Joel I. Klein became New York City schools chancellor in July 2002 after serving in the highest levels of government and business. As Chancellor, he oversees more than 1,500 schools with 1.1 million students, 136,000 employees, and a $21-billion operating budget.
Mr. Klein’s comprehensive education reform program, Children First, is transforming the nation's largest public school system into a system of great schools.
Before Mr. Klein became Chancellor, he was chairman and chief executive officer of Bertelsmann, Inc., and chief U.S. liaison officer to Bertelsmann AG from January 2001 to July 2002. Bertelsmann, one of the world’s largest media companies, has annual revenues exceeding $20 billion and employs more than 76,000 people in 54 countries.
From 1997 to 2001, Mr. Klein was assistant attorney general in charge of the U.S. Department of Justice’s antitrust division. Serving one of the longest tenures ever as head of the 700-lawyer division, Klein led landmark cases against Microsoft, WorldCom/Sprint, Visa/Mastercard, and General Electric, prevailing in a large majority of cases. Mr. Klein was widely credited with transforming the antitrust division into one of the Clinton Administration’s greatest successes. He also served as Acting Assistant Attorney General and as the antitrust division’s principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General. His appointment to the U.S. Justice Department came after Klein served two years (1993-95) as deputy counsel to President William J. Clinton.
Question: What role should universities play in reforming primary and secondary education?
Joel Klein: We have partnered with a number of universities here in the city. We have a strong partnership with CUNY, with NYU, with Columbia. We’re now opening a math science school on the new Columbia campus with Columbia, in which their professors are going to be working with our kids and a lot of kids from Harlem and from Northern Manhattan who will be going to this school, as well as kids throughout the city. So I think there are real partnerships.
The other thing that I’ve been saying, and we’re getting some success on, is you got to transform our educational schools. Our educational schools have gotta do a much better job in two areas.
One is in a whole area of classroom management and the challenges that teachers will face in high needs communities. The issues we talked about before of kids who come to school with very challenged backgrounds and difficult circumstances. And our teachers need to learn as part of their ed school experience how to deal with that. It’s got to be much more clinical and much more hands on.
And second of all, we’ve got to create partnerships between the ed schools and the schools of arts and sciences so that content becomes a big part of your educational training. Pedagogic matters, how you teach, what the methodology is--that matters, but content also matters. A great pedagogue who doesn’t know math cannot teach math. And we’ve got to get real partnerships going on.
We recently started a program actually with KIPP, Achievement First and Uncommon schools and Hunter [College]. And they have a new ed school dean there who is really terrific, in my view; willing to reconfigure the way teacher preparation is done. Those are valuable, valuable years that we need to rethink and rework on.
The other thing I think that the institution of higher education needs to be doing is, again, helping us get kids on track for science, technology earlier on. They could be doing things with summer internships and programs and getting kids into the campus at an earlier age.
Recorded on: March 30, 2008