Monday, June 30, 2008

Your Cheating Heart

Andrew Wolf has forwarded us an article that he wrote last year on testing cheats, one that raises concerns for those who promote merit pay as a method for improving school performance: "As the schools chancellor joined in the announcement of a federal grant to test whether merit pay can lift performance in charter schools, a spokeswoman for the Department of Education confirmed that an investigation of test results was under way in a high-profile school in which the principal benefited from such a merit pay program."

Now we're not opponents of using testing to determine educational achievement; and we have nothing but scorn for critics of testing who appear to really oppose the whole idea of both measurement and merit. That being said, it's hard to deny that linking testing to merit can lead to corruption: "The school is P.S. 33 in the Bronx. Mayor Bloomberg and Chancellor Klein traveled to the school in 2005 to announce their "historic" gains on the fourth-grade reading tests. That year P.S. 33 experienced a one-year gain of nearly 50 points; 83% of the students there were, according to the mayor, then reading at or above grade level. This not only helped the mayor win re-election but it won a $15,000 bonus for the school's principal, Elba Lopez."

Which brings us to the point of our earlier post-better scrutiny of school performance is needed and the results of the investigation into the scandal that Wolf writes about is certainly less than encouraging. It seems that, "These roller coaster test scores, combined with the merit pay bonanza for Ms. Lopez has, according to a Department of Education spokeswoman, Julia Levy, resulted in the matter being referred to the Special Investigator for the New York City School District, Richard Condon."

Yet, according to Wolf's message to us, the investigation was turned back to the DOE when Condon refused to investigate and the so-called investigation is STILL "under investigation." Which leads us to remember Karl Mark's aphorism; "Who will educate the educator?"

There's still much too much mystery surrounding the entire mayoral control experiment; and without greater transparency it won't be possible to judge whether the Bloomberg model has been good for the kids (or at least what aspects have been good, and what's not working). This is exactly what legislative oversight should be about. Is something missing here?