The Fragile Success of School Reform in the Bronx
At the end of this email is a very long and fascinating story (I assume the cover story) in this coming Sunday's NYT Magazine about M.S. 223, a public middle school in the South Bronx, which has undergone a remarkable transformation under Ramón González, who sounds like a fantastic principal. The school was a new one started under Joel Klein, is mostly staffed by dynamic TFAers, the best teacher is a KIPP LA alum, and the school's strategy is modeled closely after the "no excuses" model pioneered by high-performing charter schools like KIPP – yet the author of the article (and González, to some extent) still manage to trash Klein, TFA and charter schools. Go figure… Regardless of what they say, however, the facts speak for themselves, and it's tremendously exciting to see the proven no excuses strategies starting to be adopted in regular public schools. In spite of its many flaws and biases, this article is well worth reading and thinking about:
González has been principal of M.S. 223, on 145th Street near Willis Avenue, since the school's creation in September 2003. One of the first schools opened by Joel Klein, the New York City schools chancellor at the time, 223 was intended to help replace a notoriously bad junior high school that the city had decided to shut down. Thirteen percent of its first incoming class of sixth graders were at grade level in math and just 10 percent were at grade level in English. Last year, after seven years under González, 60 percent of its students tested at or above grade level in math and 30 percent in English. Not something to brag about in most school districts, but those numbers make 223 one of the top middle schools in the South Bronx. According to its latest progress report from the Department of Education, which judges a school's growth against a peer group with similar demographics, 223 is the 10th-best middle school in the entire city.
…In certain respects, 223 is a monument to Klein's success: empower the right principals to run their own schools and watch them bloom. Thanks to Klein, González has been able to avoid having teachers foisted on him on the basis of seniority. He has been able to create his own curriculums, micromanage his students' days (within the narrow confines of the teachers' union contract, anyway) and spend his annual budget of $4 million on the personnel, programs and materials he deems most likely to help his kids.