Retiring NYC Schools Chief Reflects On His Tenure
MELISSA BLOCK, Host:
Joel Klein joins us from the New York City Department of Education. Welcome to the program.
JOEL KLEIN: Great to be with you, Melissa.
BLOCK: And Chancellor Klein, you have made performance assessment and ranking of teachers one of the hallmarks of your time as chancellor. I want you to give us your own self-assessment or report card. What grade would you give yourself in your time as chancellor?
KLEIN: Well, one of the local newspapers gave me an A grade today.
BLOCK: You'll take that?
KLEIN: I'll live with it. We've made real progress in the city. Probably the most telling statistic is that in the last eight years, graduation rates have gone up consistently, and I think that reflective of a system that's doing a much better job right now.
BLOCK: And then came this summer, and New York state said those scores had been wrongly inflated, the exams were too easy. And when they recalibrated things, lo and behold, those passing rates plunged back about 25 percent, back to about where they were when you came in, and the racial achievement gap was as wide as ever. So what does that say to you? What happened there?
KLEIN: In addition, on the national tests - and nobody thinks they're inflated, they're called the gold standard - in the national tests, there are four of them, fourth and eighth grade, and we, all in, made 29 points' worth of progress. Twenty-nine points is about three years' worth of learning.
BLOCK: But Chancellor Klein, if you look at that, that racial achievement gap being about 30 points different between white and minority kids. Doesn't that say to you something's not working here, hasn't been working - didn't work before and is still not working now?
KLEIN: Second of all, on the graduation rates, our graduation rates for African-Americans and Latinos closed the gap - again, not remotely all the way - but closed the gap with our white and Asian students, and the number of African-Americans and Latinos going to the City University went up substantially.
BLOCK: Joel Klein, before you took over as New York City school chancellor, you were a publishing executive. You headed the anti-trust division at the Justice Department. Your successor in New York, Cathleen Black, is the chairwoman of Hearst Magazines. Like you, she's coming in with no experience in education. Is there a downside there, do you think?
KLEIN: It's got to be about whether students and teachers and administrators are performing. That's a core principle of accountability that applies in the business community, and it applies as well in the academic communities.
BLOCK: Well, Chancellor Klein, thanks for talking with us.
KLEIN: My pleasure, thank you.
BLOCK: Joel Klein is stepping down as New York City schools chancellor. He'll be joining Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation.
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