Joel Klein on the Political Forces Preventing Reform

In a lengthy article in The Atlantic Monthly, former NYC Chancellor Joel Klein writes that New York’s system has seen dramatic reforms over the past nine years, but “is still not remotely where it needs to be.” Klein points to several inhibitors — unions, politicians, bureaucrats, and vendors — and characterizes them as well-organized and funded where reformers are scattered and weak. “Having spent eight years trying to ignite a revolution in New York City’s schools under [Mayor] Bloomberg’s leadership,” writes Klein, “I am convinced that without a major realignment of political forces, we won’t get the dramatic improvements our children need.” At present, the education system serves the needs of adult stakeholders politically and financially. Klein says he often hears that complex systems don’t change easily, impatience is immature, and directly challenging the educational establishment is not a winning strategy. Klein disagrees.

Several developments, however, give him hope. The adoption by a majority of states of the Common Core Standards, and federal funding of the design of aligned tests, are two promising occurrences. That said, “we still won’t get to where we need to go unless we’re prepared to do three difficult, but essential, things: rebuild our entire K-12 system on a platform of accountability; attract more top-flight recruits into teaching; and use technology very differently to improve instruction.” [PEN weekly]

To read the article and watch associated video interviews, see