Monday, January 03, 2011

Thank you Joel

Joel Klein, for the past 8½ years as the longest-serving NYC schools chancellor, he had the hardest job in America, trying to improve the largest school system in the country (by far: 2% of U.S. schoolchildren) – and one of the most broken, dysfunctional, and unaccountable.  Thank goodness he had a bold and supportive mayor, plus mayoral control, but even so it was an enormous, mostly thankless task, made massively more difficult by the array of entrenched adult interests who like things just the way they are and, prior to Bloomberg and Klein, had an unblemished track record of resisting change and driving out every previous chancellor after a short period.


Every day, Klein threw himself into this job with incredible passion, urgency and every ounce of energy he could muster – to great effect.  While the results weren't as great as he or any of us hoped for, it's important to keep in mind that changing the trajectory of such a behemoth is like steering a supertanker – it just takes time.  NYC schools are, overall, MUCH better than they were in July 2002 when Klein took office (see the first part of Klein's letter, attached, which does a nice job of summarizing the progress), and the trajectory is clearly in the right direction, which I'm confident will become more evident with the passage of time.


Did he screw up sometimes?  You bet.  But he knew mistakes would happen given how quickly he was trying to move – my favorite quote of his was, "It's better to ask for forgiveness than permission."  Indeed!


Every child and every ed reformer in the country owes him a debt of gratitude.  Thank you Joel!

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