Education Reform in New York City: Ambitious Change in the Nation’s Most Complex School System

| October 30, 2011

Title: Education Reform in New York City: Ambitious Change in the Nation’s Most Complex School System

Editors: Jennifer A. O’Day, Catherine S. Bitter, and Louis M. Gomez

Publisher: Harvard University Press

Call Number: LA339.N5 E38 2011

From the Publisher:

Written in an accessible style by highly respected scholars, the papers in this volume document and analyze particular components of the Children First reforms, including governance, community engagement, finance, accountability, and instruction.

The education reforms in New York City’s public schools begun under the administration of Mayor Michael Bloomberg and School Chancellor Joel Klein have been among the most ambitious of any large urban system in the country. Aimed at instituting evidence-based practices to produce higher and more equitable outcomes for all students, the policies that comprise the Children First initiative represent an attempt at organizational improvement and systemic learning that is unparalleled in U.S. public education. The tremendous scope of the reforms, the multiple and interrelated challenges involved in their implementation, and their undeniable impact all underscore their importance in providing lessons for the field and in framing the conversation about the next level of work in district-based reform.

The editors explore the theory of action behind each phase of reform, and examine the tensions and tradeoffs that played out as these reforms were implemented. Together, these thoughtful and thoroughly researched analyses promise to inform improvement in other urban systems and add to our understanding of systemic learning and change in education.

Contributors include Stacey Childress, Sean P. Corcoran, Ronald F. Ferguson, Margaret E. Goertz, Eva Gold, Jeffrey R. Henig, Monica Higgins, Paul T. Hill, Ann Ishimaru, James J. Kemple, Henry M. Levin, Susanna Loeb, Marion Orr, Amy Ellen Schwartz, Megan Silander, Elaine Simon, Leslie Santee Siskin, Leanna Stiefel, Sola Takahashi, Joan E. Talbert, and Jim Wyckoff.

About the Editors:

Jennifer A. O’Day is a managing research scientist at the American Institutes for Research and director of the New York City Education Reform Retrospective project. Catherine S. Bitter is a senior research analyst at the American Institutes for Research. Louis M. Gomez is the Helen P. Faison Professor of Urban Education at the University of Pittsburgh.


Education Reform in New York City provides clear and comprehensive analyses of an extremely complex set of very high-profile reforms. It also provides a template for analyzing multipart, interrelated efforts that escape easy characterization and appraisal. The authors have done a splendid job of bringing clarity to a complicated story.       — Susan H. Fuhrman, president, Teachers College, Columbia University

This is an important book. Its breadth does justice to the ambition and complexity of New York City’s Children First reforms, as seen through the perspectives of both critics and advocates. Let the debates continue and enrich other communities wrestling with the challenge of turning around urban schools.       — Andrés A. Alonso, CEO, Baltimore City Public Schools

An extraordinary analysis of the New York reform effort: the volume is respectful of the scope and intensity of the Bloomberg-Klein reforms, yet it penetrates the hype. These collected chapters present big city education reform in their true light: as very hard work requiring years of sustained effort. If you want feel-good fairy tales about Gotham, read elsewhere. If you want compassionate truth, read this book.       — Charles Taylor Kerchner, professor, Claremont Graduate University