Can I just rave a little more about the Bridging Differences blog? Setting up the blog as an explicit dialog has been a stroke of genius. Kudos to Ed Week for putting this together. Here's Diane Ravitch today:
Since 2002, there have been three reorganizations of the (New York public) school system. The first totally centralized the district, so that all instructional mandates came from "Tweed" (as people now call the DOE), and everyone was expected to be on the same page with balanced literacy, Everyday Math, and the workshop model. In the second reorganization, the DOE created something called the "Empowerment Zone," where schools could escape the micromanagement of the first reorganization—and 332 schools, about one-fourth of the total, chose to escape and become autonomous of the regions.
Then this past January came the third reorganization, and this one was a doozy. The Mayor and Chancellor announced that they had decided to abolish the 10 regions (that they had created in 2003) and re-establish the 32 school districts (that they had abolished fin 2003). They described this as a natural evolution of their plans. Now every principal is tasked with choosing one of three options: 1) become an empowerment school and be sort of autonomous (the pedagogical mandates are still in place, even for "empowerment" schools); 2) affiliate with one of four "learning support organizations, each headed by a former regional superintendent who has no power to supervise the principal; or 3) affiliate with a private management organization to help them achieve their goals.
There is no template for the new structure. Apparently what is intended (though it is hard to know what is intended) is to abolish the school "system" and to rely on principal ingenuity and hard accountability to produce hundreds of quasi-independent schools, all meeting performance targets. The threat of firing hangs heavy over the heads of the principals, as this sanction has been repeatedly invoked for those who don't get the right test scores.
That's urban education in the US right now in a nutshell, roiling like a pot of boiling water, while everyone outside the system complains about how static and unchanging it is.