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Klein: “Everybody’s behind” the city’s retention policies

Joel Klein stayed positive about his reputation in an interview last night on NY1, even as host Dominic Carter played two different clips showing elected officials (both candidates for citywide office) criticizing the schools chancellor.

Klein chalked up any complaints he’s received to politics — and said President Obama is receiving the same kind of flak on the national stage, for implementing a similar education program.

“He’s putting those out there, and you know what’s happening? You get push back,” Klein said.

(I put in a call to David Cantor, Klein’s spokesman, and I’ll write to Klein too, because I’m curious what push back he’s referencing. Both teachers unions have largely supported the Race to the Top stimulus fund, if tentatively. Maybe Klein has in mind Diane Ravitch? Or could he have read Leonie Haimson’s Huffington Post piece yesterday, “Arne Duncan Has Become An Embarrassment”?)

Klein was particularly sanguine about the proposed extension of the city’s so-called “social promotion” ban announced yesterday. “When I came on here in 2004, when the mayor ended social promotion, you had the pictures — everybody was demonstrating, and all the noise,” Klein said. “Now it is 2009 and we have ended social promotion in every one of these grades, and you know what? You don’t hear noise any more, Dominic. You know why? People know what’s right for kids.”

“Everybody’s behind it now,” Klein said of the retention policy, which holds back students who don’t pass standardized tests.

There haven’t been protests in the streets, but we are hearing from researchers who argue strongly against the policy. And Carter, who hosts the nightly “Road to City Hall” program, played two clips — one of Bill Thompson the comptroller and mayoral candidate, and another of John Liu, the City Council candidate running for comptroller — denouncing Klein’s leadership. Thompson has promised to fire Klein if he is elected mayor.

Other highlights:

  • Klein said that he hopes Bloomberg decides to keep him on board if he’s elected to a third term, as Bloomberg has promised:
    I’ve always said I serve at the mayor’s pleasure. I believe that the mayor is proud to stand on the record we’ve accomplished together, and I look forward to continuing to serve with him. But Dominic this is not about Joel klein. And Michael Bloomberg will decide what’s best for the city at all times. I hope his decision is that we continue to work together. I think we’ve done great work together. I think we have a lot more of it to do.
  • Klein said that Liu was correct to criticize the administration’s re-writing of city school bus routes in 2007. But he said that he has made up for that cost in other ways. “This year, we had 50% more kids going to City University. So, when he talks about leaving a kid out in the cold, that’s a bad thing, but when you talk about thousands and thousands of kids for years — they were left out in the cold for life,” Klein said.
  • Klein also declared that, “Last year was the best year we had in public education in this city. It was really in every dimension a great year.” He said that he’s spent his summer meeting with principals and disclosed that he plans to meet with a group of about 30 from CUNY today.