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New York schools chief Joel Klein to resign; Hearst executive will replace him

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By Nick Anderson
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, November 9, 2010; 11:21 PM

New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg (I) announced Tuesday that Joel I. Klein, an icon in the world of education reform, will resign as chancellor of the nation's largest school system and will be replaced by a publishing executive who once led USA Today.

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The new chancellor, charged with overseeing public schools that serve 1.1 million students, will be Cathleen P. Black. She has been a top executive at Hearst Magazines for 15 years - most recently chairman - and for eight years led USA Today, Gannett's flagship newspaper.

Klein's departure after a long and generally successful eight-year run at the helm of New York's schools comes at a watershed moment for efforts to improve schools nationwide.

Klein's protege, Michelle A. Rhee, resigned as chancellor of D.C. Public Schools last month after Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D) lost his bid for reelection. Chicago schools chief Ron Huberman last week announced his departure from the nation's third-largest school system. And in Los Angeles, the second-largest system is in the midst of changes a few months after former Prince George's County schools chief John E. Deasy was named that city's deputy schools superintendent.

In addition to leadership flux in high-profile urban school systems, there is debate over the direction of the next phase of school reform. The Obama administration has doled out $4 billion in grants for school improvement through its Race to the Top program, including major sums won by New York state, Maryland and the District of Columbia. That money is promoting efforts to overhaul how teachers are evaluated and, in some places, how they are paid.

Congress may soon embark on an effort of larger scope: a rewrite of the 2002 No Child Left Behind school accountability law. The records of school reformers in cities such as New York and Washington could be a key factor in that debate.

Klein was known as a strong advocate of performance pay and limits on teacher tenure. He recently clashed with the United Federation of Teachers over his decision to publicly release teachers' names and their ratings derived from student test scores. The union sued to block him, and the issue is pending in state court.

New York students' scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress generally climbed during Klein's tenure.

Klein worked in the Justice Department before Bloomberg named him chancellor in 2002. The New York Times reported that he will now become an executive vice president at News Corp.

The mayor on Tuesday described Klein as "a landmark, transformational civic leader in our city's long history." Of Black, Bloomberg said: "She is brilliant, she is innovative, she is driven - and there is virtually nobody who knows more about the needs of the 21st-century workforce for which we need to prepare our kids."

Michael J. Petrilli, an analyst at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, an education think tank, said that "Joel Klein and other nontraditional superintendents have demonstrated that you don't have to be an educator to be successful, and [Black's] management savvy will be needed when it's time to right-size the district."

andersonn @washpost.com


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