Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Bloomberg's Education Legacy: InTestate and Insufficient

More and more we are continuing to get a glimpse of the reality behind the hype when it comes to the Bloomberg education "miracle." In this morning's NY Daily News we read the following: "Despite Mayor Bloomberg's plan to end "social promotion," sixth-graders can score high enough on state English exams to move to the next grade - just by guessing. The number of correct answers needed to score a Level 2 to get promoted has sunk so low that a student can guess on the multiple choice section and leave the rest of the test blank."

As we have been saying, this testing regime has all of the accoutrement's of an Enron financial statement-and we do need the kind of forensic audit that hopefully the new Senate oversight subcommittee can provide. Put simply, these tests are bogus: "The issue of the reliability of the test scores as measures of student growth needs to be addressed," Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch said. "We understand we need to raise the bar, and we're going to." The number of sixth-graders scoring the bottom Level 1 dropped from 10% in 2006, when twice as many points were required, to 0.2% this year."

The DOE defends this low bar as at least some kind of a standard-where no standards existed before: "Education Department spokesman Andrew Jacob defended the mayor's policy. "We're always in favor of raising academic standards," Jacob said. "The mayor's policy would create a clear standard for promotion where there wasn't one before." A state Education Department spokesman defended the tests."

Kinda reminds us of Samuel Johnson's misogynistic observation about women preaching: “A woman’s preaching is like a dog dancing on its hinder legs. It is not done well; but you are surprised to find that it is done at all.” So congrats to DOE's dancing dog tests-but the compelling need for greater transparency is still with us.

As the News points out: "Education experts have called for greater transparency. "The tests in New York have a real credibility problem right now," said Michael Petrilli, vice president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute. "The people in charge of the test have an incentive to raise scores," he said. "Just having the conflict of interest creates a problem even if all the officials are playing by the rules."

Our prediction? When these tests are put to the test themselves; and there is no better test than the results that are forthcoming from the national NAEP exams, than the reality of the Bloomberg miracle will be exposed for what it is-another accounting scandal reminiscent of those that the mayor's own cohort of friends have perpetrated on Wall Street.

The Bloomberg legacy then? A suborned electoral process, paid retainers on all levels of NYC life, closed stores in all five boroughs, and an education system that-in spite of record spending-has yielded miniscule results for the city's school kids.