Schools Chancellor Joel Klein stepped down today after serving as the leader of the city's school system since 2002. He will be replaced by another executive with no educational experience: Cathie Black, a longtime media executive who currently serves as Chairman of Hearst Magazines.
"Over the past eight years, Joel has taken an administration that was a case study in dysfunction to one that the Obama administration has held up as a model for the nation," Mayor Michael Bloomberg said at a press conference this afternoon. "Joel has implemented innovative changes that have made an enormous difference in the lives of New York City's children."
Black, a longtime media executive now at the helm of Hearst, which publishes Cosmopolitan, Esquire, Good Housekeeping, and O, the Oprah Magazine, will be the second non-educator, after Klein, to serve as schools chancellor.
Since she does not have a education background, Black will need a waiver from the State Department of Education.
"I'm truly honored to have been asked by the mayor to fill this important role," Black said. "I've lived and worked in New York for most of my life."
Black also promised to bring 100 new charter schools to New York City.
Klein thanked the mayor and said he was heading to News Corp., Rupert Murdoch's media empire, to work on an "education project" as an executive vice president.
News Corp. CEO Murdoch said in a statement Tuesday that Klein would provide unique insights on education, a sector he said "has long been in need of innovation." Klein, has been hired as a senior adviser and board member at News Corp. to help it consider providing seed funds to start-up companies that use digital technology in the education sector.
To parents, Klein said, "Being responsible for your children has been both daunting and exhilarating... and I wanted to say, I gave it my all. Or as they say in sports, I left it all on the field."
Klein has served as Bloomberg's Chancellor since 2002, when the New York State Legislature turned control of the NYC school system over to City Hall. Klein, a graduate of the city public school system, came to New York City government with a background in government and business. He is credited with ending the practice of social promotion but had a somewhat controversial reputation throughout his tenure.
Among Klein's most controversial decisions was his move to fire Columbia University professor Rashid Khalidi from the teacher training program in 2005, allegedly because of the educator's political views. After the hotly debated move, Columbia University Lee Bollinger spoke out on Khalidi's behalf, arguing the department's decision to dismiss Khalidi from the program violated First Amendment principles.
Whlie Klein has been a staunch advocate of closing the achievement gap between white students and black and Latino students, but the evidence of progress toward that goal has remained lacking. In September, the New York Times reported that In the city’s third through eighth grades, just 40 percent of black students met state standards in math compared with 46 percent of Hispanic children, 75 percent of white students and 82 percent of Asians. In English, 33 percent of black students are now proficient compared with 64 percent among whites and Asians.
Also, the overall number elementary and middle school students in the city who failed to move on to the next grade has increased during Klein's tenure. overall student performance nearly five times as many students in the third through eighth grades are being required to repeat a grade, compared with last year.
One person not singing Klein's praises was Leonie Haimson, Executive Director of the advocacy group Class Size Matters.
"Many parents will be glad to see Joel Klein leave as chancellor, who had no respect for their views or priorities," said Haimson. "In DOE’s own surveys, parents said that class size reduction was their greatest wish for their children, and yet class sizes have risen sharply under his leadership."
And of Cathie Black, Haimson added, "It is unfortunate that, once again, the mayor has chosen someone with no educational experience, except for sitting on the board of a charter school with teacher attrition rates of 42 to 71 percent, and a student suspension rate of 62 perecnt."
Meanwhile, teachers' union president Michael Mulgrew simply stated, "I look forward to working with Ms. Black. As a teacher, I will help in any way I can to improve the education for the children of New York.”