The NY DOE Chancellor's District was the Most Successful District in the City; Klein Disbanded It; Why?
A Special School District Is Gone, but a Study Cites Its Benefits
By DAVID M. HERSZENHORN (NYTIMES, July 7, 2004)
A special district under direct control of the New York City schools chancellor made substantial improvements at some of the city's worst public schools, according to a study by researchers at New York University.
Gains in reading scores outpaced similarly low-performing schools that remained in their local community districts, said the researchers' report, which is to be issued today.
The special district, a grouping of troubled schools from around the city known as the Chancellor's District, was created by Chancellor Rudy Crew in 1996 and operated through the 2002-03 school year.
But the current chancellor, Joel I. Klein, then disbanded it as part of a systemwide restructuring that reorganized the city's 32 community districts into 10 instructional regions.
The study, by researchers at N.Y.U.'s Institute for Education and Social Policy, found that from the 1998-99 academic year through 2001-02, the schools in the Chancellor's District fared better than other struggling schools in student achievement and were enhanced in other ways -- like attracting more certified teachers.
''The Chancellor's District intervention significantly increased teacher resources and per-student expenditure across the district's schools and significantly increased the percentage of students meeting the standard on the fourth-grade state reading tests,'' the report states.
In the three school years studied, the percentage of students meeting standards on the statewide fourth-grade reading test rose 17.7 percentage points, while scores in other struggling schools rose 11.9 percentage points, the report said.
The report found no difference in math scores, but it noted that the Chancellor's District had initially focused its efforts on improving literacy and that some gains in math scores were starting to appear.
Among school system insiders, eliminating the Chancellor's District is among the most-debated aspects of the overhaul.
The teachers' union president, Randi Weingarten, a stout critic of the decision to end the Chancellor's District, said yesterday that she found the results of the N.Y.U. study ''both incredibly gratifying and incredibly sad.''
Stephen Morello, a spokesman for Chancellor Klein, said that in the system overhaul, known generally as Children First, the Klein administration was employing some of the same strategies as the Chancellor's District, hoping for gains in reading and math in a larger number of schools.
''The Children First reforms build on this experience by emphasizing the same key factors to which the researchers attribute achievement gains -- staffing schools with licensed teachers and placing an intensive focus on instruction -- while focusing not merely on a small number of schools,'' but on ''the hundreds of under-performing schools in our system,'' Mr. Morello said.
"Virtual District, Real Improvement: A Retrospective Evaluation of the Chancellor's District, 1996-2003"