A charter-school frenemy in the Bronx

Jonathan Mahler recounts a powerful, yet
tortured, tale of MS 223 in the South Bronx in the most recent New York Times Magazine. Focusing on the
school’s dynamic leader, Ramón González, Mahler articulates well the
tribulations of Gotham’s tenth-best middle school. Throughout the piece
González—and Mahler it seems—struggles with the disjoint between charter and
district policy, between the status quo and education reform. Despite the
principal’s outspoken disdain for charters, their fingerprints are all over his
school: González unofficially requires students to wear uniforms, and peppers
his hallways with college pennants (tactics used by KIPP to create a college-bound
culture). And while González purports to cringe at some of the Klein
edu-reforms in NYC (the school leader “worries that the reform movement’s
infatuation with competition will undermine the broader goal of improving
public education”), he has taken full advantage of Klein initiatives to better
MS 223. Thanks to Klein, González has has been able to create his own
curricula, micromanage his students’ days, and spend his school’s annual budget
as he wishes. The story of MS 223 offers smart lessons for principals and
district administrators nationwide: Principals, like González, should grab the
best practices wherever they find them—from charters or traditional public
schools alike. And district leaders should create policies that afford
principals that opportunity. The children will thank you.

The Fragile Success of School Reform in the Bronx,” by Jonathan Mahler, New York Times Magazine, April 6, 2011.