I'm working on a piece about the Bush education legacy, and I'm thinking about the notion that these years have seen a flourishing of reform efforts and leaders. (It certainly appears that Bush's No Child Left Behind Act has given cover to reform-minded Democrats.)
Here's one question: are today's big-city superintendents more reform-minded than their predecessors in the pre-NCLB age? I'm not so sure. Take a look*:
I'd argue that only Klein's New York and Rhee's Washington, D.C., have seen a real sea change in leadership since 2001. (I'd count Duncan, Ackerman, and Johnson as reformers too, but their predecessors deserved that label also.) Of course, it so happens that the nation's media and policy elites are concentrated in New York City and D.C.; maybe that's why there's a perception that radical reform is afoot. To my eyes, maybe not.
* I picked the ten biggest metro areas, which aren't necessarily the biggest school systems, but they are what most people think of when they picture "big cities."...