NEPC Review: New York City's Children First: Lessons in School Reform (Center for American Progress, March 2014)
New York City’s Children First: Lessons in School Reform summarizes elementary and secondary level education policy reforms in New York City during Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s tenure. Education policy changes in New York City during this time frame, from 2002 through 2013, are collectively known as “Children First” reforms. The report reviews the elements of these reforms and analyzes their effectiveness both collectively and individually. The New York City school system experienced dramatic changes during this era, and the report does a very nice job of synthesizing important events and facts into a single narrative. The report occasionally goes too far in classifying various policies as successes or failures. In particular, the report overhypes research examining the success of small high schools and of charter schools; a more balanced interpretation of this research literature should lead to a far more neutral tone concerning the success of these schools. To its credit, the report also discusses important questions of systemic governance and policy implementation. Management and accountability systems set up during Children First likely had a tremendous impact on how other reform components were implemented and are also likely to continue to affect how education policies are implemented under the new mayoral regime.