Uncommon Street Fest Brings Together New Thinking on Cities
NYU Wagner's Rogan Kersh shines at Festival of Ideas for the New City. [Photo by Dexter Miranda.]
Instead of face painting and kielbasa, there were brightly colored worm tunnels, and a crocheted room. Italian ices and ferris wheels -- the stuff of traditional street fares everywhere -- were replaced by fresh thinking about environmental sustainability, neighborhood heterogeneity, and cutting-edge networking.
The streets and suites all around NYU Wagner's headquarters in the historic Puck Building were awash in new ideas on urban living May 4 to May 8 at the first-ever Festival of Ideas for the New City. Workshops and discussions, dealing with everything from art and housing to urban planning and public policy, took center stage at multiple locations throughout downtown.
The first-ever brainstorm of its kind, the Festival of Ideas was organized by the New Museum, with assistance provided by NYU Wagner and the Cooper Union, and other major partners.
Participants in the festival events included small businesses, local non-profits, and a raft of arts organizations.
The talks tapped the knowledge of thinkers from a variety of arenas. Artists, urban planners, architects and even musicians like David Byrne (of Talking Heads fame) - who opened an event on bicycle transportation called "The Sustainable City" -- populated and energized the discussions.
The events were all aimed at coming up with ways of making city life more beautiful, durable, collective, connective, and innovative.
Two of the discussions were hosted at Wagner's headquarters at Lafayette and Houston streets, with Wagner also dispatching expert participants to other happenings, such as Professor and Associate Dean Rogan Kersh. Wagner's Josh Mandell attended the Downtown Policy Issues World Café, co-hosted at the Puck by NYU Wagner and IDEO, the design firm; he wrote up the lively discussion about new ways to use shared space, solar panels, and even white paint. Thirteen.org was also there, picking up intelligence.
Meanwhile, Wagner's Professor Mitchell Moss took part in a Saturday evening conversation on the prospects for a thriving downtown cultural scene, held at Joe's Pub at the Public Theater.
FELPS Hosts NYC Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott
NYC Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott addresses NYU Wagner's Fellowship for Emerging Public Service Leaders on April 27, 2011.
Just three weeks into his role as head of the nation's largest public school system, New York City Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott spoke with NYU Wagner's Fellowship for Emerging Leaders in Public Service (FELPS) on April 27.
He discussed his career path, including founding a youth mentorship program, heading the National Urban League, and serving as Deputy Mayor of Education and Community Development. Chancellor Walcott also talked about leadership lessons he has learned from these experiences, including the importance of recognizing mentorship moments, the growth that comes from hiring people who will challenge you, and strategies for maintaining work-family balance in public service careers.
Obama administration officials eye public-private partnering
The public and private sectors are becoming interdependent through technology, globalization, and shared services and customers. Yet historically there has been a significant divide between the public and private sectors--with causes spanning from cultural attitudes to legal and political impediments. How can we advance partnerships in the arena of critical infrastructure?
On March 21, two officials from the Obama administration talked about key avenues to greater public-private partnerships in infrastructure protection and overall catastrophe preparedness. The occasion was a forum at NYU Wagner, with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Douglas Smith, assistant secretary for the private sector, and Todd M. Keil, assistant secretary for infrastructure protection.
Offering reaction to the officials' comments were respondents Carl Weisbrod, partner in the leading policy, economic development and planning consulting firm HR&A, and Wagner professors John Gershman and Rae Zimmerman. The moderator was William Raisch, Director, International Center for Enterprise Preparedness at NYU.
For Former UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown, Whirlwind Day at Wagner
Gordon Brown (r.) enjoys light-hearted moment at Henry Hart Rice Forum with Mitchell Moss.
Gordon Brown, the British Labour Party leader who served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from June 2007 to May 2010, and is a current Member of Parliament, spent an engaging day at NYU Wagner on April 11 with groups of students, faculty, alumni, staff, and the dean, Ellen Schall. In the evening, he spoke to more than 150 friends of the public-service graduate school as the guest of the Henry Hart Rice Forum moderated by Mitchell Moss, Henry Hart Rice Professor of Urban Policy and Planning at Wagner.
The Right Honourable Mr. Brown projected optimism about globalization. He said vast increases in producers and consumers in fast-developing countries such as China, India, Indonesia and Brazil will benefit the West, as long as the U.S. and Europe invest heavily in science, technology and education and keep the doors of global trade open.
In this way, Mr. Brown argued, the West can ensure it will profit and gain new sources of employment from globalization -- and ease the understandable anxiety so rife today about economic change.
"For the first time last year, in almost 200 years, Europe and America are being out-produced, out manufactured, and out-invested by the rest of the world," he said. "...It makes people insecure; it makes people feel, ‘Are we witnessing the decline of the West?...And then people feel insecure about their jobs."
It is this economic "sea change," which surpasses even that of the Industrial Revolution, that holds the seeds of opportunity for a more balanced global economy, according to the former prime minister.
"The people who are producing goods in China, India, and elsewhere - they don't want just to be workers producing goods; they want to be consumers too," he said.
"They want to enjoy some of benefit of the goods that come with a higher standard of living. They want to be part of the industrial society as middle class consumers of the future," and they want to have "houses, electrical goods, better clothes, higher quality food, health care, and education."
"There is a huge opportunity for us in what is about to happen, because we in America and Europe can be the people who are equipped to sell goods and services that are sold in the rest of the world," added Mr. Brown.
Mr. Brown, who has a PhD in History from the University of Edinburg, was introduced by Dean Schall and queried by Professor Moss about his youthful influences (mainly his parents and his school teachers), rapport with U.S. presidents (from Clinton to Bush to Obama), and Scotland's historical impact on the American experiment.
The event was held at the Kimmel Center of New York University. Mr. Brown is the university's inaugural Distinguished Global Leader in Residence.
In his remarks, the former prime minister warned against a "race to the bottom" that will occur if countries are permitted to attract business via deregulation. What is required, he stated, is the development and maintenance of consistent international standards for investment.
Fielding a question from a Wagner student about the environmental impact of burgeoning consumer economies, he said that worldwide treaties, such as the one attempted but not enacted at the recent Copenhagen Climate Summit, are clearly merited .
Katherine O'Regan Receives NYU 2010-11 Distinguished Teaching Award
Congratulations to Katherine M. O'Regan, associate professor of public policy extraordinaire here at NYU Wagner! She has been selected as a recipient of the 2010-2011 Distinguished Teaching Award.
The award recipients include a total of six professors from across the university.
Professor O'Regan will be donating half of her esteemed award to the Wagner Experience Fund, established for the first time this year to fund 50 internships for Wagner students this summer.
Past teaching-award recipients at Wagner include Ingrid Gould Ellen, Steven Finkler, and Ellen Schall.
NYU Wagner and UCLA Luskin Partner on Social Justice Initiative
NYU's Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service and the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs have partnered to envision how schools of public affairs and administration and related fields can equip emerging and established public service leaders to tackle inequality and advance social justice. In March, the schools held two day-long regional dialogues as part of a joint Social Justice Initiative in Public Service Graduate Programs.
NYU Wagner and UCLA Luskin began partnering in 2008 and hosted inter-school dialogues in 2009 focused on fostering communities in which issues of race and other markers of identity are discussable. Generous new support from the Ford Foundation allowed Wagner and Luskin to expand these dialogues beyond their schools to include teams of students, faculty and administrators from nearly 30 peer schools on the East and West Coasts, as well as representatives from social work schools, law schools, and other institutions interested in promoting social justice.
The East Coast dialogue was hosted by NYU Wagner Dean Ellen Schall on March 11, 2011. Jeannie Oakes, director of the Ford Foundation's Educational Opportunity and Scholarship Programs, was the featured guest speaker. She outlined the Transformative Leadership Initiative the foundation has undertaken with a broad swath of universities and nonprofit organizations across the United States. At the West Coast dialogue hosted by UCLA Luskin Dean Frank Gilliam, Jr. on March 28, Dr. Gilliam spoke on behalf of the Ford Foundation.
At both events, discussions focused on the integration of social justice into core curricula, electives, extracurricular activities, faculty development, field building, community engagement, and research. Participants shared best practices; generated ideas to advance for advancement within their individual schools, departments and programs; and developed next steps as a community of schools committed to social justice education.
The Initiative builds on a long-standing commitment to advance social justice that runs throughout Wagner and is at the core of the work of NYU Wagner's Research Center for Leadership in Action. Many of the themes that emerged in the dialogues reflect RCLA's work since the Center's inception, including advancing models of leadership that make structures and systems more inclusive, transparent and fair; establishing deep partnerships between academics and practitioners in research and programs; and fostering and supporting diverse leadership at all levels of organizations and within society to leverage a variety of talents and contributions.
RCLA Executive Director Bethany Godsoe noted, "We are excited to see the Social Justice Initiative gain momentum on both coasts and to have this opportunity to share RCLA's work with social change leaders and other public service partners as a model for leadership development, research and teaching grounded in a social justice approach."
Professor of Public Service Paul Light Named to GAO Panel
Paul C. Light, the Paulette Goddard Professor of Public Service at NYU Wagner, has accepted an invitation from the Comptroller General of the United States, Gene L. Dodaro, to serve on the principal advisory board of the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO).
The GAO is an independent, nonpartisan agency that works for Congress. Often called the "congressional watchdog," it investigates how the federal government spends taxpayer dollars. The head of GAO, the Comptroller General of the United States, is appointed to a 15-year term by the President from a slate of candidates Congress proposes.
Dodaro was nominated by President Obama in September 2010. He became Acting Comptroller General of the United States on March 13, 2008, succeeding David M. Walker, who appointed him upon resigning. Dodaro became Comptroller General of the United States on December 22, 2010, when he was confirmed by the U.S. Senate.
Professor Light has written 19 books, including the award-winning Thickening Government and The Tides of Reform. His most recent book is Driving Social Change: How to Solve the World's Toughest Problems, a study of social entrepreneurship. Light is also a co-author of a best-selling American government textbook, Government by the People.
His research interests include: bureaucracy, civil service, Congress, entitlement programs, executive branch, government reform, nonprofit effectiveness, organizational change, and the political appointment process.
The GAO Advisory Board is the most influential panel of its kind at the agency, and meets several times a year.
"Beyond the Wal-Martization of Immigration"
In a guest commentary, NYU Wagner Professor Natasha Iskander and fellow researcher Nichola Lowe, of the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, writes on the role scholars can play in reshaping the political dialogue and debate about immigration and its impact on the national economy. The piece is hosted by the Institute for the Study of the Americas at UNC-Chapel Hill. (See, too, a recent study coauthored by Iskander, entitled "Hidden Talent: Skill Formation and Labor Market Incorporation of Latino Immigrants in the United States.")
On Friday, April 8, 2011, meanwhile, Professor Iskander visited the World Bank in Washington, D.C., to deliver a lecture about her recently published book, Creative State: Forty Years of Migration and Development Policy in Morocco and Mexico
Measuring Progress in Reducing Poverty [Video]
C. Nicole Mason, executive director of the Women of Color Poverty Network (WOCPN) at NYU Wagner, delivered opening remarks at a major conference on measuring poverty, held March 29 at the Center for American Progress, and co-hosted by WOPCN and the Half in Ten campaign.
She joined with other national experts as they discussed the challenges of developing poverty benchmarks and indicators for progress, how the new measure can be used in tandem with other statistics to assess shared goals, and how agencies and organizations can collaborate to effectively reduce poverty in the next decade. Congressman Jim McDermott (D-Wisconsin) gave the keynote address.
The event, including Mason's opening remarks, can be seen here [Video].
Student Forum Explores Disaster Resilience and Reconstruction
Makeshift store in earthquake-devastated area of Haiti. [Photo by Kylie Davis.]
According to data collected by NYU Wagner Professor Rae Zimmerman, the rate of natural disasters has been on the rise since the early 1970s. Causing the highest fatalities are earthquakes, storms and droughts, and intense heat spells (in that order).
This trend line shows the urgent need for vastly increased attention to disaster planning and preparedness across sectors. But Wagner urban planning students found indications of planning gaps during trips to scenes of devastation in Haiti and Chile, where they participated in reconstruction work. Lack of public-safety preparedness and infrastructure fortification added tragic dimensions, while arduous and complex rebuilding efforts by the state, international aid groups, and local agencies were sometimes found halting or, at times, loosely coordinated.
On March 29, 2011, with the world watching recovery efforts in the wake of the Japan tsunami and nuclear power catastrophe, NYU Wagner's Urban Planning Student Association and International Public Service Association brought together students, faculty and practitioners for a forum entitled "Disaster Resilience and Reconstruction Events."
The first panel was composed of students whose recent visits to Haiti and Chile arose from their enrollment in "Post Catastrophe Reconstruction" (co-taught by James P. Stuckey, division dean, NYU Schack Institute of Real Estate) or "Preparing for Emergencies" (with Professor Zimmerman). These students -- including Kylie Davis, Sapna Bhatt, Amy Southworth, Mat Sanders, and Iria Touzon, who said she was visiting Japan when the tsunami hit --offered observations of what worked well, where relief and rebuilding fell short, and why.
In the wake of any natural disaster, such as t Hurricane Katrina in Sanders' hometown of New Orleans, "What you see is survivors adapt to the new reality," he said. "But when you adapt, you're not ‘building back better.' The role of government is to see the big picture and rebuild in a resilient way. If you leave it to individuals, you get haphazard development."
Kylie said, "In reality, people really know how to take care of themselves in certain ways," and the goal of reconstruction participants from the public and private sectors should be to help them to do so, and learn from it.
Problems can actually begin, said Bhatt, when displaced persons are separated from their devastated communities by necessity. While transitional housing is provided on an urgent basis, the urgency wanes, and temporary housing becomes virtually permanent.
A second panel focused on the importance of building pre-disaster resilience and the many forms that it should assume but rarely does; in the U.S, for instance, some of the largest population growth has occurred in coastal areas threatened by rising sea levels due to global warming.
"Resilience," said Zimmerman, "starts before disasters as well as afterward - that is, building that resilience into the community and the infrastructure."
Magarita Pajaro (MUP '05), who has worked at the World Bank and is now with CB Emmanual Partners, moderated the panel. Participants also included Amy Stroud of Build.Found, and Donald Watson of EarthRise design. A former professor of architecture at Rensselaer, Watson said: "The next disaster is the one we failed to plan for." We can't rely on disaster response, he added - for by then "it's already too late.
"Designing for resilience is about reducing the cost of disasters. It is so important - you need to engage yourself, family, community in this discussion," he said.
The event at Wagner was put together principally by urban planning graduate students Amy Faust and Angel Chen, who was moderator for the student panel.
NYU Wagner Joins the Newly Launched New Cities Foundation
Partnering with leading global companies, research institutions and nonprofits, the Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service at New York University has become a Member of The New Cities Foundation, a newly established non-profit Swiss institution dedicated to improving the quality of life and work in the 21st century global city.
The Foundation, launched on March 28, 2011, will perform a unique role in developing new models of collaboration between the public, private and academic sectors that will benefit cities around the world. Through its Task Force and the annual New Cities Summit, the Foundation will be a true "laboratory of ideas," leveraging its members' leadership, expertise, innovations, relationships and products to ensure that the urban future is a more socially, economically and environmentally sustainable one. It will be chaired by John Rossant, the executive chairman of Geneva-based PublicisLive, which produces major international conferences such as the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.
The Foundation's first Founding Members are GE, Cisco, and Ericsson. In addition to NYU Wagner, the Members include global leaders such as Orange (France Telecome), GDF Suez, and the Gateway House think tank in India. The first Summit, a premier global event for high-level exchange and innovation on the future of urbanization, will be held in late 2011 or early 2012 in an Asian city.
"NYU Wagner and New Cities Foundation share a common belief in the power of collaboration - the need to unite sectors to jointly develop fresh, bold solutions to increasingly complex problems facing cities around the world," said Ellen Schall, Dean of NYU Wagner.
For more information, see the press release here.
Class on Design Thinking Makes Its Debut [Video]
Mike Peng, adjunct professor, "Design Thinking: A Creative Approach to Problem Solving," Fall, 2010.
A new course at NYU Wagner taught by Mike Peng of IDEO, an adjunct professor, introduced students to the concept of design thinking. In their final projects, student teams employed design thinking, an approach most commonly used in the development of consumer products, to effect policy change and social impact. The challenge was to come up with people-centered improvements for New York City schools, subways, hospital care, or other services. In this NYU Wagner video, Peng discusses design thinking and its relevance for change makers. The students presented their final presentations, also excerpted here, at the close of last semester (Fall, 2010). The course title was "Design Thinking: A Creative Approach to Problem Solving."
Prof. Paul Light's book, "Driving Social Change," Explores Social Entrepreneurship
Professor Paul Light's latest book looks at social entrepreneurship in a global context and includes a foreward by Catherine Reynolds.
Paul Light's critically praised new book, "Driving Social Change: How to Solve the World's Toughest Problems," marks the inaugural collaborative work of his NYU Center for Global Public Leadership for Social Change, which is a joint initiative of NYU and the government of the United Arab Emirates to promote public service and social change across the globe, drawing on research, case studies, and networks.
In the book, whose foreward is by Catherine B. Reynolds, chairman of the board of the Catherine B. Reynolds Foundation, Light cogently considers the "onslaught" of urgent threats around the world, from epidemics and political corruption to failed states and environmental devastation. But he writes from a hopeful perspective about the possibility for improvement, "based on the notion that intractable problems can be solved if agents of change have the purpose and perseverance to confront the status quo...."
Light is Paulette Goddard Professor of Public Service at the Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service, home of the NYU Reynolds Program in Social Entrepreneurship. At the center of his thought are change agents known as social entrepreneurs. He engages the following questions: Are we relying too much on lone wolves, such as the social entrepreneur?; what are the key drivers of social change?; how do breakthroughs really occur?
"Social entrepreneurship," writes Light, "is a critically important part of the agitation needed for change," but hardly the only ingredient. The book focuses on the overall pieces that must come together to create breakthroughs. And it shows why it takes more than a good idea or plan of action to solve the world's toughest problems.
Richard Brodsky Named Senior Fellow
Richard Brodsky, a highly respected former New York State Assemblyman, has joined NYU Wagner as a Senior Fellow.
Brodsky will work on developing courses and symposia on a variety of public issues, including governance reform of private and public institutions, national and international capital movement between the private and public sectors, and other matters reflecting his long experience in government.
In addition, he will work cooperatively with other disciplines and elements of the University community, and write and speak on issues of public importance within and outside NYU. Much of his efforts will focus on the important but under-developed connections between government and other sectors. He also will teach, and has begun to do so this semester, co-teaching a graduate class on Public Policy and The Arts.
"I am delighted that Richard Brodsky has agreed to join us as Senior Fellow," said Ellen Schall, Dean of NYU Wagner. "Richard brings enormous experience in the workings of state and local government, a keen understanding of what it takes to bring about change, and, not least, unmatched enthusiasm."
Brodsky was a Member of the New York State Assembly from 1982 to 2010, and is a graduate of Brandeis University and Harvard Law School.
"NYU Wagner, as part of a global network university, has a critically important role in educating leaders for public service, he said. "Now, more than ever, we need individuals of the highest caliber, integrity, and training to devote their careers to public life and the public good. I'm delighted to work with the outstanding faculty, administration and student body at one of the world's great universities. My thanks to Dean Schall and the leadership of NYU."
2011 'State of the Borough' Address Spotlights Capstone Program
The Capstone Program at NYU Wagner came in for high praise in the State of the Borough address delivered February 24, 2011, by Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr.
"In October," he stated, "New York University's Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service chose the Kingsbridge Armory for a study through its highly competitive Capstone Program. The Capstone Program is very well-respected, so much so that multiple city agencies have used its services to design and plan major projects. For several months, Capstone has been providing our task force with valuable support as we move forward on developing a new plan for the Armory.
"The report of this task force must be the cornerstone of a new RFP, and I invite the Mayor to join with me to responsibly develop the K ingsbridge Armory. Responsible development means that whatever plan we choose has a direct positive impact on all citizens...." said Diaz.
The Capstone Program is learning in action. Part of the core curriculum of the MPA and MUP programs at Wagner, it provides students with both a critical learning experience and an opportunity to perform a public service. Over the course of an academic year, students work in teams, either to address challenges and identify opportunities for a client organization or to conduct research on a pressing social question. Ultimately, Capstone contributes not only to the students' education, but also to the public good.
Conversation Starter: 'Repeal of the Job-Killing Health Care Act' - Part II?
Professor Victor Rodwin writes:
The House vote to repeal what critics call "Obamacare" (the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act - ACA -- signed by President Obama on March 23, 2010) was a key part of the GOP campaign to win back the House of Representatives in the November elections. It worked as an effective mobilizing call to arms.
HR2 (Repeal of the Job-Killing Health Care Act) passed the House by a vote of 245 to 189 on January 19, 2011. The Senate, however, killed the bill February 2, and the issue receded to a background murmur. Republicans and Democrats have drawn their swords over the President's budget, instead.
Still, repealing the health care act is likely to return to the political agenda. House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) states that "The Congress can do better in terms of replacing Obamacare with common sense reforms that will bring down the cost of health insurance and expand access for Americans."
To assess such a proposition, one would have to know more details about his party's solutions. But proposals so far are conspicuously absent.
After Congress passed the ACA, Boehner called it a "dangerous experiment." Texas Gov. Rick Perry called it "socialism on American soil." Many of their Republican colleagues have reread the script used by the American Medical Association (AMA) in opposing extensions of health insurance coverage propounded by President Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman, Lyndon Johnson and Bill Clinton. They suggest that the ACA will result in a "government take-over" of American medicine, at worst, and "government-run" health care, at best.
But such attacks are dangerously misleading because they distort present realities and generate ill-founded fears.
We already have a massive government role in American health care; and for good reasons. We have socialized expenditures for our highest-risk populations - the elderly and severely handicapped (Medicare) and for the very poor (Medicaid) -- and we have a system of socialized medicine for our military veterans, which delivers health care of higher quality than what is received by the average American.
At the same time, most health care in the U.S. is provided by private non-profit hospitals and private doctors reimbursed on a fee-for-service basis. Clinical decisions remain largely in the hands of our physicians and to the extent that there has been increasing intervention and regulation of these decisions, it has come most forcefully from private insurance companies. Meanwhile, we have more government expenditure of biomedical research (NIH) and public health (CDC) than any nation in the world. And the system produces staggering rates of innovation in pharmaceutical research, medical devices and medicine.
The ACA is largely a bipartisan, half-way reform strategy inspired more by former Republican Governor Mitt Romney of Massachusetts than by left-leaning advocates of single-payer health insurance reform. It does not nationalize the health insurance industry. It does not increase the share of public hospitals. It does not set uniform prices for hospital and physician payment across all payers. And it does not assure universal coverage.
At best, the ACA, if implemented in 2014, will begin to increase coverage to 32 million of the more than 50 million Americans who are currently uninsured. It will achieve this objective through Medicaid expansion and the creation of health insurance exchanges that will strengthen federal regulation of the private health insurance industry through the prohibition of risk selection by insurance companies (the ban on refusals to cover pre-existing conditions and to set annual and life-time limits on coverage).
Finally, the ACA, passed before the extension of the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans, begins to reverse the post-Reagan policies of increasing income inequalities. It does so by increasing the existing Medicare payroll tax on all those earning over $200,000 ($250,000 for couples).
These are significant, but modest, steps toward what political scientist Jo White calls the "international standard" among health systems in wealthy capitalist democracies - Japan, Germany, France, United Kingdom, Canada, Switzerland, Australia, Netherlands, and many more.
This standard, met by all governments in such nations, either imposes taxes on its citizens or enforces a health insurance mandate to provide access to a minimum level of health care services. Without taxes or a mandate, there can be no universal health insurance coverage. Without universal health insurance coverage, we cannot meet the international standard.
Wagner Experience Fund
NYU Wagner is pleased to announce the launching of the Wagner Experience Fund. Eligible continuing students will be able to apply for $5,000 funding to pursue an unpaid summer internship related to their career goals. Details and application procedures will be announced in March. For details, click here.
Conversation Starter: Thoughts for the New NYC Schools Chancellor, Cathie Black
Amy Ellen Schwartz writes:
Cathie Black's appointment as New York City Schools Chancellor came at a difficult period. While her predecessor, Joel Klein, enjoyed swelling public coffers and large increases in per-pupil spending, Chancellor Black takes office at a time when the budget is shrinking, certainly significantly and maybe substantially.
At the same time, while Chancellor Klein claimed standardized test results "proved" his reforms were working, the recent adjustments in those metrics have fueled doubt about whether - and to what extent - his hallmark strategies such as replacing large comprehensive high schools with new, small schools and increasing school autonomy "worked." Even more, the turmoil created by opening and closing schools - and the attendant expense - raises questions about the sustainability of these reforms.
Bottom line: Cathie Black faces considerable challenges in the months ahead and it behooves us to help her succeed. In that spirit, I offer the following suggestions.
Beyond "What Works": While education officials and policy makers tout the importance of finding out "what works," we need more than that. We need to figure out "what's worth the money" or what gives the biggest bang for the public buck. Is the high cost of new small schools worth the money, or would we do better to invest in mid-size schools or schools-within-schools? Unfortunately, relatively little attention has been paid to the costs of interventions and reforms and so the evidence base is thinner than it should be. This is a gap that needs to be filled.
Special Education is Critical: Between 2002 and 2008, full-time special education students increased by 20 percent, from just over 82,000 to over 98,000. (That's an increase from 7.5 to 9.5 percent of total enrollment.) At the same time, direct per pupil expenditures for special education increased 31 percent. Together, this means that Special Education eats up a larger and larger share of the budget, threatening to crowd out spending and services for general education students. (My forthcoming paper with Leanna Stiefel provides more detail.) While federal and state rules and regulations place significant restrictions on classification, services, and so on, the school district can and must find ways to deliver required services in the most cost effective way possible.
Don't overestimate the value of value-added: Although evaluating the efficacy of teachers and schools using test score based value-added measures has undeniable intuitive appeal, the usefulness of these measures in improving schools now is much more limited than the publicity might suggest. For one thing, value-added measures can only be calculated for a fraction of teachers in NYC public schools. (Currently, only about one in five.). More importantly, however, it seems unlikely that value-added scores will identify significant numbers of previously unidentified "bad teachers" that can then be dismissed to make way for (or save the jobs of) otherwise-hidden "great teachers." I am certain that value-added analyses have an important role to play in education policy and practice in the long run - and equally confident that the short-run returns will be fairly small.
Moving Matters: Chancellor Klein was fond of saying that much of his reform efforts were guided by a desire to create a system of good schools and not a good school system. In practice this meant that accountability fell to individual schools for the students currently enrolled. Who, then, is responsible for making sure that students enroll in schools that can provide the services they need? That they choose "well"? In a different vein, a growing body of research shows that student mobility between schools - prompted, say, by family dissolution, foreclosure, or behavioral or academic problems - harms their performance and, potentially, affects their peers. Helping students navigate between schools, adjust to new environments, and succeed will mean attention and accountability for the school system and not just a collection of good schools.
One of my colleagues once claimed that every home in New York City was within walking distance of one of the best public schools in the country...and one of the worst. As a parent and alum of the New York City public schools, I wish Cathie Black the best of luck in her effort to make all of our schools better.
Stiefel, L., Schwartz, A. E. (2011). "Financing K-12 Education in the Bloomberg Years, 2002-2008" in Jennifer A. O'Day, Catherine S. Bitter and Louis M. Gomez (Eds.), Education Reform in New York City: Ambitious Change in the Nation's Most Complex School System (pp. 55-84). Cambridge MA: Harvard Education Press.
Stiefel, L., Schwartz, A. E., Conger, D. (2010). "Age of Entry and the High School Performance of Immigrant Youth." Journal of Urban Economics, 67:303-314.
Professors Receive MacArthur Grant to Help Study Impact of Foreclosures on Children
The MacArthur Foundation has announced support for a multi-disciplinary, cross-university set of researchers, including three from NYU Wagner, to study the enormous instability in the housing arrangements of many American families over the last decade, and the impact of this instability on children.
According to the researchers, "policymakers know surprisingly little about how such instability affects children, and therefore are hampered in their ability to craft responses." The project approved for Foundation support aims to fill these gaps and provide better guidance to federal, state, and local housing and education officials, community organizations, and elected officials about the benefits of housing stability.
The three Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service professors working on the project are:
• Ingrid Gould Ellen, professor of public policy and urban planning, and faculty co-director of the Furman Center for Real Estate and Urban Policy, a joint initiative of NYU Wagner and the School of Law.
• Amy Ellen Schwartz, professor of public policy, education, and economics, and director of the Institute for Education and Social Policy at NYU. She also teaches at NYU Steinhardt.
• Leanna Stiefel, professor of economics, and associate director of Institute for Education and Social Policy, who also teaches at Steinhardt.
The trio's co-PI's include:
Vicki Been, Boxer Family Professor of Law, New York University, and faculty director of the Furman Center, and the principal investigator on this project; David Figlio, professor of education and social policy at Northwestern University; Ashlyn Aiko Nelson, assistant professor at Indiana University's School of Public and Environmental Affairs; and Stephen L. Ross, professor of economics at the University of Connecticut.
The co-investigators note that, to date, some research has examined how residential moves affect children's educational outcomes, but the research has been limited by concerns that effects attributed to moves cannot be separated from those of unobserved characteristics of the families that move and of the neighborhoods to which they move.
Further, existing research does not adequately distinguish between types of housing moves: those that the family plans versus those that are more involuntary; those that involve only a change in housing versus those that take the child to a new neighborhood or school; or those that place the child in better neighborhoods or schools versus those that do not.
Using longitudinal data linking foreclosures and other kinds of housing upheavals to individual public school student records in four major markets that are suffering from unusual housing instability-New York City, and the counties of San Diego and Fresno in California and Pinellas County in Florida - Professors Ellen, Schwartz, Stiefel and their co-investigators will test the hypothesis that housing instability negatively affects students' educational outcomes.
In addition, they we will assess whether any effect that housing instability has on children differs by the child's race or the predominant race of the neighborhood in which the child lives or to which the child moves, and if so, what explains those differences.
The research grant was announced as part of a group of nine new MacArthur Foundation grants totaling $5.6 million for explorations of the role that housing plays in the long-term health and well-being of children, families, and communities.
Rogan Kersh Delivers Martin Luther King Jr. Faculty Lecture
Rogan Kersh delivered the annual Martin Luther King Jr. Faculty Lecture at NYU on February 10, 2011, at Kimmel Center, and received a significant University award as well.
His speech was a featured event of MLK Week 2011.
Kersh, associate professor of public policy and associate dean for academic affairs for NYU Wagner, has been a Robert Wood Johnson Fellow in Health Policy, a Mellon Fellow in the Humanities, and a Luce Scholar. His publications include "Dreams of a More Perfect Union" (Cornell University Press, 2001), a study of U.S. political history; "Medical Malpractice and the U.S. Health Care System" (Cambridge University Press, 2006); and articles and op-ed pieces in numerous academic and popular journals. He is also a frequent commentator in the media on U.S. political issues.
In addition to delivering the address, Kersh was recogized as one of the Office of the Provost's 2011 recipients of the New York University Martin Luther King, Jr. Faculty Award.