I have tried to stay clear of education policy issues in this blog. However, I feel the need to post an opposing voice to a recent post from Jim Horn at Schools Matter attacking the recent announcements by NYC Mayor Mike Bloomberg and Schools Chancellor Joel Klein regarding various reform initiatives they are taking. I generally agree with what Jim has to say – he is a powerful voice for radical education, but I think he is missing some of the radical potential of these initiatives. (Originally submitted as a comment on Schools Matter):
I’ve been reading your blog for a couple months now and usually appreciate and am with you on most things. I think you’re a little quick to jump the gun here though.
First – the facts. The “private management companies” will be non-profits. This isn’t a KBR situation. Also, Bloomberg announced this is his his State of the City address the previous day (though didn’t go into all the details).
Second – I think the revolutionary part of what Bloomberg/Klein are doing has been lost – the Fair Student Funding Initiative. This means a school like mine in the Bronx that serves the students who need the most will be seeing more money at the expense of schools that tend to serve the Middle Class and Upper Class in nicer part of Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Queens.
Third – yes, Empowerment Schools can outsource services to other companies. But Empowerment Schools can also partner with community organizations and receive funds that are unavailable to most schools. I teach in an Empowerment School, and we get somewhere in the range of 25%-50% of our total budget from our partner organization – FEGS. Among other things, this allows us to increase our support staff (we have a full time college placement specialist, just like the top private schools) and we can provide a comprehensive after school program. Not to mention the fact that literally every request I have made for classroom materials – from technology to books to curricular materials – I have received.
Are there flaws with the Tucker model of education reform? Of course, and you’ve highlighted a lot of them. But with that said, there are a lot of benefits, which I am seeing first hand (and believe me, we are not a KIPP like school – I’d like to think people like Paulo Freire and Myles Horton would be proud of most of what they saw at Bronx Lab).
Maybe I am being a little naive here – but I always come back to the fact that the Bronx has something like a 30% graduation rate. What has been done in the past hasn’t worked. Isn’t it worth trying something new?
Update: In the interest of full disclosure, I feel I should add that my wife works in the Press Department of the NYC Department of Education.