of his new chancellor: “There is no one who knows more about the skills our children will need to succeed in the 21st century economy.”
I’d bet a nice dinner that even Black knows that isn’t true. Bloomberg shouldn’t get away with such nonsense.
Follow my blog every day by bookmarking washingtonpost.com/answersheet.By Valerie Strauss | November 9, 2010