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A Year of Change: Leadership in the Principal's Office
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Timeline: Children First

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg has placed a high-stakes political bet that he can rejuvenate the nation's largest public school system.

Mayor Bloomberg is the first politician in more than 130 years to hold direct control over New York City's schools, and he has sought to reorganize virtually every aspect of the city's public school system from student standards to basic administrative procedures. Announced in October, 2002, "Children First: A New Agenda for Public Education" is Bloomberg and Schools Chancellor Joel Klein's roadmap for remaking New York City's public school system. Most experts believe it will be years before the impact of the "Children First" reforms can be comprehensively assessed.

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg speaks at a Department of Education press conference.

By the Numbers: NYC Schools Total Enrollment: 1,086,886

Schools and Programs: 1,330

DOE Approved Budget: $12.5 Billion

Average Class Size (Grades K-9): 20.3

Enrolled English Language Learners: 144,539

Filled Pedagogic Positions: 91,390

Students Meeting or Exceeding City/State Standards (Grades 3-8):
Reading: 41.1%, Math: 46.7%

Source: NYC Department of Education (2003-2004)

Schools Chancellor Joel I. Klein at the opening ceremony for the New York City Leadership Academy.

The newly refurbished Tweed Courthouse is the home of NYC's Department of Education and the Leadership Academy.

"Change has to happen now and I want to be in the position to make it happen as the next mayor the city of New York. If I fail, the voters can -- and should -- throw me out."
- Mayor Michael Bloomberg

The Bronx International Academy is one of over 1,300 schools in the New York metropolitan area.
Milestones: 2002-2004
Today: Implementation of the "Children First" reform program continues but reports differ as to its success. Mayor Bloomberg has said that his mayoralty should be judged primarily on his success in reforming New York City's school system. He will face reelection in 2005.

March 16, 2004: In a stunning political power play, Bloomberg removes 3 dissenting appointees from the Panel for Education Policy just before a controversial vote on "social promotion." The measure is passed later in the day by an 8 to 5 margin. The new policies could force as many as 15,000 third grade students who test at the lowest reading level to repeat the grade.

March 8, 2004: Diana Lam, the deputy chancellor for teaching and learning appointed by Joel Klein, is forced to resign after having failed to get clearance from the city's Conflicts of Interest Board before aggressively trying to get her husband a job in the school system.

January 6, 2004: Chancellor Klein consents to replace "Month-by-Month Phonics" with a more structured reading program in 49 low-performing schools in order to ensure that the city's schools are eligible for $34 million in federal "Reading First" funds.

December 23, 2003: Bloomberg acknowledges that the extensive reorganization of the school system has resulted in a breakdown of the disciplinary process including delays in suspending and removing violent students from schools. To help alleviate the problem, the mayor declares that more security agents will be placed in the city's most dangerous schools and that four new "New Beginnings" suspension centers for disruptive students will be opened.

Summer, 2003: Training sessions in the new standard curricula begin to be offered to teachers, but some complain that the classes are too cursory or inadequate. Many teachers will not get their first introduction to the new materials until the week before school starts. Instructional math and literacy coaches, to be placed in every school as part of the new organization plan, are to help teachers get up to speed using the new methods throughout the course of the school year.

May 10, 2003: Randi Weingarten, President of the United Federation of Teachers (UFT), attacks Mayor Bloomberg's education policies at her organization's spring conference. Weingarten had publicly shown support for some of the mayor's initiatives as late as February, but began to feel increasingly left out of the reform planning process and turned decisively against the mayor after the city's plan to lay off 864 paraprofessionals within her union was disclosed the previous month.

Jan. 21, 2003: Klein announces the new standardized curricula to be adopted in the vast majority of New York City's schools. Designed by Diana Lam, Deputy Chancellor for Teaching and Learning, the new curricula emphasize more progressive, concept-based approaches toward learning. Some experts claim that the selection for the new K-3 reading program, "Month-by-Month Phonics," is inadequate, vague, and contradicts research on effective literacy education methods. Among the most outspoken critics are NYU Professor Diane Ravitch, and New York Sun Columnist Andrew Wolf.

January 15, 2003: Utilizing research from Klein's studies, Bloomberg reveals his organizational plan for New York's schools. Bloomberg's centralized, top-down structure replaces the 32 local school districts with 10 new instructional divisions each under the supervision of a regional superintendent. In addition, six Regional Operations Centers are created to handle building maintenance and other back-office tasks in order to allow principals and other administrators to focus on instructional issues.

October 3, 2002: Chancellor Klein announces "Children First: A New Agenda for Public Education," a sweeping plan to improve education in New York City. The first phase of "Children First" is to begin with an in-depth, $4 million study of the city's school system conducted by Klein's staff and paid consultants.

Fall, 2002: Per the mayor's directive, the Department of Education begins its move from its former offices at 110 Livingston Street in Brooklyn into the lavishly refurbished Tweed Courthouse located directly behind City Hall. Facing possible budget cuts, Klein begins to lay off DOE staff members in an attempt to trim the schools budget and pare down the department's bureaucracy.

July 29, 2002: Mayor Bloomberg appoints Joel I. Klein to be the first chancellor of his new Department of Education (DOE). Klein, noted for his work in the Microsoft antitrust case and previously the Chairman and CEO of Bertelsmann, Inc., has few professional ties to education.

June 12, 2002: In an effort to centralize authority and accountability for New York City's troubled educational system, the State Legislature passes a law that effectively gives control of the city's school system to Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg. The new law allows for 8 of the 13 members of an expanded Panel for Education Policy (formerly the Board of Education) to be appointed by the mayor and provisionally abolishes the city's 32 community school boards, which had been largely perceived to be corrupt and ineffectual. This is the first time since a brief period during the 1870s that the city government has possessed such sweeping power over the school system.

January 8, 2002: President Bush signs the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 into law. "No Child Left Behind" contains the guidelines for broad changes to the nation's education system such as allowing students to transfer out of low-performing schools or receive free tutoring. It also sets the stage for further educational reform efforts at the state and local levels.

Last updated: March, 2004

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