GOOD

Will Education Reform Continue Without Rhee and Klein?

The recent resignations of two school chiefs in New York and Washington, D.C. raise questions about the future of education reform in their absence.


The recent resignations of high-profile school chiefs Joel Klein in New York and Michelle Rhee in Washington, D.C., raise questions about the future of education reform at a time when school districts across the U.S. are adopting policies the two icons of change pioneered.

Klein stepped down on Tuesday after eight years at the helm of the nation’s largest school system, while Rhee left Washington last month after District of Columbia Mayor Adrian Fenty lost his re-election bid. Klein and Rhee have championed holding teachers and principals accountable for student performance, weakening union protections and closing down failing schools.

Klein called his overhauls “the most far-reaching” in the country at a conference Wednesday in New York.

Frederick M. Hess, director of education policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, said that what happens next will depend on replacements for the two leaders and the agenda of the mayors who hire them.

“The departure of two of the most visible break-the-china leaders is important and it raises the question of staying power—whether successors can build on these efforts, or whether they’ll reverse course and opt for something more conventional, is going to be a big story over the next two years,” Hess said.

New York, Washington and Chicago, where CEO Ron Huberman resigned last week, have operated as Petri dishes for national education reforms in the past decade.

Huberman’s predecessor in Chicago, Arne Duncan, is now the U.S. Secretary of Education, and his encouragement of small schools in the country’s third-largest school district led to a new wave of high school reform that Huberman had vowed to continue.

Changes championed by these leaders include incentive pay for teachers based on test scores, greater school choice and new data systems that track the performance of students, teachers and schools. Research on these steps, which have proved unpopular with teachers’ unions, has been mixed.

Still, policymakers intent on changing the way public schools operate have adopted many of the overhauls across the country.

“I think the legacy of both Michelle and Joel is that tough but necessary decisions yield results,” said Tim Daly, the president of The New Teacher Project, which works with school districts across the country to train and hire effective teachers. “Michelle and Joel did things that were not only necessary but overdue.”

Klein, a former antitrust lawyer for the U.S. Justice Department, will be replaced by publishing executive Cathleen Black. Klein, appointed in 2002 by Mayor Michael Bloomberg, will be remembered for reshaping the system’s massive central bureaucracy of 32 local districts. He garnered both praise and protest for his support of charter schools and for his efforts to close 91 failing schools and replace them with 474 smaller ones.

Klein also increased teacher salaries by over 40 percent in exchange for greater accountability, and he linked school funding to student characteristics like their low-income or special-education status. He also started a controversial system of giving report cards to schools based on their test-score progress.


Rhee, who stepped down last month after three and a half years, made national headlines by firing 241 teachers based on their students’ test scores. She also fired or didn’t renew contracts for at least two dozen principals, including one at the school her daughter attended. Rhee took the blame for Fenty’s failed re-election bid.

“I think many of the reforms that Rhee and, in particular, Klein put in place will stand the test of time and hold up pretty well moving forward,” said Michael Casserly, executive director of the Council of the Great City Schools, a coalition of 66 of the country’s largest urban school systems. “Time will tell.”

Already, the measures are gaining traction beyond New York and Washington.

For example, Race to the Top, a federal competition that awarded money to states with the best plans to overhaul their education systems, prompted many states to adopt new data systems that will use student test scores to grade schools and teachers.

Both Klein and Rhee say their achievements include higher graduation rates and increased test scores, although critics question how accurately the statistics convey the true story and whether the scores are inflated.

What happens in the immediate future will depend on how new leaders in these cities respond to their mayors, who have the power to hire and fire the school chiefs.

“A lot of support for mayoral control has been tied to the notion that mayors can provide stability,” said Jeffrey R. Henig, a professor of education at Teachers College, Columbia University. “The D.C. case most clearly—and Chicago as well—shows that mayors can introduce instability as well.”

The upcoming departures of Fenty and Chicago Mayor Richard Daley mean that the tenure of their school leaders is also over. Henig added that “mayoral control is not a reliable solution to the problems of large city districts.”

In New York, Bloomberg handpicked Black, chairwoman of Hearst, to take over Klein’s job, and in Washington, Kaya Henderson, Rhee’s deputy, has been named as interim superintendent.

Like Klein, Black has no background in education, and Rhee only had minimal teaching experience before becoming D.C. Schools Chancellor in 2007. Critics of mayoral control worry that politicians will appoint non-educators to lead school systems, something that proponents such as Bloomberg see as an asset rather than a liability. They also fear that stakeholder voices—students, parents, teachers, community members—will go unheard in a system where the mayor holds the reins.

Pedro Noguera, an urban sociologist and professor at New York University, said there are lessons to be learned from Klein and Rhee’s tenures about the limitations of mayoral control and the mistake of seeing it as a panacea.

“Even if you are doing the right things, if you don’t engage with people in your communities, you will spend your time fighting,” said Noguera, whose research takes him into hundreds of urban schools. “How many shoes can you step on?”

Photo (cc) via Flickr user The White House.

Sarah Butrymowicz and Sarah Garland both write for the Hechinger Report.

This article was produced by the Hechinger Report. The nonprofit, nonpartisan education news outlet is affiliated with the Hechinger Institute on Education and the Media at Teachers College, Columbia University.

Justin Snider and Liz Willen contributed reporting to this article.

Articles
via Gage Skidmore / Flickr and nrkbeta / flickr

The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) dropped a bombshell on Tuesday, announcing it had over 900 emails that White House aide Stephen Miller sent to former Breitbart writer and editor Katie McHugh.

According to the SPLC, in the emails, Miller aggressively "promoted white nationalist literature, pushed racist immigration stories and obsessed over the loss of Confederate symbols after Dylann Roof's murderous rampage."

Keep Reading Show less
Politics
via Around the NFL / Twitter

After three years on the sidelines, Colin Kapernick will be working out for multiple NFL teams on Saturday, November 16 at the Atlanta Falcons facility.

The former 49er quarterback who inflamed the culture wars by peacefully protesting against social injustice during the national anthem made the announcement on Twitter Tuesday.

Kaepernick is scheduled for a 15-minute on-field workout and an interview that will be recorded and sent to all 32 teams. The Miami Dolphins, Dallas Cowboys, and Detroit Lions are expected to have representatives in attendance.

RELATED: Joe Namath Says Colin Kaepernick And Eric Reid Should Be Playing In The NFL

"We like our quarterback situation right now," Miami head coach, Brian Flores said. "We're going to do our due diligence."

NFL Insider Steve Wyche believes that the workout is the NFL's response to multiple teams inquiring about the 32-year-old quarterback. A league-wide workout would help to mitigate any potential political backlash that any one team may face for making an overture to the controversial figure.

Kapernick is an unrestricted free agent (UFA) so any team could have reached out to him. But it's believed that the interested teams are considering him for next season.

RELATED: Video of an Oakland train employee saving a man's life is so insane, it looks like CGI

Earlier this year, Kaepernick and Carolina Panthers safety Eric Reid reached a financial settlement with the league in a joint collusion complaint. The players alleged that the league conspired to keep them out after they began kneeling during the national anthem in 2016.

Before the 2019 season, Kaepernick posted a video of himself working out on twitter to show he was in great physical condition and ready to play.

Kaepnick took the 49ers to the Super Bowl in 2012 and the NFC Championship game in 2013.

He has the 23rd-highest career passer rating in NFL history, the second-best interception rate, and the ninth-most rushing yards per game of any quarterback ever. In 2016, his career to a sharp dive and he won only of 11 games as a starter.

Culture
NASA

Four black women, Engineers Christine Darden and Mary Jackson, mathematician Katherine Johnson, and computer programmer Dorothy Vaughan, worked as "human computers" at NASA during the Space Race, making space travel possible through their complex calculations. Jackson, Johnson, and Vaughn all played a vital role in helping John Glenn become the first American to orbit the Earth.

They worked behind the scenes, but now they're getting the credit they deserve as their accomplishments are brought to the forefront. Their amazing stories were detailed in the book "Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race" by Margot Lee Shetterly, which was later turned into a movie. (Darden was not featured in the movie, but was in the book). Johnson has a building at NASA named after her, and a street in front of NASA's Washington D.C. headquarters was renamed "Hidden Figures Way."

Keep Reading Show less
Science

Between Alexa, Siri, and Google, artificial intelligence is quickly changing us and the way we live. We no longer have to get up to turn on the lights or set the thermostat, we can find the fastest route to work with a click, and, most importantly, tag our friends in pictures. But interacting with the world isn't the only thing AI is making easier – now we can use it save the world, too.

Keep Reading Show less
Good News
Courtesy of John S. Hutton, MD

A report from Common Sense Media found the average child between the ages of 0 and 8 has 2 hours and 19 minutes of screen time a day, and 35% of their screen time is on a mobile device. A new study conducted by the Cincinnati Children's Hospital published in the journal, JAMA Pediatrics, found exactly what all that screen time is doing to your kid, or more specifically, your kid's developing brain. It turns out, more screen time contributes to slower brain development.

First, researchers gave the kids a test to determine how much and what kind of screen time they were getting. Were they watching fighting or educational content? Were they using it alone or with parents? Then, researchers examined the brains of children aged 3 to 5 year olds by using MRI scans. Forty seven brain-healthy children who hadn't started kindergarten yet were used for the study.

They found that kids who had more than one hour of screen time a day without parental supervision had lower levels of development in their brain's white matter, which is important when it comes to developing cognitive skills, language, and literacy.

Keep Reading Show less
Health