Big Change in the Big Apple:
Putting Children First in New York City
2"They want to show they are tough guys," she told the New York Daily News. "They want whatthey want, but all it will do is backfire."
In addition, the district had been forced to abandon its new reading curriculum for 49 of the
city‟s neediest schools. Criticized for not adopting a curriculum with a more systematic
approach to phonics, Klein and Bloomberg had faced the reality that the district was likely tolose out on up to $115 million in federal funds over three years, if they stayed with their originalchoice of a balanced literacy curriculum.
While the district asserted that the new curriculumwas still in alignment with a balanced literacy approach, their decision was seen by many as apublic admission of defeat.At the same time, Bloomberg
faced a decision that would forever define what “mayoral control”
really meant. In January, he had announced that the DOE would end the practice of socialpromotion for 3
graders. From now on, students that didn‟t meet the
basic level of proficiencyin reading and math would be required to repeat the 3
grade. But the Panel for EducationalPolicy
the governing board for the DOE
was threatening to veto the controversial policy
change. What‟s more, several of Bloomberg‟s own appointees were leading the charge
againstthe policy change.
Finally, the district‟s instructional leader was under fire. Diana Lam –
deputy chancellor forteaching and learning
had been accused of nepotism, and the scandal had also embroiled
Klein‟s chief legal counsel. Lam had been an important leader in the effort to implement the
balanced literacy curriculum, and Klein and Bloomberg knew that the controversy threatenedboth their moral authority as leaders and the implementation of their reform plan.Klein and Bloomberg knew that March 2004 would be a critical month. They had to put thenepotism scandal behind them and re-establish their authority as leaders.Could they rise to the challenge? Could they re-gain their momentum? Or would they beswallowed up in controversy, just as many of their predecessors had?They were about to find out.
A Sizeable Challenge
When Klein started his new job in the fall of 2002, he
knew that the Chancellor‟s position in
New York City was perhaps the most challenging K-12 position in the entire country.As one journalist put it,
If Klein thinks he had a tough time battling Bill Gates and the corporatelegal sharks from Microsoft, wait till he gets into trench warfare over the city's neighborhoodschools. It's one thing to analyze a system on paper. It's quite another to deal face-to-face with
Celeste Katz and Joe Willia
ms, “Joel‟s End
Run „Round Randi,” New York Daily News, 28 January 2004
Kathleen Kennedy Manzo, “N.Y.C. Shifts Reading Plan In 49 Needy Schools,” Education Week, 14 January,