What Can New York City Expect from Diana Lam?

Update, March 2004. Diana Lam has been fired. This Web page was originally written in October, 2002, and I always meant to expand coverage but did not get around to it. On the happy occasion of Diana Lam's firing I add some new and old links here at the top of the page.

Report on Diana Lam's Conflict of Interest Investigation

Conflict of Interest Report to Chancellor Joel Klein About Diana Lam. Letter by NYC Schools Special Commissioner of Investigation Richard J. Condon, March 5, 2004.

News reports and Op-Eds on the departure of Diana Lam

March 14, 2004

San Antonio Power Brokers' Darling, Diana Lam, Stars in 'Scandal', by Roddy Stinson, San Antonio Express-News, March 14, 2004.

March 12, 2004

The Golden Opportunity, by Andrew Wolf, The New York Sun, March 12, 2004.

Lam Performance Panned in New York, Editorial, San Antonio Express, March 12, 2004.

For Chancellor, a Week To Forget, The New York Sun; Lessons of Lam, Opinion, The New York Sun; Chancellor Picks Superintendent who Started as a Teacher to Assume Key School Curriculum Position, New York Newsday; Chance for a Fresh Start, New York Newsday; State Blocks Klein's First Choice for Deputy, The New York Times; State KOs Joel's Pick for Deputy, New York Daily News; Under-Fire Klein Names Deputy, The New York Post. All March 12, 2004.

Diana Lam's Swift Departure Can Give Schools New Hope If Mayor Becomes Involved, by Henry Stern, New York Civic.Org, March 10, 2004; also Bloomberg, Klein to Decide What to Do With Diana Lam, same source, March 8, 2004.

March 11, 2004

Education Is Big Business...for Some, by Donna Garner, Education News, March 11, 2004 (a reminder about Diana Lam's buyout in San Antonio).

Ed. Flap Lawyer Resigns, The New York Post; Second Official Out in Scandal Over Lam, The New York Sun; The Real Diana Lam Scandal, The New York Sun; Lam Scandal Claims Lawyer, New York Newsday; Lam Link Lops 2nd Ed Head, New York Daily News; Tweed's Looking a Lot like Livingston, Opinion, New York Daily News; Schools' Top Lawyer Quits in Uproar Over Nepotism, The New York Times. All March 11, 2004.

March 10, 2004

Lam's Legacy, by Diane Ravitch, Op-Ed, The New York Post, March 10, 2004.

Damage Control at Center Stage after Lam Sacked, The New York Sun; After Diana Lam, The New York Sun; Schools Chancellor Defends Himself in the Hiring of His Top Deputy's Spouse, The New York Times; Lam Scandal Sets off Political Scramble, New York Newsday; Bloomberg, Klein Head Top of the Accountability List, New York Newsday; Goodbye to 'a Great Buster of Morale', New York Newsday; In the Blind Spot of Power, New York Newsday; Schools attorney misled inquiries, but ..., New York Newsday; Klein Accepts Lam Excuses, The New York Post; Mike's Next Move, The New York Post; Chancellor Klein Gets Taken to School, New York Daily News. All March 10, 2004.

March 9, 2004

Top Deputy Resigns Schools Post Over Effort to Get Husband a Job, The New York Times; Chancellor Forces Lam To Resign In Nepotism Flap, The New York Sun; She's Out Like a Lam, New York Daily News; Klein Fires Top Deputy, New York Newsday; Lam Chopped, The New York Post. All March 9, 2004.

March 8, 2004

Mayor Troubled by Patronage Report, New York Newsday; Out Like a Lam, Editorial, The New York Post; Nepotism Puts Klein in Sticky Spot, by Andrew Wolf, The New York Sun. All March 8, 2004.

March 6, 2004

Report Says Deputy Chancellor Arranged Job for Husband, by Elissa Gootman and David Herszenhorn, The New York Times; Klein Aide's 'Hire' Power, by Carl Campanile, The New York Post; School Hubby Hire Drawing Fire, by Ellen Yan, New York Newsday; Educrat Pulled Strings in Hubby Hire: Probe, by Celeste Katz, New York Daily News. All March 6, 2004.

Around Diana Lam's Appointment (August, 2002)

Diana Lam's Record in Providence, Rhode Island, by Elizabeth Carson. Letter to Abby Goodnough, The New York Times, Dec 2, 2002.

Concern Over Diana Lam's Appointment, by Elizabeth Carson. Letter to Abby Goodnough, The New York Times, Sep 6, 2002.

Diana Lam's Appointment Bad News for NYC Schools, by Bas Braams. Letter to the Editor, The New York Times, Aug 29, 2002 (not published).

Joel Klein's Appointment of Diana Lam a Waste for New York City, by Michael McKeown. Letter to the Editor, The New York Times, Aug 28, 2002 (not published).

Diana Lam in Providence, Rhode Island

Diana Lam's Record in Providence, Rhode Island, by Elizabeth Carson. Letter to Abby Goodnough, The New York Times, Dec 2, 2002.

Diana Lam's Instructional Mistakes in Providence, RI, by Michael McKeown. Letter to Edward Achorn, The Providence Journal, Dec 11, 2001 (and addendum, Dec 15, 2001).

Diana Lam in San Antonio, Texas

San Antonio Power Brokers' Darling, Diana Lam, Stars in 'Scandal', by Roddy Stinson, San Antonio Express-News, March 14, 2004.

(Remainder of this page goes back to October, 2002)

Just a few links and snippets for now...


Diana Lam was introduced to the citizens of New York City on August 28, 2002, when Schools Chancellor Joel I. Klein, himself in office since August 19, announced his leadership team. The most important appointment for those concerned about curriculum and instruction was that of Ms. Lam to the position of Deputy Chancellor for Teaching and Learning.

Diana Lam's immediate previous positions had been Superintendent of Schools in Providence, RI (1999 - 2002), and in San Antonio, TX (1994 - 1998), and she has built up a certain reputation in these two positions.

Here is the start of Ms. Lam's bio at the web site of the Providence Public School District (meanwhile superceded by a bio of their current superintendent). Essentially the same information may be found in the press release announcing Diana Lam's appointment in NYC.

http://www.providenceschools.org/superintendent.cfm (in August, 2002)

Diana Lam came to Providence Public Schools as Superintendent from San Antonio, Texas where she was credited with increasing student achievement dramatically. When Lam began as Superintendent, in San Antonio in 1994, 42 schools were rated as low performing. In 1998, only 2 of those schools received that rating. Student state tests showed as much as 30% improvement in math, 15% in reading and 14% in writing.

She has also served as Superintendent in Dubuque, Iowa and Chelsea, Massachusetts. In Chelsea, she restructured Chelsea High School to "schools-within-a-school" to eliminate tracking by race and gender, thus ensuring all students an equal access to a good education. [...]

Now, I don't know the Chelsea schools system then or now, but I think it highly unlikely that when Ms. Lam arrived there Chelsea was tracking students by race and gender. For this reader, at least, the warning flags are up immediately. They will not come down again.

Tamar Lewin has more to say: Educator Has Accomplishments and Enemies (NYT, Aug 31, 2002).

PROVIDENCE, R.I., Aug. 30 - The new top educator in the New York City school system, Diana Lam, is known for starting fast with an aggressive reform agenda, racking up quick and impressive gains in academic achievement, and moving on. This seems to have earned her as many enemies as friends. [...]

Concerning Ms. Lam's departure from San Antonio: Frustrated San Antonio Superintendent Calls It Quits, by Kerry White (Ed Week, Nov 25, 1998).

After four years of struggling against a divided and sometimes uncooperative school board, San Antonio Superintendent Diana Lam has thrown in the towel.

The district's seven-member board voted 4-3 last week to accept Ms. Lam's resignation. She had four years remaining in her $142,000-a-year contract, according to district officials.

Under the agreement, the 60,000-student district will pay Ms. Lam sums of $170,000, $70,000, and $378,000 over the next two years. Some $200,000 of the $618,000 total is payment for "reputational injuries, pain and suffering, and mental anguish arising from the controversy between the two parties," the agreement says.

It looks as if the New York City system is in for some difficult times. Let us see what we can find out about Ms. Lam's educational philosophy and policies.

The Dream in Providence

Very prominent on the web pages of the Providence, RI, school system is a document Rekindling the Dream: A Framework for Reform in the Providence Public Schools. It looks very much like a personal statement from the Superintendent about her plans and ambitions for the school system. I quote from it as it stood in August, 2002.

Superintendent Diana Lam's vision of district-wide reform in Providence Schools is outlined in "Rekindling the Dream: A Framework for Reform in the Providence Public Schools." In this document Superintendent Lam outlined three main goals for educators and ten strategies by which to achieve these goals. The Providence Schools reform effort centers on the Principles of Learning developed by the University of Pittsburgh's Institute for Learning. The keystones of our educational reform effort are an emphasis on Literacy for our students and the institution of a robust and aggressive Professional Development program for our teachers. Shortly following her appointment, Superintendent Lam began the restructuring of the School Administration and instituted Learning WalksTM, organized visits through school learning areas. In June 2000, funded in part by a Carnegie Corporation of New York grant, the school district began the planning phase of its HIgh School Redesign Initiative - an effort to restructure and improve Providence secondary schools. In November 2000, the School District published its Strategic Five-Year Plan, detailing its plans and objectives for school reform.

Balanced Literacy

Balanced Literacy in Providence Schools

Upon her appointment as Superintendent of Providence Schools in 1999, Diana Lam made literacy the main thrust of her district-wide educational reform initiative and introduced a "balanced literacy" program in Providence elementary schools to ensure all students meet or exceed National Standards.

Defining Balanced Literacy

"Balanced Literacy" as applied to the literacy initiative in Providence Schools, describes a comprehensive and multi-faceted approach to reading and writing instruction. The program focuses on three major areas: reading, writing and word study. Each area is taught using theory-driven approaches, aligned with state and national standards, which research has shown improves children's achievement levels. When these research-based techniques are used in conjunction with one another, setting aside a large block of uninterrupted time for direct reading instruction in small groups, teachers can create truly powerful and "balanced" reading programs

Two Way Bilingual Education

Ms. Lam delivered a Keynote Address at the 4th Annual Claiborne Pell Education Policy Seminar outlining a vision for two way bilingual education. A Two Way Street to the 21st Century.

According to the Bible, when the world was still young, the Tower of Babel rose above the Plain of Shinar, and in it lived the descendants of Noah - all that were left of the world's people after the great Flood. The people in the Tower spoke the same language until the Lord came to them, caused a confusion of tongues, and spread them over the earth. They could no longer understand each other.

The controversies and battles over bilingual education probably began right about then.

Thousands of years later, those of us who are proponents of bilingualism - and especially those of us who were educated in bilingual settings - have some difficulty understanding all the fuss. In a world where more than 3,000 languages are spoken, expecting students to become fluent in two of them seems to be a very modest proposition.

What Can We Expect in New York City

To follow... For now I just quote a BJB email dated September 6, 2002.

It seems possible to make some reasonably confident predictions on the basis of Ms. Lam's tenure in San Antonio and Providence. I expect that there will be new or revised City assessments. (Remember that the State only sets assessments for 4th and 8th grade here.) There will be an enormous focus on raising scores on these tests. The pressure will be intense, and will overwhelm everything, including the integrity of the testing process. Scores will increase. The tests, however, will be the fuzzy kind set at 3rd grade level for the 4th grade test and at 6th grade level (at best) for the eight grade test (they are pretty bad already), and the scores will be a poor indicator of actual learning. Curricular direction will be more centralized, and for mathematics those districts that had not already gone fuzzy will find it increasingly hard to stay the course.

Bas Braams
Bastiaan J. Braams - braams@math.nyu.edu
Courant Institute, New York University
251 Mercer Street, New York, NY 10012-1185

The opinions expressed in this page are strictly those of the page author. The contents of this page have not been reviewed or approved by New York University.