From outgoing-Chancellor of NYC Schools Klein’s last weekly memo to principals (courtesy of Eduwonk), two of the three “critical issues” facing his school system that are equally applicable to New Jersey’s:
The first is the issue of phasing-out schools and replacing them with new ones. Proposing to phase out a school is the hardest decision we make. But, unfortunately, it’s a necessary one. Schools that persistently have graduation rates below 50%, or where a low percentage of students are on grade level, after years of numerous efforts to turn them around, are unacceptable. I don’t think any of you would send your own children to one of those schools. That’s a pretty telling fact. And if that’s true, whose children should go there? Surely, the answer cannot be those with the most challenges and fewest options in life. Let’s not allow job security and nostalgia to stand in the way of doing the hard work necessary to do right by our students.
Third, I fear that, next year, for the first time in recent memory, we will have to lay off teachers. I wish it were otherwise, but the economics of our state and city make this virtually impossible to avoid. If we have layoffs, it’s unconscionable to use the last-hired, first-fired rule that currently governs. By definition, such a rule means that quality counts for zero. Our children cannot afford that kind of approach. They need the best teachers, not those who are longest serving. (If you had to have surgery, would you want the longest-serving surgeon or the best one?) This doesn’t mean that many of our longest-serving teachers aren’t among the best, but this is not an area for “group think.” We need individual determinations of teacher effectiveness to decide who stays and who doesn’t.
And, in conclusion,
as I formally say goodbye to the best group of school leaders a Chancellor could ever have hoped for, I am confident that, working with Cathie Black, you will continue to move this system forward. It won’t be easy, and it won’t happen without controversy. But as long as we have schools to which you wouldn’t send you own children, we cannot tolerate the status quo, no matter how comfortable it is for the adults. You know what’s right. Make it happen.
[Note on Cathie Black, Klein’s replacement: Mike Petrelli of Flypaper at Fordham says she’ll be gone by Easter.]