Speech Mr Joel Klein Chancellor of the New York City Department of Education National Press Club Canberra 25 November Thank you very much. This is Thanksgiving week in the United States and in my wildest imagination I never expected I'd be here at the National Press Club celebrating Thanksgiving week. But I'm thrilled for the opportunity. Ken, thank you for your kind introduction. Ambassador McCallum, thank you for your service to our nation and I’m particularly fond of the fact that you're part of the Justice Department which I think is one of the true great institutions in government. I also would like to thank the Acting Prime Minister who has become a colleague and a friend, someone I've learned so much from but a true inspiration in what I believe public service is all about. She's a bold and fearless leader who calls them as she sees them and I find that truly admirable. Today I want to talk a little bit about public education, something I've spent the last six and a half years, both in New York and throughout the country dealing with. I hope these lessons have some relevance to you here in Australia. But, in any case, I do think that looking globally at what's going on, the challenges that we face in the US and the challenges we face in New York - if you take a city like New York, three quarters of our kids grow up in poverty. Almost three quarters of the kids in my public school system out of 1.1 million are African American and Latino. Our system has basically been one that's stagnated for years. If you think about the challenges in a global economy, they fundamentally boil down to two and I suspect they're not irrelevant to what you're looking at here in Australia. The first is how do we improve standards across the board? Global competition is going to demand more of our children in the 21st century than it demanded of us in the 20th century. So we have to rise to the challenge. By the same token, in the US we have these racial and ethnic or socioeconomic status achievement gaps that have bedevilled us for a very long time. So at the same time you're trying to raise the bar, you simultaneously have to eliminate these achievement gaps. And those are the twin goals that we in the United States have been struggling with for along time. Now, what's so shocking about it is 25 years ago we had a Presidential commission under Ronald Reagan and they announced a report called the Nation at Risk and they concluded that our school system was mired in a rising tide of mediocrity. Indeed, they said, if a foreign power imposed the existing public school system on the United States it would be considered an act of war. And yet - you can laugh, you can laugh - here we are 25 years later, we've more than doubled our investment in real dollars in education, we've enacted reform after reform, looking at all sorts of curriculum changes and professional development and all the other things. And I think it's fair to say that 25 years later, despite the efforts our school is fundamentally not different. The racial and ethnic achievement gaps, the colour of skin so frequently outcome determinative in what a kid's education is, persists. Indeed, if you look at the scores, they haven't changed over the last 25 years. So the question is why is that? And the answer I submit is something that needs to be thought through, that's critical, and that is: the culture of the education system doesn't work right and dysfunctional organisational cultures can't be saved by additional dollars, new curriculums, this kind of intervention strategy or what have you. And so, from me, from the beginning working in tandem with the mayor who grew up in a world that was entirely different from government - Michael Bloomberg - what our reform has been about is transforming a culture of excuse to a culture of performance. Now, that sounds lofty but at its core I believe if we don't undergo that transformation, we will not succeed. There is no silver bullet. Organisations run based on the quality of their culture, the things that they reward, the things that they think are important. What do I mean by a culture of excuse? When I took this job, people would tell me all the time, you know, the reason we're not doing so well is the kids, their families, poverty, lack of resources - a million reasons why we were not succeeding in educating kids to the level that they would need. In fact, probably the two worst lines and they haunt me, number one when people would say, ‘well Chancellor I did the teaching but they didn't do the learning’. And number two, when people would say, ‘you know Chancellor, you'll never fix education in America, until you fix poverty in America’. You see, I think those people have it exactly backward. I don't think we're ever going to fix poverty in America until we fix education in America. And in order to do that, you do have to have a culture of performance. It's got to start with every adult owning responsibility for student outcomes. None of this, ‘I did the teaching, she didn't do the learning’. It's got to be innovative and dynamic and it's got to be constantly improving organisation, one that each day is moving forward and essentially it's got to be non bureaucratic. When Michael Bloomberg took over in New York, right after 9/11 in 2001, two things he set his sights on. The first was to restore the city financially, restore its confidence, deal with the devastation of that great horror. But the second was to go to Albany and say unlike in the past where we had divided government and a school board and all the other things, he wanted to be responsible for and accountable for public education. And that moment forward, we decided the cultural transformation that I'm talking about was going to be built on the backbone of accountability. And that's what I want to talk to you today, because I think that's a pillar of the discussion you're having here in Australia. I gave you a lot of documents to look at later but I want to frame this discussion on what I think are the two critical quotes. The first is from an iconic American Labour leader who served as the head of the national teachers' union for decades and was enormously respected and he said: “The key is that unless there is accountability we'll never get the system right. As long there are no consequences, if kids or adults, don't perform - as long as there are no consequences if kids or adults don't perform, as long as the discussion is not about education and student outcomes, then we're paying a game as to who has the power. Unless you start with a heavy emphasis on accountability, you never get a system with all the other pieces falling into place.” I think in that single insight, that is the transformative lever that will enable us to move from a culture of excuse to one of performance. And indeed, Jim Collins in Good to Great, answered what I anticipate will always be the criticism of accountability systems, particularly in non business environments. And he said: “To throw our hands up and say, but we cannot measure performance in social sectors the way we do in business, is simply a lack of discipline. All indicators are flawed, whether qualitative or quantitative. Test scores are flawed, mammograms are flawed, crime data are flawed, customer service data are flawed, patient outcome data are flawed. What matters is not in finding the perfect indicator but settling upon a consistent and intelligent method of assessing your output results and then tracking your trajectory with rigor.” And I think that's exactly what needed to be done in New York City, needs to be done in the United States and needs to be done in any country that wants to have a 21st Century education system that will serve its children. Now when we started there was a national system that was applied by the states called No Child Left Behind and that was our accountability system and we were held to it. Basically we found it incomplete, in large measure, because it focused on students reaching proficiency in literacy and numeracy. But the truth of the matter is that often reflects what a student brings to the school, not what the school brings for the child. And so we went about and developed - and they're in your materials today three new instruments that we thought were critical for accountability and from that five functions flowed that I'm going to discuss today, but the three instruments are basically a progress report that we do for every single school, second is a survey of parents, teachers and students in our school system getting input about the work that the system is doing at the school level, and the third is a quality review. Independent experts come in and look at the way the school is doing business, modelled somewhat on the British inspectorate. And those three instruments have become the fulcrum for which we assess the system. And like Jim Collins said, they are not perfect, but they are affective to doing the work. The most important of the three is our progress report. What does it look like? You heard we have 1500 schools. We cluster schools based on comparability. So if you start with a lot of high performing children, if you have selective admissions, we compare you to those schools who have similarly high performing children. If you start with struggling learners, we cluster you with those and we look at year to year progress. We started with literacy and numeracy, grades three to eight. We do similar things in high school and we look and see how schools that start at the same level move forward year to year. And what you will find at every dimension of the school system is that some schools will be moving forward and others will be moving backward. That's a product of the quality of the education. That's not a product of what a child brings to the educational system. And based on those assessments, we put a letter grade on each and every school because we want people to know how our schools are performing even if it makes people uncomfortable. Truth of the matter is if schools are not performing, if kids are moving backward, it should make people uncomfortable. And what we have found is that if you look at our accountability system - and it's on page five of the material I gave you - you can look at it later. What it shows is that small increments of student performance - small increments have big impacts on ultimate student outcomes. And so if you move - and a 4.5 is the highest grade you can get, we start at level one, you go to 4.5. If you move from level three which is considered proficient, to level 3.5, your likelihood of graduation goes up over 25 points. Indeed, if we could achieve that across our city that would truly be transformative. So when people look at this and they say, well, that's just teaching to the test, in fact, that's teaching the skills and knowledge necessary to successfully complete public education in New York City, and I submit to you that that's what public education, at a minimum, has got to be. And then we take these other materials and, again, we evaluate each and every school, each year we do the survey, and we roll this up and we make it present. And so we have three very robust accountability tools that we build our system from. And there are five things that flow from that. The first is transparency. We want parents to know that their kids' school is not performing well. Every one of these documents is made available. They're online, they're there for anyone to see. We want the media to screen because that's an essential part both of equity, that is, of treating kids fairly, and second of all, of building the political will for a reform. The second key dimension of this is if you have a meaningful, robust accountability system, you can do the transformative work by rewarding the things you want more of and having consequences for the things you want fewer of and we are in the process of building that system. So in New York City, based on these reports, if you do well the principal gets an additional $25,000 a year in salary. And in a system where you have defined benefit pensions, that's a significant incentive. In addition, the school gets additional money. We invest in schools that do well. And, finally, in what was a real landmark in the US, we negotiated with our union a bonus program tied directly to the scorecard for teachers who get $3000 per teacher if they meet their targets. And then the teachers and the principal sit together and decide how to distribute that in a compensation committee. Now, what that has done is created the incentive for people to create the rising tide. And, yes, the harder aspect of it is we do have consequences. Kids who are in F school, they have the right to transfer out. And principals who are in F and D schools, we have the right to terminate them and, indeed, schools that continue to get Ds and Fs, we will close those schools down. Since I have been Chancellor, probably the most controversial thing I have done, is to close over 70 different schools because we have an obligation to our kids not to leave them in non-performing schools. The third thing that flows from this accountability system when people understand where we're trying to take the system is that it becomes the basis for teacher improvement. I've heard all over the world people talk about professional development and professional development for teachers is critical but it's got to be high quality, professional development that's driven by a set of accountability principles. So, at the first level, we've looked among our teachers, which of our teachers are actually making progress with our kids and which aren't. And what you do then, we give that information to our principals. And, again, I understand the discomfort of differentiation but our principals then compare those teachers who are making the most progress with those who are struggling to get them the supports and the help. And we give teachers the ability to use data. We have created a platform called ARIS which is our Achievement Reporting and Information - and Innovation System. Every teacher is a click away from rich and robust data including periodic assessments. We don't wait until the end of the year to know if a kid is on course. And we don't simply say, well, this kid's not getting literacy. There could be a dozen different literacy skills that a kid needs and she may be getting a few and not getting others and if the teacher targets the interventions, much more likely to get the results. And we've put teachers together. Teaching is a lonely profession. We've put them together in what we've called inquiry teams and these teams sit and look and say why is Klein getting this but not getting that? And they might call my teacher from two years ago and say, he seemed not to have trouble in math then, what was working for him? And there's a constant inquiry that's going on collectively based on the data and information and in that data and information system if a teacher wants to know what learning there is on dealing with English language learners or special ed kids who come to school with autistic disorders and other things like that. Those data and information are immediately available to them. So we have a powerful, robust platform from which people can do their work and the use of those data, I submit, are critical to creating this rising tide and improving what goes on in education. The fourth thing is for the system to do knowledge management. Whenever I hear people talk about best practices I ask them, what support do you have that those are best practices? How can you show me, because you think they're best practices? In the US we call that urban myth on what a best practice is. The truth of the matter is if you have the kind of data rich system built on this backbone of accountability, you can tell. So for example, I look at all of my middle schools which create the greatest challenge for me. Our elementary schools and our high schools are actually moving forward at a faster pace but our middle schools are struggling. So what do I look at? I look at all of our middle schools are rated and nine out of 10, almost at any level where they start, nine out of 10 move backward from sixth grade to seventh grade to eighth grade. And one out of 10 move forward and that's not a difference in resources, that's not a difference in accountability systems. Something is happening in that 10 per cent and then we put our most talented people to do the inquiry, to see what are the things that are happening in the 10 per cent that are not happening in the other 90 per cent? And that's the way we drive knowledge management through the system. This old notion that they invented at GE - this NIH notion, Not Invented Here - we think that's the way you share information, make people go out and look. So if your school got an A, and mine got an F and we started in the same cohort and the list of schools is right on the report card, first thing I'm going to go do is go meet with you and say, what are you doing that got you an A? You've had the same struggling children that I do and that's the way that we learn and build knowledge. So instead of myth, we're trying to create a system that's data driven, sophisticated and will again contribute to the rising tide. And the last thing that our accountability system does - remember I said before we want dynamic, innovative, non-bureaucratic system as it drives empowerment. Because if a principal is willing to be on the line for student performance and say, I own that accountability, then we're willing to empower those principals. So we don't have many top down mandates. Our principals are able to differentiate. Indeed, we have a performance agreement with every principal that sets out the parameters of this exchange of empowerment for accountability. And we don't decide at central how many kids should be in a class, we don't decide whether you ought to have an after school program, a pre-school program or a Saturday program. We let our principals decide that. As a result they differentiate, they do different things and then we go back to our accountability system and see the impact that it has. Budgeting is on per pupil basis, entirely transparent. So if you get a high needs child, you're going to get twice what a regular child gets, and it doesn't matter what school that child is in. And everybody can see how the money follows the kid, rather than goes to the school. And our principals have more discretion over their budgets than they've ever had before. Then again, something quite radical in the US, we entered an agreement with our union that principals select their staff. When I first got here thousands of teachers moved through the system, literally like a game of musical chairs, ended up at a school and nobody could say whether they wanted them in the school or not. They were simply entitled to a spot. But schools are communities of adults that share a vision, that have a shared commitment, and they come together voluntarily. And if you hold people accountable they should be able to select the team that they want to put on the field. And my principals will tell you, of all the changes we made, this is probably the most powerful. We significantly downsized the bureaucracy. Indeed, a year and half, two years ago, we took our $240 million from the bureaucracy and we gave the money to the schools and we created what we'll call school support organisations. There were six of them that were private and five of them that were public. And they priced themselves at somewhere between 30,000 and 60,000. And the schools chose the support organisation that they wanted and they thought that they need. And lastly, we tell everybody outside the school building, your job is to support the school. That's where teaching and learning takes place, that's where student outcomes occur. So we don't run the bureaucracy for the benefit of adults. The bureaucracy has got to serve the needs of our schools which, in turn, are responsible and accountable for the outcomes of our students. Every year we do two to three surveys of people outside the bureaucracy asking our principals, is this helpful to you, did you get the service you needed from this particular aspect, was the bussing piece good, was this piece good? And I use those numbers to hold my people outside the school system, outside the schools, accountable. This is very much a work in progress, and I've learned a great deal as we've gone through the work. But the school system today in New York City is a very different school system; from the top down, stagnating bureaucratic school system that we started with. And we are getting results. I'd be the first to admit, we have a long, long way to go. But if you look at the results over the last six and a half years, what you'll see is our city outperforming the rest of the state and other comparable cities in our state, by significant numbers, particularly in the lower grades. What you'll see is after 10 years, literally, of a stagnating graduation rate, we have taken it up over two points a year during the last five years. And what you'll see is on national tests which are voluntary, but we participate because we want the data and which are a sampling, which are not every student, you will see that in fourth grade our kids are doing quite well. Indeed, probably the number I'm proudest of is that fourth grade African-Americans in New York City are at the top of the heap nationally in both literacy and numeracy. And significantly ahead of African-American kids in other cities. You will also see at the eighth grade we're not making progress. And that sends me back to that inquiry that I discussed with you before. And that inquiry is that why is it that one out of 10 do make progress and the other nine out of 10 don't? So the best people we have are now studying that question. There's a lot of work ahead of us. But I remember during the last presidential campaign the word - of all the words that Barack Obama said that were so masterful, the notion of the fierce urgency of now struck me deeply. When I look out over the next 20 years and think about the challenges that my children in New York City, particularly children who grew up in poverty particularly children of colour who start so far behind, when I see the challenges those kids are going to face - I can't help but believe we, the adults, have got to get started with that fierce sense of urgency to do the transformational work. I assure you, if we don't, the people who'll suffer will be our children. Thank you for your attention this afternoon.