[ProgressiveEd] Meeting with Joel Klein and Michele Cahill

Carol Barton [email protected]
Fri, 11 Apr 2003 11:22:34 -0400

Thanks to all of you, and thanks for this great report.  It is very
encouraging.  Any news on the idea of clustering our schools within
Carol Barton
Muscota, Computer
-----Original Message-----
From: [email protected]
[mailto:[email protected]]On Behalf Of [email protected]
Sent: Friday, April 11, 2003 9:23 AM
To: [email protected]
Subject: [ProgressiveEd] Meeting with Joel Klein and Michele Cahill
Dear folks,
Congratulations to the PENNY delegation that met with Joel Klein and Michele
Cahill yesterday.  You would have been proud of us.  People were clear,
passionate, and informed.  We didn't get to ask all of our questions, but we
saw this as a first meeting.  Mr. Klein asked that we meet with him on a
monthly basis.  He said that these meetings are extremely helpful to him.
Here are some of the things we talked about:  CHOICE:  Parents talked about
the reasons why they chose our schools and about the children's love of
learning as a result of the way they're taught in our schools.  They
explained how our schools look at their children as complete people.  One
parent explained that she had attended a private school, as a child, but was
constantly sick because she couldn't stand going to school.  Her mother saw
this and switched her to one of our schools.  She thrived.  The same
experience happened with her own children.  Joel Klein was clearly moved.
talked about the diversity of our schools, our intake processes, and the
effects of the No Child Left Behind legislation.  We talked about the
accessibility to parents of staffs and administrations of our schools.  And
we pointed out that many of our parents chose our schools precisely because
they reject having their children measured by test scores.  Other areas:  We
talked about needing passionate, committed teachers and how you develop a
sense of community within a school.  We talked about the importance of being
allowed to build curriculum, which enables staffs to work together to
and develop curriculum.  In this way, our schools exceed the standards.  One
delegate member showed her own portfolio she did as part of the staff
development work her school does for each staff member.  Ms. Cahill and Mr.
Klein were clearly impressed.  A student spoke about the way her school
community brought her in and encouraged her to participate, even as it
her to learn English.  She talked about the studies she's been engaged with
at her school.  Again, very impressive.  We talked about ways our schools
assess learning in the service of the child.  We talked about the broad lens
through which our schools look at each child.
Mr. Klein listened first and then spoke.  He asked that we set up monthly
meetings with him ("regardless of whether or not we agree", he said that the
meetings would be important to him).  He said that his job was twofold:  to
preserve the many wonderful things that are happening in New York schools
to deal with the need for change in schools that are obviously not
functioning well.  He said that the No Child Left Behind legislation has to
be dealt with.  (He acknowledged that it was serious threat to our schools
and to other schools in New York.)   He said that this legislation has a lot
of force and raises an equity issue:  Parents needs help to get their
children out of terrible situations.  Mr. Klein said that parents' requests
for transfers had to be handled centrally.  He said that test scores aren't
the be all and end all, but a lot of children are not learning to read.  He
talked about looking at test scores longitudinally as one way to deal with
the fluctuations in scores.  He said that the core curriculum they selected
was flexible and progressive (in fact, he said, they'd caught a lot of heat
for this).  He said that his focus was to work with principals and school by
school coaches to do staff development better.  He said that, over time, his
goal was to make schools autonomous.  Then, he said that he was less
concerned that his "reforms" would disable us than he was that not reforming
the system would allow nonfunctioning schools to continue to hurt children.
He said that he knew we were strong and that we would find a way to do what
we wanted to do anyway.  Mr. Klein said that he saw in the schools that he
visited that we do wonderful work, but he said that he also saw room for
Our message to Mr. Klein and Ms. Cahill was that we're not asking for
exceptionalism for our schools.  We want to be able to continue to do the
work we've been doing, not at the expense of any other schools.  We think
that we can be of help in spreading our approach to staff development work
and in other areas.  Certainly, all of our schools think long and hard about
ways to build our own understandings of children and curriculum and about
meaningful parent involvement.  Mr. Klein responded very positively to the
suggestion that we do a five-year study, using quantitative data (test
scores) and qualitative data (a descriptive assessment).  We need to talk
about specifics with him.
Steering Committee meeting this Monday, April 14, at 6 P.M. at Ann Wiener's
house, 310 Riverside Drive, apt. 1007.
The meeting with Mr. Klein and Ms. Cahill was a good start.  We didn't ask
many of the questions we needed to ask.  Please send your questions (things
you need to know about) back on the listserv.  These will help to guide any
further conversations.  Let me start us off with two questions that need
follow up.
1.  What is the specific procedure for our academies and programs becoming
2.  Where will the staff developers come from?  What kinds of direction will
they get and from whom?
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