Thursday, July 23, 2009

On a Graduated Scale

Well, it seems as if it's not only Bill Thompson who has suspicions about the DOE's graduation claims. According to Anne Michaud at Newsday, some LI educators have weighed in on the controversy-and skepticism is the dominant mood: "A report out yesterday from City Comptroller Bill Thompson charges that the Bloomberg administration is inflating graduation rates for city schools. Leaving aside for the moment the incendiary politics of this report -- that Thompson is running for mayor, that Mayor Michael Bloomberg's bid to renew his control over city schools failed last week -- Long Island educators say they, too, have questions about claims of steadily improving graduation rates in city schools."

As they should; and their most cogent suggestion is to call for an independent audit of the data: "I'd like to see audits on how the city schools data is compiled," said Ronald Friedman, the recently retired superintendent of Great Neck schools and immediate past president of the Nassau Council of School Superintendents. "When you focus on an issue like [the graduation rate], the numbers should go up. I would certainly like to see corroborating data that I could feel more comfortable with." Friedman added that he would choose someone other than the city comptroller to make an independent assessment."

So would we-and the senators who are going to be gathering tomorrow over at city hall for a presser should focus on this key proposal; and do so almost to the exclusion of everything else. The reason is that everything that wrong with the current school regime comes from its total lack of transparency-and having an Inspector General for the DOE to monitor and audit the contracting, the school test scores, and the reality of the graduation rates is essential to the monitoring of the entire system.

All we have been given so far has been the preening and posturing of the chancellor and the mayor-with the Bloomberg Big Lie going out incessantly over the air waves. And along with the paid propaganda has come an absolutely shameful amen chorus from the tabloids-papers that have thoroughly abdicated any pretense of either impartiality or acumen on the school governance issue.

But isn't it nice that Bill Thompson has finally stood up to the mayor and little Joel? Calling for the head of Klein is fine; but the comptroller should offer to step aside for an independent IG. As Michaud affirms-and we'll give her the last word: "Mayor Bloomberg and Chancellor Klein have been insisting for years that their efforts are improving city schools, and they say the numbers tell the story. If that's true, maybe they would not decline to open their books to a third-party audit. For now, Thompson's audit is strengthening suspicions that something is amiss."