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What should be on Cathie Black's chancellor-prep reading list?

Cathleen Black has almost six weeks to get up-to-speed on public education in New York City before she becomes the new schools chancellor.

She appears to have gotten started on her prep work: Black, the chairwoman of Hearst Magazines, was spotted on Monday with a “thick stack of materials concerning public education,” according to The New York Times. She’s also made phone calls to the presidents of the teachers and principals unions, as well as Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and City Council Speaker Christine Quinn.

When Chancellor Joel Klein was tapped for the job more than eight years ago, he told reporters that he planned to meet with 5,000 people — consultants, educators, parents, and community groups — in his first two months.

We don’t know what’s in Black’s stack of reading material, but we put this question to education experts: what should she be reading?

Jeffrey Henig, professor of political science and education at Columbia’s Teachers College:

I really don’t feel comfortable saying read my stuff, but it makes some sense of course to say those papers presented at the conference yesterday. One of those was mine. The piece I did was on parent engagement — she may or may not be open to that story. I would say she should read that.

Now I am going to name my stuff, I’m sorry. Hank Levin and I and Katy Bulkley have a new volume on portfolio management models and it contains a chapter on New York City. My general point would be that politics is not just the thing she has to hold at bay, she’s got to understand how to build a political constituency, especially if she’s concerned with the sustainability of the reforms past the next election…

…And I’d tell her to read [Diane] Ravitch so she understands the arguments she’s up against. And I’d tell her to go read Leonie Haimson’s blog and to go read GothamSchools. I’ll say that so you don’t have to.

Diane Ravitch, New York University education historian

I would recommend The Great School Wars, it’s history, so it ends in 1973, and then to read my latest book, The Death and Life of the Great American School System, which I would strongly recommend that she read…

…She should read the latest Vanderbilt study on merit pay and a wonderful book she might want to read one chapter of is by Andrea Gabor, a professor at Baruch College, and her book is called The Man Who Discovered Quality, and tell her to read Chapter 9.

Chapter 9 is about performance incentives — what the problems with performance incentives are. And it’s not coming from some educator, it’s coming from a business consultant.

Andrew Rotherham, co-founder of Bellwether Education Partners, author of

Paul Tough: “What It Takes to Make a Student” from NYT mag
Diane Ravitch: Left Back: A Century of Failed School Reforms
E.D. Hirsch: The Knowledge Deficit
Paul Hill: Learning as We Go 2010 book about school choice, and his March 2000 book, It Takes A City
Aristotle: If she thinks this debate isn’t about politics and power, she should stop thinking that now.

Daniel Koretz, Harvard University testing expert

It’s hard to answer this without seeming self-serving, but I would suggest Measuring Up, because in a system like this one, she needs to have some understanding of testing, and I am not aware of an easier way to get it.

James Merriman, CEO of the Center for Charter School Excellence

Paul Tough’s Whatever it Takes — because she needs to understand both just how hard this work is for teachers and leaders but also that we need to be unrelenting in expecting excellence and results

Chester Finn, Terry Ryan, and Mike Lafferty’s Ohio’s Education Reform Challenges: Lessons from the Frontlines,— because it provides a heart-breaking account of how traditional district schools have sometimes failed their students, but also a bracing look at how important it is to have strong and transparent accountability structures.

David Bloomfield, Chair of the Education Department, College of Staten Island, CUNY

What she should be reading, since I was just reading it, is a report by the Metropolitan Center for Urban Education at NYU. It’s called “A Close Look at the Dropout Crisis: Examining Black and Latino Males in New York City.

Sy Fliegel, president of the Center for Educational Innovation – Public Education Association

She can read Miracle in East Harlem. She might learn something from that. I know he [Klein] read it.

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