Survey: Klein, DOE Falling Short
Among the top level cabinet posts yet to be filled as of December 11 by President-elect Barack Obama is Secretary of Education. After six years as chancellor of the New York City public school system, the nation's largest, Joel Klein has been mentioned as a potential nominee.
Under Chancellor Klein, schools, teachers, principals and students have all come under scrutiny. Now, Klein will most likely be graded too, not only on his qualifications for national office, but in his current position as mayoral control over public schools comes under review. The state law authorizing mayoral control expires at the end of the 2008-09 school year in June.
By at least one account, Klein has a lot of ground to make up if he is to receive a passing grade.
According to a survey by the United Federation of Teachers (UFT), five out of six teachers in New York City's public schools said Klein and the Department of Education (DOE) are not providing schools and teachers with the resources and supports they need to provide high quality education.
Using a format similar to the DOE's own Learning Environment Survey, used to rate schools and principals, the UFT sent out questionnaires to its 100,000 members at the city's 1,450 public schools at the end of the 2007-08 school year in June.
The 15-question survey was tabulated by the American Arbitration Association and responded to by 61,257 teachers. Among its findings:
•85 percent said they do not believe Klein provides the supports and resources needed for success in the classroom.
•82 percent said Klein and the DOE are not focused on educating the whole child and 85 percent said Klein's emphasis on student testing has failed to improve education in their schools.
•80 percent said Klein is not doing enough to promote order and discipline in schools.
•84 percent said Klein does not work to support school efforts to reduce class size and provide educators with the tools they need to teach children.
•80 percent said Klein fails to prioritize the learning needs of all students, including English Language Learners (ELLs) and special needs students.
•76 percent faulted Klein's efforts to invite parents and community members to play meaningful roles in setting goals and making important decisions about the education of their children.
•85 percent faulted Klein's management and ability to keep the school system running smoothly while 75 percent said he does not communicate a clear vision for it.
In a November 12 blog on The Nation Web site, Habiba Alcindor wrote, "...Parents, teachers, and education administrators overwhelmingly denounce the market based solutions that dominate the Klein-led Department of Education. They do not wish to see Klein's model applied on a nationwide basis."
A product of local schools in Queens and William Cullen Bryant H.S., Klein was born Oct. 25, 1946 in New York City and graduated from Columbia University and Harvard Law School. He served as an assistant attorney general at the Justice Department and deputy counsel for former President Bill Clinton in the White House.