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Wednesday, September 28, 2005

The magic of the DOE

The best lawyer to ever run a school system

This is from Wake Up Call, a new education blog

The Emperor's New Clothes Re-Dressed

Chancellor Klein has given himself superb grades for his package of school "reforms." Shock and awe meets autumn high jinks!

Teachers and principals share an almost universal outrage at the mean-spiritedness and climate of loathing that Klein and his wrecking crew have visited from top down upon the school system. To him, the dignity of professional educators is a collective bargaining perk that he begrudges. Educational researchers and historians have nearly to an individual protested the deceit and ignorance of his once welcomed reforms.

Klein insists that it is managerial prerogative to lock out educators from their own profession. It is a profession that he is not embarrassed not to share as he commands it. He would rather break chops than break bread with educators who must now look down to see their bosses above them. Their counsel is neither sought nor tolerated. They are given no knowledge of what they must do until they are condemned for not doing it. Virtually every talented veteran teacher and principal alike, eligible to retire, is bailing out with a deep cleansing breath as soon as possible. They are united in suffering a horrid spiritual fatigue.

Klein's work is all about sound bites and sound stage. It is about performance art, not the art of performance. All his appeals to the public trust are plays on words: accountability, empowerment, standards, professional development, standards, parental engagement.

This is not the result of a turf war between management and "special interests" like children and unions. In the past, labor ( such as teachers with 200 college credits) and management could be adversaries without being antagonists, From conflict came wholesome collusion. The dynamic tension was healthy. All that has been replaced by an absolutism and repression that practically every school employee, including principals, will admit to off the record.

When Klein came on board, teachers, administrators and parents were optimistic. It hardly mattered that the band of attorneys setting educational policy had not themselves ever been imbedded in the classroom. We all shared the thrilling vision of a rehabilitated Department of Education. Change was desperately overdue. The old order had to be disarticulated.

But no sooner had Klein taken over and his policies taken off they should have been taken away.

His promised model of answerable corporate efficiency delivered nothing more in the way of renaissance than a retrograde hostile takeover. Under previous chancellors, scandal took cat- naps. Under Klein, scandal is an insomniac. But it is not a scandal that can be indicted. The racketeering is in the attitude.

Klein isn't driven by sentimental hangups about education being anything more than another numbers operation, like managing a collection agency or ambulance chasing. His dollar divas have so risen to the bottom-line that they have found a way to streamline management by bloating it more. Hundreds of new supervisors, and a dozen new job titles, have been pulled out of a six-figured hat. They were hired to count paper clips so that principals could be freed to push papers. No-bid contracts, costing but hardly worth many dozens of millions, have been awarded to foreign staff developers whose programs have been discredited by experts and experience.
Lies told loud, incessantly, and boldly can echo like truth. It is not surprising that Klein's self-congratulation has the ring of veracity.

He claims to have "replaced the politically controlled...system with a streamlined regional structure." Actually he has destroyed the final vestiges of meritocracy and returned the schools to the pre-civil service era of raw patronage. Supervisors are appointed with no competition and no oversight. Klein's "regional offices" are incommunicado with the community. There is no phone service. All business is transacted by e-mail. All the historical lines of communication have been shut down. There is mass and pervasive alienation among all constituencies: administrators, teachers, parents, and others .The majority of principals in the middle-schools of the best-performing district in the city recently retired en masse in declared disgust.

Klein commends himself for having restructured "special education." In fact he has gutted it. He has abolished all "educational evaluators" , who delivered vital testing and placement services. He then released children with special needs into a population where they will be deprived of support..He has provoked litigation.
His mandated curriculum, uniform and delivered lockstep with no flexibility for learning needs or teaching styles, has been condemned from all quarters except his cabinet. By following it religiously, schools are covering more butt than curriculum.

Klein touts his dissolution of "large, unproductive schools." All the evidence shows is that he has thereby created several smaller unproductive schools. His proud achievements on issues of "school choice", leadership training, professional development, and summer school, are considered bogus by most educators.

Klein's signature tune is the standardized test. Here too most experts are skeptical of their soundness in both conception and interpretation. These tests may have been cooked up by publishers awarded no-bid contracts to devise exams that lend themselves to favorable statistical spin-doctoring.

The chancellor celebrates the inroads he has made in school safety. Many serious incidents are unreported by victims who fear administrative reprisal for calling attention to endemic problems. It is common for assaults to be demoted into the category of "harassment." There are more safety agents at their duty stations in our schools than soldiers in many nations.

Special effects are the new mark of the educational bureaucracy. They have long been widespread in the movie and embalming industries. Cars can jump across canyons. Corpses can emerge from wood chippers with facial expressions suggestive of lottery winners. And thanks to the special effects of language, the public school system can rise from the dead and the public will think Klein is a reformer. It's all perception. He can dive into an empty pool and make a splash. Perception takes on a life all its own. Tragically for our children, Klein's defining moments will never add up to a finest hour.

posted by Steve @ 4:58:00 PM

4:58:00 PM

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