Now that CFNs are in firmly in place, each one answering to one of 6 “clusters,” which are overseen by the Division of School Support and Instruction (DSSI), it is apparent what is happening. The NYC DOE is putting its house in order. It is creating more consistent policies and procedures for schools, and insisting upon absolute compliance. This district, arguably considered one of the nation’s leaders in innovation and reform, is settling into a top-down, mandate-driven bureaucracy. This is fascinating because as recently as a year ago, the running “joke” was that you couldn’t mandate schools to do anything in NYC. Now, just a blink-of-an-eye later, not a day goes by without a new deadline or mandate being announced to schools through the CFNs.
I guess I should have seen this coming. In my fairly long educational career, I have experienced similar evolutions in many school districts across a dozen states, and they always follow a similar pattern. A perceived crisis prompts those in power to encourage innovation and experimentation in an effort to improve results. Brave educators, community partners and others, excitedly exercise their new freedom to do what kids really need. The bureaucrats either give explicit waivers to, or turn a blind eye to, rules and regs to allow these empowered individuals do some great new things. There is great fanfare about encouraging results, and lots of media attention. Then bureaucrats become concerned about schools breaking the rules, and order is once again restored through mandates and compliance regulations. Until the next perceived crisis.