Now that Mayor Bloomberg is going to stay mayor for another four years there's all sorts of talk about how he'll avoid the famed "third term curse" that brough down Koch, Cuomo, and more. Bloomberg has pledged to renew his energy and chart a bold new course through the next four years. The course won't be that new (I mean, he is the incumbent), but he seems to be saying that he's open to new ideas.
With that in mind, here are some ideas (not all of which are new, per se) that the mayor could think about integrating into the education agenda for the next four years. As much as possible, I'm trying to make these things I think the mayor might actually do as opposed to just making a list of things I would want to see if I'd been elected. So here's what I've got:
1. Use mayoral control to create more community schools
Mayoral control over the schools gets so much attention that we kind of forget that the mayor has control over all sorts of different things (Health Department, ACS, Sanitation, etc.) that directly impact people's lives. The Harlem Children's Zone has won a fair amount of acclaim by focusing on an entire community approach to educating children. Schools are the centerpiece, but there's also a huge investment in all other parts of the community. This seems like the kind of thing that a mayor, with control over all the city agencies, could really make his own. Bloomberg should pick a few pilot areas and create city-sponsored community school zones. Increase the investment and attention intensively into the entire community and you're just about guaranteed to see students doing better.
2. Use next year's impending test scores drop to realign accountability programs
The consensus seems to be that the state is going to make the tests harder next year and that we should therefore expect to see test scores drop. Since test scores are what the DOE uses for all of its accountability measures, this isn't going to look great for them. Of course, there's a lot of evidence that the measures are a little bit inflated already to make the DOE look as good as possible. With a year to start managing expectations of a downward drop, the Mayor could use this opportunity to realign all the measures and standards to be a little more reality-based and a little less inflated. The immediate drop will be attributed to the tests getting harder and then any improvement from there will be more authentic and believable. More rigorous tests (as they're often described) will provide cover to do what probably needs doing anyway, but won't be done because no one wants to see scores drop.
3. Replace Chancellor Klein
I know I said that I wanted these suggestions to be things that Bloomberg might actually do and I also know that most indications are that Klein isn't going anywhere. But what if he did? Klein has been a complete lightening rod for the last seven years and he's received heaps of scorn and reprobation from many sectors of the community. So replace him. The mayor still has control over the schools and has the power to appoint a Chancellor, so he could still pick someone who would follow largely the same agenda. Plus, it would earn him (Bloomberg) and the replacement pick a period of goodwill. During this honeymoon, he could still follow essentially the same agenda (and let's be clear, he will follow the same agenda), but people wouldn't be as on to it since there was a new face at the top. Plus, if Bloomberg really does want to make his changes to the school system permanent, a replacement Chancellor would have a much better job of being reappointed by the next mayor than Klein has. There's a lot to be gained by doing it and surprisingly little to lose.
Anyway, those are my thoughts. Let me know if I missed anything.