Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Groucho Marx Bloomberg's Lying Eyes

We are rapidly reaching the point in the debate over educational achievements in NYC, when Mike Bloomberg will be remiss not to say, quoting Groucho Marx, "Who are you going to believe, me or your own lying eyes?" Leave it to Diane Ravitch to eviscerate the fraudulent claims. Writing in edweek, Ravitch tells us:

"Ultimately, we will have what I call the NCLB Paradox, wherein scores go up, but actual educational improvement does not occur. We will see districts where the reading and math scores are through the roof, and where graduation rates have climbed, but where the rate of college-ready students is unchanged. I expect there are many such districts. The one I know best is New York City, which won the Broad award in 2007 for its excellence in improving urban education. Test scores have soared, based on dumbed-down tests; graduation rates are up across the board. Yet when graduates of the New York City public school system enter the community colleges of New York City, 74 percent of them require remediation in basic skills! These are students who passed five state Regents examinations, yet they need to be remediated in reading, writing, and mathematics! This suggests, does it not, that there is something amiss with those impressive test scores and graduation rates?"

Given the reality of the NYC five borough test fraud, we have a situation where, not only is the emperor without clothes, he is-unreported by all the witnesses-also committing unnatural acts right before our very eyes. Yet, like in the fable, the great majority of those watching are afraid to tell the truth.

Yet, isn't it a scandal to pay out bonuses based on fraud? As Ravitch says: "With scores so often rigged and fraudulent, how can we use them to pay bonuses or to close schools? New York City's last round of phony test scores (noticed as phony even by the august New York Times) triggered a payout of $33 million in bonuses to teachers; the union is laughing all the way to the bank! So millions are awarded in fraudulent bonuses at the same time that school budgets are cut to the bone. Is this the way that big business operates? If so, it is no wonder that we had a financial meltdown."

It is, in our view, a natural concomitant of the mute bystander theory-with the officers getting big bonuses and golden parachutes while the company goes down the tubes; because to do otherwise, would be to admit the naked truth. Yet Mike Bloomberg has the chutzpah to crow about, what in a more normal political environment, would be a cause for shunning.

And Ravitch captures perfectly the surrealistic world where truth gives way to public relations, and where semblance transcends reality: "I fear that American education has now entered into a twilight zone, where nothing is what it appears to be, where numbers are meaningless, where public relations and spin take the place of honest reporting, where fraud is called progress."