« COWabungle | Main | skoolboy Throws Down the Class Size Gauntlet »

Talk amongst Yourselves


skoolboy was having a spirited discussion with some of his students the other night, who have taught in school systems such as New York City, Detroit, LA, New Orleans, Washington, DC, Newark, Oakland, and elsewhere. The topic of the day: what's the worst-managed big-city school system--and why? Readers, what do you think? Discuss.


my nearby urban district is definitely the worst.

Really, that's a tough question. I see the system in which I work on a daily basis, and I don't always see its reality reflected in the press--although they've made great strides over the last few years.

Really, when you're a teacher and you find blatantly preposterous statements in the NY Times, you have to wonder about the reporting from other cities. Who knows whether or not they're telling the truth, or whether they've sent anyone to find out what was really happening. Certainly it's easier to just ask City Hall what's going on and write whatever they tell you.

NYC Educator makes a good point. It's very hard to know what to believe about school districts that you haven't lived in and seen the insides of yourself. Many educators I know are very skeptical of the accounts they read of the districts in which they work, because their personal experiences don't line up with what the media report.

I posed the question not because I think there's a right answer, but rather because I am interested in what kinds of issues or vignettes people point at to support the claim that a district is poorly-run.

Right here in NYC we had 35 years of local school districts (k-8) with varying degrees of management styles, though all were very heavily influenced by local politicians who were making sure to grab their patronnage. At the same time, the high schools and special ed were managed centrally. I wonder if anyone did a study of this hodge podge which seemed to work in some places and not in others. But ask anyone. The centrally managed bureacracy was often very bad.

Today we have the mayoral control issue under debate because if it is not renewed we go back to the old system in 2009 that is very much condemned. I don't think it was impossible to fix that system which gave parents and teachers a real local anchor but that will never happen.

Really, there are so many good candidates. Detroit certainly looks horrible--but in the midst of so many other problems in the city, it is hard to tell. Cleveland has a history of interesting record keeping (marking kids present if their teachers sent their assignments home while they were out, dropping kids from their rolls if they had 5 consecutive unexcused absences). But they have a new Superintendent and I give him kudos for inviting a team from AIR to come in following a student shooting and evaluate the quality of their discipline, preventive and mental health responses. It didn't look good, but it's now public information and there is some reason to hope that it might be acted upon.

But, my nominee for mismanagement prize of the year would have to be LAUSD. I am not at all conversant with their inner workings, but I have been watching an interesting situation that has gone on far to long. One of the elementary schools (Dolores Street--google it and you can find your way to a website put up by the teachers), a classic case of poor students with minimal achievement, has been engaged in a highly public battle between their principal and the teachers. Parents and students appear to be divided. Teachers claim the principal is a "lemon," as she is at her third school in three years. The school on the other hand, has gone through principals about as rapidly. The teacher's union is supporting the teachers and call for the firing of the principal. It appears that in LAUSD, principals also have union representation. The principal's union is backing the principal.

The teacher's website includes a complete timeline of offenses committed by the principal, but most are highly subjective accounts of things like poor attitude, not passing along paperwork as promptly as teachers would like and not slotting in the teachers' preferred substitutes. All of this has resulted in extreme distress and harm to the children. The teachers describe themselves as having given the new principal every opportunity to prove herself (after meeting with her before the school year began to find out why she had been removed from her prior position).

The principal's position--stated by her union--is that she took a hard line against teacher tardiness and was serious about raising test scores. In fact, scores did go up, for the first time in several years--a fact that the teachers attribute to their own efforts.

The teachers have done such things as picket outside the school in protest of the principal (the principal explained to the students that the circus was in town than they might see some clowns outside), engage parents and students in a sleepover in order to greet the principal with protests when the principal returned last month--and put up the website.

Hard to guess which side is more wrong--but the absence of adult leadership is striking, as well as the fact that all of this adult misbehavior is taking place in plain view of the children. Is there no one in LAUSD with the temerity and the authority to say, "No, we are not going to go there?"

Contracts or no, it is high time someone offered every dissatisfied teacher at the school a chance to transfer, and the principal an opportunity to select a new staff. She should then be copiously supervised, mentored and supported to ensure her success or removal. Someone has to claim responsibility for educating those children--and setting a respectful tone for education.

Teaching in NYC and having had kids in Kansas City MO I would have to go with KC. There are at least successful schools in NYC even if they are few in number. Further, in NYC there are attempts being made to reform even if the attempts are mostly doing anything but spending money.

As a side note I teach in an un-air conditioned classroom. Who is capable of learning with sweat literally dripping on their paper?

Comments are now closed for this post.


Recent Comments

  • Eulerizeit: Teaching in NYC and having had kids in Kansas City read more
  • Margo/Mom: Really, there are so many good candidates. Detroit certainly looks read more
  • Norm: Right here in NYC we had 35 years of local read more
  • skoolboy: NYC Educator makes a good point. It's very hard to read more
  • NYC Educator: Really, that's a tough question. I see the system in read more




Technorati search

» Blogs that link here


8th grade retention
Fordham Foundation
The New Teacher Project
Tim Daly
absent teacher reserve
absent teacher reserve

accountability in Texas
accountability systems in education
achievement gap
achievement gap in New York City
acting white
AERA annual meetings
AERA conference
Alexander Russo
Algebra II
American Association of University Women
American Education Research Associatio
American Education Research Association
American Educational Research Journal
American Federation of Teachers
Andrew Ho
Art Siebens
Baltimore City Public Schools
Barack Obama
Bill Ayers
black-white achievement gap
books on educational research
boy crisis
brain-based education
Brian Jacob
bubble kids
Building on the Basics
Cambridge Education
carnival of education
Caroline Hoxby
Caroline Hoxby charter schools
cell phone plan
charter schools
Checker Finn
Chicago shooting
Chicago violence
Chris Cerf
class size
Coby Loup
college access
cool people you should know
credit recovery
curriculum narrowing
Dan Willingham
data driven
data-driven decision making
data-driven decision-making
David Cantor
Dean Millot
demographics of schoolchildren
Department of Assessment and Accountability
Department of Education budget
Diplomas Count
disadvantages of elite education
do schools matter
Doug Ready
Doug Staiger
dropout factories
dropout rate
education books
education policy
education policy thinktanks
educational equity
educational research
educational triage
effects of neighborhoods on education
effects of No Child Left Behind
effects of schools
effects of Teach for America
elite education
Everyday Antiracism
excessed teachers
exit exams
experienced teachers
Fordham and Ogbu
Fordham Foundation
Frederick Douglass High School
Gates Foundation
gender and education
gender and math
gender and science and mathematics
gifted and talented
gifted and talented admissions
gifted and talented program
gifted and talented programs in New York City
girls and math
good schools
graduate student union
graduation rate
graduation rates
guns in Chicago
health benefits for teachers
High Achievers
high school
high school dropouts
high school exit exams
high school graduates
high school graduation rate
high-stakes testing
high-stakes tests and science
higher ed
higher education
highly effective teachers
Houston Independent School District
how to choose a school
incentives in education
Institute for Education Sciences
is teaching a profession?
is the No Child Left Behind Act working
Jay Greene
Jim Liebman
Joel Klein
John Merrow
Jonah Rockoff
Kevin Carey
KIPP and boys
KIPP and gender
Lake Woebegon
Lars Lefgren
leaving teaching
Leonard Sax
Liam Julian

Marcus Winters
math achievement for girls
meaning of high school diploma
Mica Pollock
Michael Bloomberg
Michelle Rhee
Michelle Rhee teacher contract
Mike Bloomberg
Mike Klonsky
Mike Petrilli
narrowing the curriculum
National Center for Education Statistics Condition of Education
new teachers
New York City
New York City bonuses for principals
New York City budget
New York City budget cuts
New York City Budget cuts
New York City Department of Education
New York City Department of Education Truth Squad
New York City ELA and Math Results 2008
New York City gifted and talented
New York City Progress Report
New York City Quality Review
New York City school budget cuts
New York City school closing
New York City schools
New York City small schools
New York City social promotion
New York City teacher experiment
New York City teacher salaries
New York City teacher tenure
New York City Test scores 2008
New York City value-added
New York State ELA and Math 2008
New York State ELA and Math Results 2008
New York State ELA and Math Scores 2008
New York State ELA Exam
New York state ELA test
New York State Test scores
No Child Left Behind
No Child Left Behind Act
passing rates
picking a school
press office
principal bonuses
proficiency scores
push outs
qualitative educational research
qualitative research in education
quitting teaching
race and education
racial segregation in schools
Randall Reback
Randi Weingarten
Randy Reback
recovering credits in high school
Rick Hess
Robert Balfanz
Robert Pondiscio
Roland Fryer
Russ Whitehurst
Sarah Reckhow
school budget cuts in New York City
school choice
school effects
school integration
single sex education
small schools
small schools in New York City
social justice teaching
Sol Stern
Stefanie DeLuca
stereotype threat
talented and gifted
talking about race
talking about race in schools
Teach for America
teacher effectiveness
teacher effects
teacher quailty
teacher quality
teacher tenure
teachers and obesity
Teachers College
teachers versus doctors
teaching as career
teaching for social justice
teaching profession
test score inflation
test scores
test scores in New York City
testing and accountability
Texas accountability
The No Child Left Behind Act
The Persistence of Teacher-Induced Learning Gains
thinktanks in educational research
Thomas B. Fordham Foundation
Tom Kane
University of Iowa
Urban Institute study of Teach for America
Urban Institute Teach for America
value-added assessment
Wendy Kopp
women and graduate school science and engineering
women and science
women in math and science
Woodrow Wilson High School