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Capturing The Current School Reform Moment ... Down To The Granular Level


Though I usually find articles in The Nation tiresome and predictable even when I agree with them, I knew I was going to like LynNell Hancock's recent article on school reform in New York City when she started out making fun of the word "granular," which is currently being over-used in certain circles when it comes to describing detailed data.

But it's not just that...

Most of all, Hancock does a great job capturing -- and making good fun of -- the current moment in urban school reform, both in New York and elsewhere, without going too far over the top with criticism of things like Klein (and Gates') commodification of the small schools idea, the policy churn that has marked Klein and others' tenures at the head of big city schools, and the obsession with data (they're going to five tests a year next year).

The fact that Hancock writes so well probably helps, calling Klein's latest reorganization plan "decentralization in drag" and comparing schools in New York to Radio Shak outlets. So too that she gives appropriate credit for the influx of cash that has accompanied Klein's tenure and his other successes.

Hancock also gets some great quotes, including schools chancellor Klein saying that shared decision-making "marks all unsuccessful school reforms," and gathers together some eye-popping numbers: $270 million in no-bid outside contracts awarded by Klein, a $7..6 million contract to Platform Learning that has already paid out $62 million.

If true, these figures suggest that the focus on accountability has gotten stuck on the schools, but not on the budget. And apparently New Yorkers are increasingly disgruntled about the whole thing. Who knew? A majority of them favoring a return to an elected board, and concerns about the current direction have brought together teacher and community groups that typically have fought against each other for power.

Hancock's proposed solutions are nothing to write home about, and at times the heavy hand of The Nation's anti-accountability, pro-democracy ideology comes through a little too heavily. Perhaps I'll have more qualms after the Diet Coke wears off. Until then, I'd say check it out -- even if you don't care a whit about New York City schools or agree with most of what comes out in The Nation.

If you have a subscription, go here. If you don't, go here or here.

Still not satisfied? Well, you can read a December 2006 hotseat interview I did with Hancock about her work, the state of education writing, and all the rest here.

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