I can’t agree with Ebony Bridewell-Mitchell TEDxHGSE‘s viewpoint any further.
Schools are a far more complex social system than we tend to treat them, so the solution to fixing public schools is just as complex.
She argues that one of the items we must understand about schools is that they are systems that are both “enabled by their environment and constrained by their environment.”
Joel Klein, former NYC public schools chancellor and Cami Anderson, former superintendent of Newark public schools (and former Klein advisor) are great examples of administrators struggling to push for change in the mixy-mess that is education.
While I disagree with some of Joel Klein’s initiatives, I believe he was effective in many of his controversial programs because he understood, to a certain degree, the inner workings of the overly bureaucratic NYC public school system. He understood some of the deep-seated behaviors and mentalities of some educational beauracrats who used their power to their benefit at the expense of providing students with a quality education. He also did a good job at vocalizing what was happening within schools, as a way to support some of the changes he wanted to implement. He pushed for school choice because local, district schools were failing. But despite this fact, communities wanted to hang out to these underperforming schools, which have their own complex history. Klein worked with the UFT to open smaller public and charter schools that would gift teachers and students with an easier load. This was an excellent move that showed his ability to mix the old with the new and deal with such a controversial issue in a more humanistic way. His time at the DOJ’s Antitrust Division served him well.
Cami Anderson, former superintendent of Newark, NJ public schools, could have been more careful about making changes to similar issues. While she meant well, there were times where she chose not to involve parents with major policy changes and that affected how parents perceived and interacted with her. I think she is the perfect example of a education leader who struggled with working with the system and thought it easier to entirely dismiss the foundation that was laid before her arrival.