I was watching the local FOX affiliate and almost gagged hearing their praise of Joel Klein as Chancellor of the New York City Schools. They heaped praise over the improved test scores, graduation rates, and student achievement. Further, they stated that under Joel Klein we saw more teacher accountability, the elimination of the “rubber rooms” where teachers stayed for years doing nothing at full pay, and the rise of Charter schools. I think it is time to take a closer look at what Chancellor Joel Klein has actually accomplished in his eight year tenure as Chancellor of the New York City Public Schools.
Student Test Scores: Despite the propaganda from the Bloomberg/Klein Administration and their media mouthpieces, , student test scores have remained relatively flat throughout their tenure (see the NAEP results) and the income/racial achievement gap actually widened in some cases. “Dumbing down” State tests only showed the constant test preparation did not result in real academic achievement and that was evident in the 2010 New York state test results.
Graduation Rates: One of the most abused statistics that Joel Klein takes credit for. During his tenure Tweed has found many methods to artificially raise graduation rates. Starting with “credit recovery”, online courses, Principals changing grades, manipulation of dropout rates, and even foreign credits. No questionable methods were rejected, no matter how outrageous, if it resulted in artificially higher graduation rates without increased student academic achievement.
Teacher Disrespect: Under Joel Klein’s leadership, teacher disrespect was at an all time high. Paperwork in the classroom increased threefold during his tenure and a “one program fits all “approach took away teacher independence and individuality, especially in the elementary schools where incompetence allegations rose dramatically. Moreover, in Joel Klein’s inner circle of eighteen there was only one educator and who had direct access to him and her program was one of the few cut at Tweed. Furthermore, it was under Joel Klein that there was an increase in reassigned teachers from less than 100 to over 800, (not including hundreds of others reassigned in their schools because of lack of space in the TRCs) resulting in overcrowded “rubber rooms” until the Mayor finally put an end to this embarrassment by negotiating an agreement with the union over the objections of the DOE and Joel Klein, to end the “rubber rooms”. However, the DOE appears to have the last laugh as Tweed has reneged on some of the sections of the Agreement. Finally, the Chancellor practiced “a top down approach” that excluded school based personnel from any real decision-making ability that affects the schools.
Exclusion Of Parents: One of the hallmarks of Joel Klein’s tenure as Chancellor was his exclusion of any community and parent input in education policy. Parent complaints were ignored by Tweed and the only time parent complaints’ were taken seriously was when it was against a teacher. Joel Klein’s disregard of parents was legendary and time and again when parents stood up for their schools or complained about a Principal or ill designed education intuitive, Tweed just either ignored them or dismissed their legitimate complaints. Under Joel Klein, the DOE turned a deaf ear when parents would show up at PEP meeting to complain about various injustices. In fact, Joel Klein used to play with his blackberry while the parents aired their grievances and seemed unconcerned about their issues. Sometimes he even left the room as parents poured their collective hearts out to him to reverse school closings that the courts eventually stopped.As for his claim of "children first", it was really a shame. When a student e-mailed him for help, he just brushed her off and you can read this disgusting saga Here.
Rising Class Sizes: During Joel Klein’s tenure as Chancellor the CFE won a lawsuit mandating that the State set aside funds to reduce class size. The Chancellor, rather than following the law, used the CFE money to reduce class size apparently cut a deal with the State to divert the CFE money to other undefined purposes. The result has been raising class sizes over the last three years, in violation of the CFE lawsuit.
ATR Crises: The travesty of having between 1,700 and 2,400 teachers without a classroom is entirely the creation of Joel Klein who let principals hire who they pleased and resulted in the DOE wasting $160,000 million dollars yearly, not including benefits,. It was only the recession that forced the Mayor to tell the Chancellor to place the ATRs in vacant positions as he imposed a hiring freeze in most subject areas. However, as more schools close, more teachers will become ATRs unless the new Chancellor changes the rules once again.
School Funding Fiasco: Under Joel Klein Tweed imposed the “fair student funding” formula that hamstrung principals from hiring experienced teachers without taking a hit to their budget. The original iteration of the “fair student funding” formula had a hold harmless provision that did not penalize schools that had a majority of high salaried, experienced teachers. However, in the present version principals are encouraged to hired inexperienced teachers just so that they can meet the ever shrinking budget imposed on the schools by Tweed. The result is less experienced teachers in the classroom and collateral damage to the children.
Lack Of Transparency In Funding: How many times have people complained on the lack of transparency on who gets cut and who does not. Even in this recession, under Joel Klein’s tenure the headcount at Tweed just keeps going up and only the education based instruction group has showed significant reductions. Moreover, Tweed plays with headcounts by falsely claiming they are reducing the Central Bureaucracy when it is really direct support services and Regional/District school support offices that are being cut. Furthermore, Tweed has misspent money that was to go to needy schools and students to fill a budget gap and tried to hide it.
Arrogance At The Top: Joel Klein’s popularity rating was an all-time low of 30% with the general public and was not welcomed in Albany or at the City Council where he routinely ignored their requests for information only to claim that they are anti-education when they questioned his demands for additional funds or authorization for his friend’s pet projects that had questionable educational impact on the schools. He long ago lost the respect of parents, politicians, and teachers due to his arrogance and autocratic rule.
Consultant Services And No-Bid Contracts: Another legacy of Joel Klein is the many no-bid contracts that he rammed through the PEP and the questionable hiring practices at Tweed. Do you remember this? Even during this recession, business as usual is still going on at Tweed. Accountability is only for the schools and not for Tweed.
Charter/small school favoritism: Joel Klein turned a blind eye to the lack of special education and English language learners being in the Charter/small schools and his staff at first denained such shenanigans were going on only to admit it was and then ignoring the issue. His love letters to “Eva Moskowitz” tells all about how he feels about Charter Schools and the uneven playing field the neighborhood schools in competing with them.
The legacy of Chancellor Joel Klein's academic accomplishments can be best summed up as all "smoke and mirrors"with little, if any, real student academic achievement and his "top down approach" showed it was never what was best for the children but was best for him and his non-educator friends at Tweed. Hence his identification with the “children last” and “education on the cheap” policies.
To Joel Klein “goodbye and good riddance don’t let the door hit you in the butt on the way out”.