Education "Miracle" in NYC

[from Gary Cziko 931003.2100 GMT]

I recently found out about an on-going transformation of public education
in New York City, primarily by reading Sy Fliegel's book.

I think it should be clear from the excerpts included below why I am
excited about this and how providing educational choice fits so nicely into

I would imagine that Ed Ford, Dag Forssell, and Hugh Petrie would find the
New York story of particular interest. Let me know if you do.--Gary



Fliegel, Seymour. (1993). _Miracle in East Harlem: The fight for choice in
public education_. New York: Times Books.

004.4 "What accounts for this overwhelming transformation? Simply put,
District Four freed students, teachers, parents, and educational
administrators to work together to build what they all truly wanted:
schools and a school system that put children first. What happened in East
Harlem occurred across a school district larger than the entire school
systems of many American cities, a district that includes fifteen thousand
students, eight hundred teachers, and fifty schools. What was done there
can be done elsewhere. The revolution of District Four can become the path
of the future for our nation's schools."

012.6 "Bureaucracies presume that people will be indifferent and will fail
if left to themselves. In District Four we presumed that if we give people
the opportunity to excel, they will do their best and succeed."

024.2 "There exist definite, predictable ingredients to effective
schools,but they are not the ingredients most people have been promoting
over the years. The amount of money spent on a schoool is not the
determining factor. Educational methodology does not matter very much
either, so long as the method is followed by a good teacher. I realize
that this may sound idealistic or fanciful, but the research has shown that
the most important factor in education is a lot like what used to be called
"school spirit.""

024.3 "Overwhelmingly, these studies used words like leadership ,
motivation , teamwork , professionalism , and commitment to shared
educational goals to describe schools that work. Good schools ar good
organizations, they found: organizations that get the best out of their
people. It is the people that matter, not the money or the methods. And
people perform better in organizations that take their humanity into

099.2 "Throughout this process [of selecting a school] the junior high
staff speak not only of their curriculum offerings, but also of the
work-load requirements they expect from their students. In essence a
social contract is formed: "This is our school, these are the rules. If
you choose our school, you accept these rules."

100 * "Is the school's leadership strong enough to keep the school focused
on its goals while allowing flexibility in selecting strategies to attain
those goals?

115.1 "When a school is free to pursue its own educational vision, and has
the support of its major constituencies, good things will happen.
Principals and teachers will be invigorated by their heightened
opportunities and responsibilities. Students will be inspired and
motivated. Parents will invent new and ever more constructive ways in
which to become involved in their children's education. And everyone
involved will have a good time. To call it "the joy of learning" may sound
hopelessly cliched, but once student, teachers, and parents get that
feeling--that spirit--it builds from one plateau to the next. The
students' self-esteem grows, and they begin to achieve at levels that
surprise even themselves."

116.2 "Contrast that [when schools are free] to the atmosphere in a
restricted, failing public school, where authority is handed down from
above, and there is never any room to maneuver. Classes are sullen and
largely silent. The only excitement is from bored students letting of
stream in the halls or the playground. Morale is poor. Kids come late if
at all. Teachers take sick days so often that marginally qualified
temporary teachers accumulate as many teaching days as regular staff.
Parents seldom bother to visit. And children don't learn. Or, to put it
more accurately, such schools fail to teach. Regrettably, there are far
too many public schools failing to teach across American today."

185.2 "The problem, as I have tried to suggest in previous chapters, is
that too many reformers are [186.1] trying to change schools from above,
instead of creating new incentives for change from within. Simply put, the
things the educational bureaucracy can control generally make no difference
in the quality of a school." +

186.2 * "The kind of choice plan that evolved in District Four, in
contrast, affords school professionals freedom--the freedom to design
innovative and distinctive educational programs and to give parents and
students the right to select their public schools. And, under these
conditions, choice acts as a catalyst for change and makes for dramatic
improvement in the quality of education provided by rich and poor school
districts alike."

192.3 "Centralized educational bureaucracy reigns supreme, its own
paramount concern being self-perpetuation while allowing little or no
autonomy to its employees down the line. During the past twenty years the
control of our country's schools has moved ever more in the direction of
district offices, states, and the federal government. Schools have become
not so much institutions of learning as agents of disaffection, and
teachers and students alike have come to feel an increasing psychic
estrangement from them. The principal does not choose his school. He is
assigned. The principal does not choose his teachers. they, too, are
assigned to him. Nor do the teachers choose their principal or even their
school. Neither the school nor the principal choose the organizing theme
of the school, or the curriculum, or even the textbooks. Finally, neither
the parents nor the children choose their own schools. They are assigned,
on the utterly arbitrary basis of where they happen to live. And no matter
how unsuccessful such a school is, new studetns are assigned to it each
fall. +

192.4 "Parents in general fell that they have little to say about the
education of their children. Our social problems, particularly in the
cities, are getting worse rather than better."

203.6 * "Writing and publishing [alternative school] concentrates on the
use of language and "writing with a purpose." The school operates it own
publishing company where students produce books, magazines, and a
newspaper. Colgate contributes personnel to work in the school, and staff
development and technical assistance are provided by the Bank Street of
Education and Columbia University Teachers College."

207.4 ""Once the parents grasp the potential of choice to do good for their
children . . . no one can stand in their way. The parents won't let them."

211.2 * "Public school choice is a catalyst to better education for all,
but it needs other elements with which to work. Good schools need to be
small, they need to be autonomous, they need a clearly defined and
communicated vision, they need parent involvement, they need site-based
management, they need to work like true communities. It's a paradigm of
public education we discovered, [212.1] one that we worked out slowly over
the course of two decades, and it is the right paradigm because it works
for children, for teachers, for parents, and for the community."