Friday, November 7, 2008

De-Kleining America- Updated

You know those scenes in movies where people put their hands over their eyes in horror at an accident that was about to happen?

That is how NYC educators and parents feel since the ugly rumor in the Huffington Post that NYC Chancellor Joel Klein is a possible choice for Education Secretary in the Obama administration. The Ed blogosphere in NYC has been hot and heavy with rumors.

Can you get worse than Margaret Spellings?

Hell Yes. We've been getting emails of this type:

Geez, talk about discouraging news! I just heard that Obama is considering Chan. Klein as Secretary of Education! Does anybody have a way to get the word to him about how most of us feel about the job Klein/Bloomberg have done here?

A Voice Cries Out says, "Ok, ok, stop screaming" and put this up on the advice Joel Klein would give to the nation. Here are a few delicious headings:
Numbers in the toilet? Fudge ‘Em!

Violent Incidents in Schools Getting You Down? Bury ‘Em!

[I especially like this one as it reminds me of a Frankenstein movie - Actually "Young Frankenstein" in honor of the numerous teen principals who have been "made" under Klein.]
Make Your Own Principals

Pack Kids in as Tightly as Possible

Oh the choices we have to make here in the big city. Wish for Klein to go to Washington so he can hang out with his buddy Michelle Rhee? Or do what we can to prevent the Kleining of America?

To me the choice is easy. Despite the UFT attempt to make it seem Mayor Bloomie and Klein are not joined at the hip, things might even get worse if Joel was to go to Washington. Mayor Mike could pick Rhee, who might want to get out of DC before they tar and feather her, to replace Klein. Klein could be US Ed Secty
and run the DC schools Rhee has left standing further into the ground. With a financial crisis, think of the savings? But it gets worse.

George Schmidt thinks Obama will go in a different direction:

Here in Chicago, we're reading about how Obama is going to choose Arne Duncan
(Chicago's version of Klein).
Anyone want to bet that in D.C. they're reading about how Michelle Rhee has the inside track? One thing's sure. It's bad.

Obama plays basketball with Arne Duncan. Jeez. The teachers who supported Obama may be in for a shock.

How about real educators like Linda Darling-Hammond?

Or Diane Ravitch, who I disagree with on some fundamentals due to her long-time advocacy of the standards and testing movement, but has been one of the leaders of the De-Kleining battle here in NYC and has been having those wonderful conversations with one of my teaching heroines, Deborah Meier? Diane would represent some sense of rationality and compromise.
Besides, many of us have grown very fond of her personally. It was great to see NY Times columnist David Brooks' mention Diane in this context today.

NYC teachers are willing to continue suffering and are taking the high road, starting campaigns to tell the Obama world all about the wonderful world of Klein. Under Assault (Keep Educating Obama) tried to

find a "Contact Us" link on the Obama website to tell him he should under no circumstances consider Joel Klein as his Secretary of Education. The site didn't have a such a link, but it did have something spectacular: an option to create your own blog right in the Obama internet heartland.

So here's the letter I wrote to him this morning via my new blog on "Please don't choose Joel Klein for Sec'y of Education." (Don't choose Weingarten either, by the way.)

And things are growing as The Nation is getting involved. NYU Education Professor Bree Picower sent this along to the NYCORE listserve:
Dear Supporters of Public Education,

Many of you have by now heard the rumor that NYC School Chancellor Joel Klein is being considered as Obama's pick for Secretary of Education.

As people committed to public education, this strikes a hard and fast blow in the euphoria that we have felt since Tuesday. But it's not too late to make our voices heard once again. Let's build on the sense of representation and democracy we have just experienced to send a clear message to the Obama Administration to STOP THE DE-KLEIN of PUBLIC EDUCATION. Community organizations across the New York City and country are teaming up with The Nation to write a communal letter and petition to the Obama Administration on why Klein is a mistake for this position.

This is where we need your help!
Please submit to the Nation a bullet point of a few sentences of why you think Klein's appointment would be a mistake. This should be based on your experience in education as a student, teacher, parent, organizer, etc. If appropriate, include relevant data or citations. Also include your name and affiliation/role.

Particular themes that you could write about:
-issues of community voice and input
-corporate/private interest vs. public interest
-Issues of instruction and curriculum
-particular issues: high stakes testing, military recruitment, school safety policies, special ed, ELL...
-union representation/ treatment
-Issues around race, racism, and representation
-Issues of equity
-transparency and public decision making

Please send your submissions to The Nation ASAP at and cc:
Please also post your submission to the Education Section of Obama's Website at

This article is going online on Monday, so time is of the essence!

Here is what Bree wrote:

Rather than take the advice of educational experts, Chancellor Klein repeatedly championed and implemented policies that support corporate interests and Mayor Bloomberg. For example, in 2004, Bloomberg and Klein ignored the input of parents, teachers and educational experts in their attempt to push through a high stakes third grade testing policy. Despite testimonials from educational experts and community members against this plan, Bloomberg fired and replaced members of their advisory panel that were not going to vote to pass their bill. "Although Mr. Klein said they had resigned, the three panel members said in interviews that they had been tersely dismissed and had intended to vote against the mayor's plan (New York Times, 2004)”. Is this how we want federal education policy handled?
Bree Picower, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, New York University

Lisa North
from ICE sent this along:

I am sorry to say that here in NYC you cannot link positive educational reform with the name Chancellor Klein. Dedicated arts moneys in school budgets have been removed and replaced with money for school data inquiry teams. There have been few effective new teaching and learning initiatives or programs since the beginning of Klein's term. Only a massive amount of testing as huge amounts of time and money have been spent on accountability via testing. Do we want large spikes in test scores from teaching to the test OR students educated to be productive members of society? Shouldn't educational reform be about teaching and learning?

Sean Ahern chimed in on ICE-mail:

I think the AFTUFT leadership would look forward to collaborating on the national level with Klein as they have locally for the past eight years.

The UFT/AFT leadership holds a charter membership in the corporate education reform going back to A Nation At Risk in 1982 when Obama was an undergrad and they show no signs of jumping ship now.

Parents and school based educators in NYC who do not share the perspective of the AFT leadership will have to speak out on our own behalf asking that Obama look at the facts not the spin on eight years of "Put Children First".

NYC schools have among the lowest graduation rates, are among the most segregated, have one of the highest rates of teacher turnover, and since 2001 there has been a 40% decline in the number of new Black and Latina educators hired. What about this picture merits a promotion? To the extent that some good things go on in city classrooms is a testament to the determination of the people in the trenches who carry on in spite of Tweed.

Obama said he would listen to the people so let the people speak. What do the Parents Associations, the CEC's, the SLTs, the students, the chapter leaders, the school based Administrators and teachers have to say? This is the time to speak up.

Klein is experienced but so is a used car. Obama should look under the hood before he buys otherwise he may be stuck with a lemon, Remember Bush's first Education Secretary ? How long was it before the truth about the Houston miracle came to light? Two years? I give even less time for the facts about "Put Children First" to emerge. They already have locally. Klein as Education Secretary? Not a change I can believe in .

Sean Ahern

I just spoke to a buddy working out of the central beast at Tweed who wants Klein to be nominated.

"Oh, so you can get rid of him," I said?

"No. Because the spot light of a nomination will expose him for his failed policies - the phony grad rates and test scores and complete failures from messed up bus routes to the recent talented and gifted farce." And all the stuff in between.

How much would you give to see Diane Ravitch and Leonie Haimson testifying at a Klein nomination hearing?

Hmmmm! Hold the presses.


  1. Nice to see a De-Klein campaign is ON!

    But, the name — Stop the De-Kleining of Pub. Educ. — needs tweaking. De-Kleining is precisely what needs doing at this point in time, and de-Rheeing too.

  2. Is Mr. Obama considering chancellor Joel Klein to be the nextEducation Secretary?

    I read that Obama is considering Klein to be the Education Secretary. I am speechless. Chancellor Klein is not an educator and as a chancellor in NY. did not improve education. He created this big office that collects phony data information about the students progress. In the public schools children are not learning because education is gearing toward bubbling meaningless test papers. I hope that Mr. Obama chooses someone that has experience in education for his cabinet. Choosing Klein is a deservice to the children of America. It goes against the principles and ideas of "Social Justice" that Mr. Obama's campaing stated. I wanted to send this email to Obama but I couldn't. If someone can cut and paste. Please do it. Thanks.

    November 7, 2008 5:11 PM

  3. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! I heard this for the first time on Wednesday night on ABC news. I told my AP the next day. She stopped dead her tracks, and had a look of shock and horror on her face. Then I told my UFT Chapter leader, and I thought she was going to faint. She lost all color, and said "you know how you get that nauseous feeling when you just found out something bad..." I said, we have to start writing letters. We have to do something.

  4. I had a problem with the link

    But I found another way to get to it. Go to this link:

    Scroll down just a bit to where it says Present your ideas.

    Click on that and it will take you to the form.

  5. It does not work even if you sign on on the link you wrote. Let's try another way to tell Obama that we do not need Klein in education.

  6. Klein has drained our schools of life, energy, experience and money. I cannot imagine being a new teacher now in a NYC public school. Even if you come in with exquisite preparation, nothing works the way it did in your classes or your student teaching experiences. Yet, whole schools are now comprised of brand new faculty and administrators. And in every new small school which I have visited I find student artwork done with primitive materials -- construction paper, oaktag and markers. This is true for all of their assignments in every field of study. Students are creating charts by hand in a world where their counterparts in private schools can devise charts with computer programs and with the internet at their fingertips. They are producing hand drawn, stick figurines with magic markers and often, sadly, the writing on the posters they create is filled with errors of which a first grader should be ashamed. The flagships of the Klein administration are schools in which 30 or more children surround a 22 year old teacher who is working with little more than chalk and talk. And they are housed in old school buildings and forced to compete with other schools for classroom space. In the 21st Century. In The United States of America. In the same city in which our Mayor thought it unthinkable that the CITY ITSELF not have a direct phone number in which you could get any information you needed. So, I guess maybe principals and teachers looking for more classrooms should call 311? Should they also call that number for help with classroom management?

  7. Floraine, powerful statement. I included them into something I wrote last night at Under Assault.

  8. I just noticed you've written more good stuff at: Thanks for documenting what's going on in the classrooms. I wish everyone would take the time to do it.

  9. yup and speaking as a veteran (25+years) NYC public school art teacher who has seen the total decline of every form of arts programming in her (now former, "large") high school and the decimation/non-existence of any semblance of arts instruction at her present "small learning community" (e.g. I was forced to teach music out of license and HEALTH last year) it is no wonder our high school students behave, perform, and have been debased to elementary-level status in both what they (are able to) produce and create and how they act, think, and view themselves in our world. it is too sad to contemplate, but the proof is in the pudding, e.g. those sad bulletin board displays of mediocrity...


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