New Book Offers Insights into Education Reform Efforts in New York City

Washington, D.C. – As Dennis Walcott begins his tenure as chancellor of New York City’s public school system, a new book by leading education scholars offers insights into the strengths and weaknesses of the City’s ambitious “Children First” school reform efforts conducted from 2002 through 2010 under the leadership of Joel Klein, the former chancellor.

The book, Education Reform in New York City: Ambitious Change in the Nation’s Most Complex School System, edited by researchers Jennifer O’Day and Catherine Bitter of the American Institutes for Research (AIR), and Professor Louis Gomez of the University of Pittsburgh, is published by Harvard Education Press. The research was conducted by the New York City Education Reform Retrospective project, which examined the landmark Children First Initiative aimed at reforming New York City’s public schools.

 “It is our belief that the chapters of this book, and the research they are based upon, shed light on the strategies of the Klein administration and will help inform the leadership transition now underway in New York City,” said O’Day, who served as director of the project. “We also believe that the lessons learned can offer valuable insights for those involved in education reform efforts across the country.”

The book addresses key aspects of urban systemic reform, including governance, accountability, instruction, finance, choice and competition, and student outcomes. The chapters include:

  • Leadership and Governance in New York City School Reform, by Paul T. Hill, University of Washington
  • Parent and Community Engagement in New York City and the Sustainability Challenge for Urban Education Reform, by Jeffrey R. Henig, Columbia University; Eva Gold, Research for Action; Marion Orr, Brown University; Megan Silander, PhD candidate, Columbia University; and Elaine Simon, University of Pennsylvania
  • Financing K-12 Education in the Bloomberg Years, 2002-2008, by Leanna Stiefel and Amy Schwartz of New York University
  • Managing for Results at the New York City Department of Education, by Stacey Childress, Harvard Business School; Monica Higgins, Harvard Graduate School of Education; and Ann Ishimaru and Sola Takahashi, doctoral students, Harvard Graduate School of Education
  • Improving Instruction in New York City Schools: An Evolving Strategy, by Jennifer A. O’Day and Catherine S. Bitter, American Institutes for Research
  • Collaborative Inquiry to Expand Student Success in New York City Schools, by Joan E. Talbert, Stanford University
  • Recruiting, Evaluating and Retaining Teachers: The Children First Strategy to Improve New York City’s Teachers, by Margaret Goertz, University of Pennsylvania; Susanna Loeb, Stanford University; and Jim Wyckoff, University of Virginia
  • Changing Contexts and the Challenge of High School Reform in New York City, by Leslie Santee Siskin, New York University
  • School Choice and Competition in the New York City Schools, by Sean P. Corcoran, New York University; and Henry M. Levin, Teachers College, Colombia University
  • How Students’ Views Predict Graduation Outcomes and Reveal Instructional Disparities Under Children First Reforms, by Ronald F. Ferguson, Harvard University
  • Children First and Student Outcomes: 2003-2010, by James Kemple, Research Alliance for New York City Schools, New York University

The Children First initiative was announced in October 2002 in an effort to improve achievement across all schools and to address persistently low performing schools by moving innovation and effective school change throughout the system.

The NYC Education Reform Retrospective project was funded through support from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation; the Carnegie Corporation of New York; the Robertson Foundation and the Michael and Susan Dell Foundation.

About AIR
Established in 1946, with headquarters in Washington, D.C., the American Institutes for Research (AIR) is a nonpartisan, not-for-profit organization that conducts behavioral and social science research and delivers technical assistance both domestically and internationally in the areas of health, education, and workforce productivity. For more information, visit


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