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Klein touts NYC gains at TC Colloquium


Joel Klein

Joel Klein

At a Teachers College colloquium this past week sponsored by TC’s Office of Policy and Research, Joel Klein, New York City’s Education Chancellor, outlined gains New York City has made for its public school students via increasing mayoral control of the school system.

Klein cited gains across a wide range of academic markers, from significant increases in student math and reading scores to a surge in graduation rates after nearly 30 years of stagnation. A large part of the success, he said, was due to the Mayor’s ability to limit the power and funding of school boards, and tie the funding system to students instead of schools.

Klein acknowledged audience member Michael Rebell, the head of Teachers College’s Campaign for Educational Equity, who previously won a series of court orders against New York State to bring billions of dollars into the New York City School system. “What Michael has done is fantastic—money is extremely important to the system,” Klein said. “But it isn’t everything. What’s more important is that it is spent well.”

In particular, Klein touted a number of leadership incentive programs, such as a program that can give principals bonuses of $25,000 or more if they have an excellent record, mentor other principals and are willing to lead high-needs schools. “You’ll have some principals making more than $200,000 a year, which will increase our ability to attract and retain the best candidates,” he said. He also noted a similar program for teachers offering bonuses of up to $10,000.

There’s still work left to do, Klein said. It upsets him that tenure is awarded to 99 percent of the teachers who remain in the public schools after three years on the job. “It shouldn’t be that way,” he said. “It certainly isn’t the case at Teachers College. Tenure is something to be earned.”

In a question-and-answer session following Klein’s talk, Rebell asked the Chancellor about reports that the city’s lead teachers program was faltering. Klein said that policy results take time. “You have to create a new culture” before policies can take hold, he said.

Asked about impediments that might prevent other cities from replicating New York’s successes, Klein talked about the human element. “People make rational choices,” he said. “If pay scales are similar in successful and failing schools, most teachers are going to want to work with motivated students.” Also, he said, “policy choices that work for children aren’t always going to work for the adults. Reducing tenure is going to be controversial—I get it.”

Still, Klein said, “the best days are ahead for best practices in education.”

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