NYC Education Boss: The Tenure of Joel Klein

November 13, 2010 5 min read
Joel I. Klein served as chancellor of the 1.1-million student New York City schools system for eight years. Klein is leaving the post at the end of the year, and will become an executive vice president of the News Corporation.
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In August 2002, New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg selected former corporate executive and Justice Department official Joel I. Klein to become chancellor of the nation’s largest school system—a system that had just come under mayoral control. “I believe he will deliver to this city what we promised—a quality education for all of our children,” Mayor Bloomberg said when he announced his decision. Mr. Klein has since overseen a number of aggressive reform efforts, including a stringent evaluation effort for each of the system’s 1,400 public schools and the introduction of value-added assessment of the city’s teachers. On Nov. 9, 2010, Klein announced his resignation after eight years and many struggles.

(November 12, 2010)

Studies Paint a Picture of Klein’s Legacy

Often it’s left to the history books to judge the results of big-city education reform efforts years later, but outgoing New York City Schools Chancellor Joel I. Klein got a preview this week of the legacy of the far-reaching—and controversial—initiatives that he and Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg have pushed over the past eight years.

(November 9, 2010)

NYC Schools Chief Resigns, Leaving Lasting Legacy

Outgoing Chancellor of New York City Public Schools Joel Klein, left, speaks while his expected successor, Cathie Black, looks on during a news conference in New York on Nov. 9. Mayor Michael Bloomberg named Black, a top publishing executive, to head the nation's largest school system after announcing that Klein was stepping down.-Seth Wenig/AP

Joel I. Klein, the combative and controversial chancellor of New York City’s public schools, announced on Nov. 9, 2010, that he would be resigning at the end of the year, leaving behind a school system fundamentally changed from where it stood when his tenure began.

(September 29, 2010)

Small Schools, Big Difference

In an Education Week commentary, Michele Cahill and Robert L. Hughes write that a recent study of New York City’s small-schools initiative, an effort that was led by Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and Chancellor Joel I. Klein, “brings encouraging news for those seeking to produce rapid progress at scale in high school reform.”

(May 20, 2009)

Bloomberg’s Way

Fashion designer Giorgio Armani, right, is joined by Mayor Michael Bloomberg, left; Caroline Kennedy, back left; and Schools Chancellor Joel I. Klein for the opening of an Armani store in New York City in 2009. Mr. Armani donated $1 million to the Fund for Public Schools, which has raised hundreds of millions of dollars for the city’s schools.-Diane Bondareff/AP-File

The nation’s largest school district is engaged in a fierce debate over the merits and drawbacks of mayoral control as a legislative deadline looms for renewing the governance arrangement. Mayoral control, Chancellor Joel I. Klein said, aligns accountability and authority for schools. “I think the basic structure is sound, but there’s no question that any structure can be improved,” he said. “It’s not about whether it’s a perfect law; it’s about whether the law provides the right governance structure.”

(May 11, 2009)

Joel Klein on Mayoral Control

(March 5, 2008)

Test Results and Drive-By Evaluations

Then-President George W. Bush, center, makes a statement supporting the No Child Left Behind Act with 4th and 5th graders from P.S. 76 in New York City on Sept. 26, 2007. Joining him, from left, are New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg; then-first lady Laura Bush; then-Education Secretary Margaret Spellings; and New York City Schools Chancellor Joel I. Klein.-Charles Dharapak/AP-File

Following New York City Schools Chancellor Joel I. Klein’s announcement that he wanted to begin rating teachers in the nation’s largest school system on the basis of their students’ test scores, Thomas Toch, co-director of Washington think tank Education Sector, writes that “standardized-test scores aren’t the simple solution they seem to be.”

(September 18, 2007)

NYC Wins Prestigious Urban Education Award

New York City Schools Chancellor Joel I. Klein, second from right, hugs then-United Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten after the New York City school district won The Broad Prize on Sept. 18, 2007. Eli Broad, left, and then-U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings look on. The yearly prize honors large urban school districts that demonstrate the greatest overall performance and achievement in student achievement.-The Broad Foundation/Diane Bondareff/AP-File

The Broad Prize honors large urban school districts that demonstrate the greatest overall performance and improvement in student achievement. The selection committee said that the New York City district stood out for raising student achievement to a greater degree than other disadvantaged districts in the state had done, for reducing the achievement gap between minority and white students, and for helping greater proportions of African-American and Hispanic students achieve at high levels.

(April 19, 2006)

NYC Chief Unveils New Accountability Plan

New York City Schools Chancellor Joel I. Klein speaks to 11th-grade American history students in New York City in 2004 about the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Brown vs. Board of Education.-Susana Bates/AP-File

Signaling a new phase in the reorganization of the country’s largest school system, New York City Schools Chancellor Joel I. Klein unveiled plans last week to grade all of the city’s 1,400 public schools on student performance and the quality of instruction. Under the accountability plan, schools that fail to measure up could face leadership changes or restructuring. At the same time, Mr. Klein pledged to continue efforts already begun to give principals added decisionmaking authority and to give educators more data with which to gauge student progress.

(October 15, 2003)

NYC Hangs Tough Over Maverick Curriculum

New York City Schools Chancellor Joel I. Klein, center, hugs then-United Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten at a City Hall news conference on Oct. 7, 2005, after the teachers’ union reached a contract with the city that included 15 percent raises and ended a years-long dispute that threatened the nation's largest school system with a strike.-Richard Drew/AP-File

The decision by New York City Schools Chancellor Joel I. Klein to mandate “progressive” approaches to teaching, reading, and mathematics in all but the highest-performing of the city’s 1,000 schools has been noted, and landed Gotham at the center of the continuing debate over how best to teach the three R’s. Several local scholars questioned that research base in the New York approach shortly after Chancellor Klein announced the city would adopt Month-by-Month Phonics and Everyday Mathematics as the main reading and math programs.

(April 30, 2003)

NYC Administrators’ Contract Lacks Major Changes

Schools Chancellor Joel I. Klein has said he wants to steer more of New York City’s best principals to its lowest-performing schools. His remarks have fueled speculation that contract talks with administrators might yield changes in the way the system deploys its school leaders. While a spokesman for the chancellor’s office said last week that officials there would not comment on the ongoing collective bargaining process, it’s no secret that Mr. Klein considers strengthening school leadership a hallmark of his improvement strategy for the NYC school system.

(October 16, 2002)

NYC Chancellor Asks for Time To Fix Schools

New York City Schools Chancellor Joel I. Klein, left, jokes with Caroline Kennedy, then the school system's chief fundraiser, at an announcement in 2004 for Shop 4 Class week, in which New York City department stores pledged to donate a portion of their revenues to buy classroom library books.-John Marshall Mantel/AP-File

The man heading the New York City schools is quick to admit that he knows case law better than he knows school management. But he has a bold proposal to make nonetheless: If you give me some time, I will turn around the biggest school system in the country. Since Joel I. Klein came aboard two months ago as chancellor, he has revealed few specifics on how he plans to improve schools, and last week’s speech was no different. But he did share his views on the magnitude of the change that is needed and where the locus of change should be.

(August 7, 2002)

Former Justice Official To Head NYC Schools

At a U.S. Justice Department news conference in 2000, then-Assistant Attorney General for Antitrust Joel Klein praises the U.S. government's case against the Microsoft Corporation as then-U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno, left, listens. Klein was the lead prosecutor in the antitrust case brought by the U.S. government and 20 U.S. states that alleged that Microsoft abused its monopoly.-J. Scott Applewhite/AP-File

Following weeks of speculation, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg last week tapped Joel I. Klein, the former federal official who prosecuted Microsoft, to be the first mayor-appointed chancellor under the new governance system for the New York City schools. “He is a visionary,” the Republican mayor said as he introduced Mr. Klein during a July 29 news conference. “This indeed is a historic time,” Mr. Klein said. “I intend to seize the opportunity.”

A link to the archived content from our blogs on the tenure of Joel I. Klein as New York City Schools Chancellor is available here.

For further stories on the topic of leadership and management in education, click here.
A version of this article appeared in the November 17, 2010 edition of Education Week as NYC Education Boss: The Tenure of Joel Klein


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