Though I usually find articles in The Nation tiresome and
predictable (even when I agree with them)
, I knew I was going to like
LynNell Hancock's recent article on school reform in New York City when
she started out making fun of the word "granular," which is currently
being over-used in certain circles when it comes to describing detailed
What's your favorite bit of consultant-speak, and what do you think about going to a more decentralized (ie, school- and principal-led), assessment-driven model (five times a year) like they have in NYC?
of all, Hancock does a great job capturing -- and making good fun of --
the current moment in urban school reform, both in New York and
elsewhere, without going too far over the top with criticism of things
like Klein (and Gates') commodification of the small schools idea, the
policy churn that has marked Klein and others' tenures at the head of
big city schools, and the obsession with data (they're going to five
tests a year next year).
The fact that Hancock writes so well probably helps, calling Klein's
latest reorganization plan "decentralization in drag" and comparing
schools in New York to Radio Shak outlets. So too that she gives
appropriate credit for the influx of cash that has accompanied Klein's
tenure and his other successes.
Hancock also gets some great quotes, including schools chancellor
Klein saying that shared decision-making "marks all unsuccessful school
reforms," and gathers together some eye-popping numbers: $270 million
in no-bid outside contracts awarded by Klein, a $7..6 million contract
to Platform Learning that has already paid out $62 million.
If true, these figures suggest that the focus on accountability has
gotten stuck on the schools, but not on the budget. And apparently New
Yorkers are increasingly disgruntled about the whole thing. Who knew? A
majority of them favoring a return to an elected board, and concerns
about the current direction have brought together teacher and community
groups that typically have fought against each other for power.
Hancock's proposed solutions are nothing to write home about, and at
times the heavy hand of The Nation's anti-accountability, pro-democracy
ideology comes through a little too heavily. Perhaps I'll have more
qualms after the Diet Coke wears off. Until then, I'd say check it out
-- even if you don't care a whit about New York City schools or agree
with most of what comes out in The Nation.
Still not satisfied? Well, you can read a December 2006 hotseat
interview I did with Hancock about her work, the state of education
writing, and all the rest here.
Filed under: The World Outside CPS