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School & District Management Opinion

Guest Blogger Mike Klonsky Part II: Deb Meier’s Innovation Became Bloomberg’s Bulldozer

By Eduwonkette — April 16, 2008 1 min read
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Mike Klonsky is back with the second half of his guest post. His first post can be found here.

Public school reform could not help but be affected by power and influence of the Ownership Society Anschluss that went full-tilt at all public space, including public schooling, eight years ago.

Deb Meier, reflecting on her early notions of small schools, posted this on her blog:

I thought small schools was one reform no one could do harm with… I saw them as representing new ideas and new relationships between the constituents to schooling. I thought of Ted Sizer’s little Parker School in Fort Devons, Mass, and a half dozen other little schools I immediately loved. I forgot about the little independent bookstores in my neighborhood that have been replaced by the Barnes and Nobles of the world.

But when the small-schools movement that she helped launch in the ‘70s met up with the Ownership Society and its top-down strategy for urban school reform, it became clear to many of us that we had to take a fresh look our own change strategies. As Jessica Siegel wrote in the Village Voice: “…what for Meier was an innovation has become, for Klein and Bloomberg, a bulldozer.”

In the last chapter, we offer some strategic and tactical ideas about public school reform and how we can work to both save and transform public education. They include an analysis of the role of teacher unions, and building opposition to NCLB’s testing mania and privatized school management. A key piece in all of this is community organization and fighting to keep public schools public.

And a new study funded by the Annenberg Institute seems to back us up on that. It finds:

-Organizing is helping to expand the capacity of urban public schools to provide a successful earning environment.

-Organizing is contributing to higher student educational outcomes.

-Organizing is helping to expand equity and school capacity in historically underserved communities through targeted district- and state-level policy and resource interventions.

So, in the words of the old labor agitator, Mother Jones: “Don’t mourn. Organize.”

Thanks again to Eduwonkette for letting me guest blog and I hope you will read our book.

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