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Eric Nadelstern: A Thumbs up on the Bloomberg-Klein Era


Eric Nadelstern

Eric Nadelstern

“At the start of Children First [the public school program shaped by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Chancellor Joel Klein] in 2002, only half the students in our schools graduated, just as they had since the middle of the 20th century,” writes former New York City Deputy Chancellor Eric Nadelstern in his recent book, Ten Lessons from New York City Schools: What Really Works to Improve Education (Teachers College Press).

By 2011, when Nadelstern retired in order to direct TC’s Summer Principals Academy, the city’s graduation rate stood at 65 percent.

What’s the secret? Nadelstern, in a recent talk at TC’s Acacdemic Festival covered much of the same ground as in his book, examines the pillars of the successful turnaround of New York City schools:

Invest in leadership. Ending decades of simply trusting to “the natural laws of organizational evolution and human ambition,” Klein created the NYC Leadership Academy, which screened applicants and focused on transforming schools to serve all students.

Devolve responsibility, resources and authority. Under Klein, the city ushered out three-quarters of its district superintendents and held principals accountable for higher student performance results.

Partner with the private sector. “Foundations like Gates, Carnegie, Soros and Bloomberg himself” funded the Autonomy Zone, the NYC Leadership Academy and 500 new small schools.

Focus relentlessly on improving student learning. “The way a principal works with her teachers often determines the way teachers work with students.”

Nadelstern concedes that students’ success in school is still determined largely by their race and socioeconomic status. His advice to future reformers: “Don’t worry about what others think who don’t share your sense of impatience, if not downright outrage. It is you who should be offended, not they.”

Watch Nadelstern at TC's 2014 Academic Festival

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