Wednesday, August 12, 2009

More School for Scoundrels

Following up on his incisive critiques of the Bloomberg/Klein regime (and our own more modest efforts), Wayne Barrett lays into the NY Times today for its collusion with the DOE's obfuscating test score benchmarks: "The Times said that its "analysis of state test scores before and after mayoral control" chronicled a "steady march upward," and then compared the 2009 math and English scores with scores in 2002. But mayoral control didn't begin until the 2003-2004 school year. Setting that misleading benchmark added 15 points to the math score increase since mayoral control theoretically began, as the Times erroneously put it, and deducted the same 15 points from the improvement that occurred before mayoral control. The bunk benchmark did the same on the English test, shifting a six-point gain onto Bloomberg's ledger."

Which raises a couple of salient points in our mind. In the first place, scores were skyrocketing even before the governance system was changed-which kind of makes the Bloomberg riff on the. "bad old days," disingenuous to say the least. But what does it say about the tests themselves?

Assemblyman Jim Brennan is rightfully outraged: "This maneuver skews the ongoing, bitter debate about whether the hike in scores before Bloomberg's major reform went into effect was comparable to, or even greater than, the improvement since. Assemblyman Jim Brennan, a member of the education committee who led the fight to retain but change the mayoral control system, tells the Voice that math scores for fourth graders rose 17 points in the four years preceding mayoral control, including the 2002-2003 school year, and 18 points in the six years since (fourth grade is commonly used for these comparisons)."

Take a gander, however, at the inception dates for the new tests: "Brennan, who uses the four prior years because that's when the new state tests were implemented, says that the rise in scores preceding mayoral control were largely attributable to enormous increases in state and city school funding and the expansion of pre-K programs, which he says also account for the continuing rise in scores since mayoral control went into effect."

Or, perhaps, the attribution can be made to the composition of the new tests-and the watering down process may have begun even prior to the Bloomberg ascension. But the larger point here, is that all of the hooha over the Bloomberg miracle is simply bunk; and especially since test scores rose throughout New York State in jurisdictions without the benefit of the mayor's magic touch.

But the Times, which has heretofore done a pretty good job at Bloomberg deconstruction, has a serious credibility issue on this; and is forced to confront the discrepancy between its earlier accurate reporting, and the current attempt at whitewashing: "The Times also played down its own November 16, 2007 story headlined "Little Progress for City Schools on National Test," which dramatically contrasted the soaring state scores with the "generally stagnant picture on measure after measure in federal tests administered between 2005 and 2007." The federal scores, according to the Times, also showed that "the most significant jump occurred in 2002, before Mr. Bloomberg took control."

So, once again, we await the independent analysis that will dramatize the extent to which this mayoral control debate has been an exercise in duplicity on the grandest scale. In this effort, the NY Times should be playing a leading role-and not genuflecting to the dissemblers at Tweed and City Hall.