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Randall Reback, (212) 854-5005,
Dan Quinn, (517) 203-2940,

Report provides excellent primer for NYC policy reforms

Review finds some claims should be softened

EAST LANSING, Mich. (June 3, 2014) – A recent report from the Center for American Progress summarizes and evaluates the public education reforms during the Bloomberg mayoral era in NYC. The report suggests that positive change resulted from the Children First reforms and makes several policy recommendations. An academic review out today finds that the report does an impressive job summarizing the reforms into a single, short narrative. However, several of the claims overhype the success of small high schools and charter schools.

Randall Reback of Barnard College reviewed New York City's Children First: Lessons in School Reform for the Think Twice think tank review project of the National Education Policy Center (NEPC), with funding from the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice.

The report describes four aspects of reform during the Bloomberg era, and makes recommendations for NYC and other urban districts. It focuses on top-down school reforms from the mayor's office, rather than on instructional changes inside classrooms.

In his review, Reback found several misleading claims and endorsements for the success of New York's small school movement. Regarding these claims, he says: "It is thus difficult to separate whether successful small schools were successful due to their 'smallness' or due to other, correlated factors."

He also finds that the report exaggerates student performance outcomes for both charter schools and traditional public schools. For example, he discusses how the report fails to mention concerns about inflated high school graduation rates.

On a positive note, Reback finds that the report does an excellent job of exploring potential reasons why some reforms may have 'stuck' while others did not. Furthermore, Reback calls for an examination of the reasons for success across all types of popular and thriving schools, not just the small schools advocated in the report.

In his conclusion, Reback singles out the recruitment of promising principals and empowering principals to serve as both instructional leaders and school managers. However, he cautions that "our expectations for principals may be too great, in terms of their ability to serve as instructional leaders, evaluators of teachers, and managers of school resources."

Overall, the Reback says, "This report provides an excellent primer for readers trying to understand New York City school policy reforms during the Bloomberg mayoral era."

Read this review at:

Find Children First on the web:

Think Twice, a project of the National Education Policy Center, provides the public, policymakers and the press with timely, academically sound reviews of selected publications. The project is made possible by funding from the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice.

The review can also be found on the NEPC website:

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The mission of the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice is to support and disseminate high quality research and reviews of research for the purpose of informing education policy and to develop research-based resources for use by those who advocate for education reform.

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