School reform’s new generation
Joel Klein in a Washington Post op ed about the wave or reformers (most of whom served under him) who are assuming major roles across the country:
Something remarkable has been happening in public education. Since the beginning of the year, the people appointed to run major school systems at the district and state levels have all come from a clearly identified reform movement that seeks to dramatically change the current system. For example:
In Chicago, J.C. Brizard has become chief executive of public schools; in New Orleans, John White is superintendent; in Newark, Cami Anderson is superintendent; in New Jersey, Chris Cerf is acting state commissioner of education. All are New York City alumni who were deeply involved in the major reforms that have been taking place under Mayor Mike Bloomberg's leadership.
In Los Angeles, John Deasy, a recent graduate of the Broad Academy, which trains superintendents with a heavy reform focus, was recently appointed superintendent. (He was superintendent in Prince George's County from 2006 to 2008.)
In Tennessee, Teach for America alums Kevin Huffman and Chris Barbic were just named to run, respectively, Tennessee's public school system and its Achievement School District for troubled urban schools.
In New York, Bloomberg's deputy mayor for education, Dennis Walcott, has taken over as chancellor, while John King, who grew up in the charter-school movement, was appointed education commissioner of New York state.
What they have in common is recognition that the status quo in public education is broken and that incremental change won't work. They are ready to challenge the heart of the educational establishment rather than tinker around its edges, which has been the hallmark of past, failed reform efforts.
This reflects a sea change. Not so long ago, people pointed to Michelle Rhee in the District and me in New York as the major "reform superintendents." When we left those positions in the past year, some asked whether it was the "end of an era" and questioned the future of education reform. What a difference a few months can make!
So what drives this new generation of reformers? In contrast to the unions, bureaucrats and other predictable apologists for the failed status quo, they believe our schools can do a whole lot better than they are doing, especially for poor kids growing up in challenged families. Sure, educating children from difficult circumstances is often much harder, but the notion that schools can get much better results with those same kids than they're now generally getting is no longer a matter of abstract debate. It's now established fact.