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A Conversation With NYC Schools Chancellor Joel Klein

Klein discussed the roles of city government and the private sector in school reform.

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The other thing that I find worked for kids who come from challenging environments is high expectations. Believe me when I tell you that the schools are filled with people who set low expectations, and the kids live up to it. And how you create an environment of high expectations. And then, as we move forward, what I would like to see is much, much more connection to the use of technology, so that you can individualize what's going on for the kid and move away from a kind of standardized, one-teacher-and-26-kids-in-a-classroom approach.

The current economy's impact on schools:


Look, nobody likes these cuts, obviously, and we've—as you say—over the last six years, we've invested heavily in increasing teacher salaries and creating new schools. We'll have to be smarter. I think there will be some difficult times ahead for us. People who, you know, will have to, in certain instances, give up programs that they want. But basically, what we've tried to do is streamline the bureaucracy—we've already cut about $350 million, and by the time this next round is over, it will probably be another significant chunk—and then let schools decide. We've gone to student-based budgeting. So, I don't budget schools; I budget students. And then, if you've got a lot of special-ed students, more for that; if you've got a lot of English-language learners, more for that; if you've got level 1 students, more for that. And so, the kid carries the dollars through the system. And then I say to our principals, you figure out how to budget this thing. So, if you want additional teachers and lowering class size, that's a strategy. If you want extended day, if you want to bring in professional development coaches—and the same principles will apply in a budget-cutting or belt-tightening environment. But don't get me wrong, I mean—that's going to create challenges. And I don't think we are, as a people, overinvested in education. I don't think we're wisely invested in education, but I think if we invested wisely, we could continue to invest and get good returns.

More from the Education Summit:

  • The Future of High School Reform
  • The Role of Businesses in High School