"A child's learning is the funtion more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Bloomberg/Klein CEO Model Flunks Test

It only takes someone who knows nothing or cares nothing about the learning needs of children to dream up this capitalist version of the principalship, where school leaders pore over endless test data most of the day looking for ways to manipulate meaningless numbers in order to project enough confidence in their bottom line to continue their bonuses and the iron-fisted control of the two-bit oligarchs who decide their futures. The American public school: meet Wall Street.

Well, the early numbers are in for those who only believe in the numbers, and Bloomberg's experiment may only be described as a bust by anyone outside the sanitized ether of the Broad-Gates think tank, where the whitest and the brightest of Harvard and Yale MBAs hatch their monstrous little ideas for poor children they only know through freshman sociology texts they once rushed through on their way to make the world safe for next generation of greed merchants.

The New York Times has the story. Here are a few of the most telling chunks:

One of Mr. Klein’s proudest achievements is luring promising candidates to the toughest schools by providing more autonomy in exchange for accountability through test scores and other data.

But an analysis by The New York Times of the city’s signature report-card system shows that schools run by graduates of the celebrated New York City Leadership Academy — which the mayor created and helped raise more than $80 million for — have not done as well as those led by experienced principals or new principals who came through traditional routes.

A separate Times analysis shows that since 2002, opening hundreds of new schools and raising salaries have swelled the principals’ payroll 43 percent after adjusting for inflation. The average salary among the current 1,500 school leaders tops $133,000, 10 percent higher than their 1,200 counterparts in 2002 in inflation-adjusted dollars, even as the median household income nationally has risen only marginally.

An average of 649 students are under each principal’s purview, compared with 879 six years ago; pay per pupil, then, has jumped to $205 from $138 in 2008 dollars.

. . . .

As New York State lawmakers consider whether to renew the 2002 mayoral control law, which expires June 30, one proposal on the table would revive the district superintendents, now largely powerless, to more closely supervise and support principals.

For all of New York’s recent focus and investment in school leadership, more than a quarter of teachers said in city surveys last spring that they did not trust their principals or consider them effective managers, and more than a third of those leaving the system cited the quality of school leadership as among the main reasons. “Perceptions of principal leadership skills are drivers of attrition,” an internal report concluded.

Teacher turnover has been higher at schools run by Leadership Academy principals — over the summer of 2007, nearly a quarter of these principals lost at least a third of their teachers, compared with 9 percent of other principals — though some see that as evidence the new leaders are shaking things up. Iris Blige, a graduate of the first class of the Leadership Academy, has seen at least eight assistant principals and dozens of teachers leave the Fordham High School of the Arts since she took over in 2004; she was the subject of an angry protest in March.

In interviews with three dozen principals, former principals and education experts, many said the newfound ability to select faculty was invaluable, but painted a portrait of a job that has grown complex and unwieldy.

. . . .

But while Ms. Gaines Pell’s school earned an A from the city this fall, The Times’s analysis shows that Leadership Academy graduates were less than half as likely to get A’s as other principals, and almost twice as likely to earn C’s or worse. Among elementary and middle-school principals on the job less than three years, Academy graduates were about a third as likely to get A’s as those who did not attend the program.

While Academy graduates do tend to be placed in some of the city’s lowest-achieving schools, the report-card system has built-in controls to account for that, emphasizing progress over performance and comparing schools with similar demographics. Still, Sandra J. Stein, chief executive of the Leadership Academy, said the cards — the city’s primary accountability measure — are not a fair gauge of her graduates because, as she put it, “it takes time to reverse a downward trend.”

. . . .

Peter McNally, executive vice president of the principals’ union — which has generally supported the mayor’s reforms — said the biggest complaint from members was “that they spend more time looking at the data than in classrooms observing and supporting instruction.” Indeed, many had deep reservations about a system in which, as one principal put it, “my report card is my boss.”

“If teaching and learning become about credits and grades, it’s not about learning,” said Jill Herman, who retired last year after three decades as a teacher, principal and network leader.

. . . .

Peter McNally, executive vice president of the principals’ union — which has generally supported the mayor’s reforms — said the biggest complaint from members was “that they spend more time looking at the data than in classrooms observing and supporting instruction.” Indeed, many had deep reservations about a system in which, as one principal put it, “my report card is my boss.”

“If teaching and learning become about credits and grades, it’s not about learning,” said Jill Herman, who retired last year after three decades as a teacher, principal and network leader.

. . . .

Elana Karopkin left Brooklyn’s Urban Assembly School for Law and Justice last summer, at 32, for a charter school group, saying she was physically and emotionally “exhausted” from what she described as a “Herculean task.”

And Michelle Harring, 62, retired last year after nearly a decade as principal of the Earth School on the Lower East Side, complaining of too much time spent “belaboring the testing statistics” or on the computer as well as bureaucratic reshufflings that left her scrambling to figure out whom to call for what.

“The job had many more pressures coming from lots of different directions, that I often felt took away from my time as a person who supported both teachers and the children in the classroom,” she explained. “I think of C.E.O.’s as people for whom the bottom lines are numbers and profit lines. I don’t think principals should be C.E.O.’s.”. . . .

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