Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Telling the Story of School Reform

Unnoticed! You’ve got to be kidding. There were articles in the Daily News and the NY Post, as well as elsewhere. This piece in Ed Week was execrable. See letters by Jane Hirschmann and David Bloomfield in response to an execrable column in EdWeek last month, in which Gina Burkhardt and Richard Lee Colvin of the Hechinger Center (which is supposed to support balanced journalism on education issues) wrote the following tripe, in sympathy with Joel Klein’s supposed difficulty to tell his side of the story in the media about his incredible successes in our schools: - Leonie Haimson

See Ednotes commentary on this article and on Richard Lee Colvin (search for articles on Colvin.) Also the Hirschmann and Bloomfield letters.

Commentary, Oct. 29, 2008:

Telling the Story of School Reform

By Gina Burkhardt & Richard Lee Colvin

The daily, unglamorous work of improving public education rarely captures headlines or generates chatter unless it fails. If the failure can be blamed on a well-paid superintendent, especially an outsider with a strong personality, so much the better. This definition of news leaves communities in the dark about the hard decisions that must be made every day on the most important contributors to learning: curriculum, teacher quality, instructional practices, and assessments. …

“Mayor Bloomberg, having secured direct oversight for the city’s schools from the New York state legislature, appointed Klein, a former federal prosecutor, as his point man. During their tenure together, they have focused on improving school leadership, increasing accountability, and giving principals more power over hiring and spending. More than 300 new schools have been created, 60 of them charter schools. Test scores are up, dropout rates down, teachers and principals are paid more, and parents’ satisfaction with their children’s schools has grown.

Yet Klein, in an interview on the Web site BigThink.com , found fault with at least one aspect of his performance. He believes he has not worked hard enough to personally tell the story of the changes in philosophy and practice that both produced results and generated controversy. It’s a lesson, he says, “I wish I had learned sooner.”

….Ambitious changes that disrupt the status quo—such as, in the case of New York, issuing letter grades for schools and negotiating a contract that reduces the role of seniority in teaching assignments—require the district leadership to step out and tell the story so that the community understands the rationale behind the decisions and the outcomes that can be expected.

“We let other people characterize the changes in ways that were both inaccurate and harmful,” the New York City chancellor said ruefully. “These things are controversial, and you’re running up against people who have very sophisticated media machines … who can be counted upon to mount an effective defense.”

The school system Klein heads is unlike any other, in size, politics, and the intensity of media scrutiny. Still, his insight that the leader of a school district has to render district change as a compelling story for parents and the community is one that other school leaders should heed….

In New York City, Mayor Bloomberg and Chancellor Klein are strong backers of charter schools, and so Klein cited the performance of those schools’ students on this year’s required math and language arts tests: Eighty-five percent of charter school students met or exceeded grade-level math standards this year, compared with 74 percent citywide and 80 percent statewide, and they also outpaced their peers citywide in language arts. “I would have thought this would be a huge story,” the chancellor said. But it passed by virtually unnoticed.”

No comments: