Thursday, September 03, 2009

New York : "If You Can Fake it There, You Can Fake it Anywhere"

We almost missed the NY Post's excellent story on the school grade inflation scam-but the paper gets right to the nub of the issue with its report of the complaints of a number of school principals: "Do you think its any accident that its an election year?" scoffed one Brooklyn principal. "This is a game." Other principals complained that the love-you-all grading system diminished the significance of a high mark. "You work so hard and then you look and see that 85 percent of schools are A's," said a Brooklyn principal. "It's not like 'Wow!' for me anymore because this year everyone got A's, more or less." The grades are determined largely by schools meeting benchmarks of student performance and state math and reading tests."

And Comptroller Bill Thompson wasn't having any of this faux success party: "City Comptroller Bill Thompson, a mayoral candidate, blasted Mayor Bloomberg for the grading curve -- which comes when nearly a third of tested middle and elementary school kids can't read at grade level. "Once again today's schools success story is based on the world according to Bloomberg, not the reality that our students are graduating unprepared," said Thompson, a former school board president. "Bloomberg would rather inflate these numbers and falsely claim success at the expense of kids being educated."

And the Post, the paper that spent the better part of a year championing the "Bloomberg Miracle," expresses astonishment about all of this grade inflation as well: "Talk about a learning curve. An astonishing 97 percent of the city's public and elementary schools earned an A or B "report card" grade from the Department of Education yesterday -- an appraisal so unbelievably rosy that it elicited immediate allegations that the numbers were fixed."

So, what should be done about this disgraceful display of ersatz evaluation? In our view, the need for some real oversight is compelling-and the state senate appears to be the only place where this could actually happen; that is, if its special oversight committee ever gets off the ground. And it seems that even Joel Klein is hedging.

As the Chancellor told the Post: "In the face of the jaw-dropping results -- including every school in District 25 in Queens earning an A this year -- Schools Chancellor Joel Klein emphasized that a high grade was not synonymous with total success. "We want to make clear that that reflects that [schools] met their progress targets," he said. "It doesn't mean by any stretch of the imagination that those are schools that don't have a lot of improvement ahead of them."

So why not just skip the grade charade altogether? And isn't it sad, that the Post-and the Daily News as well-with excellent education beat reporters, spent all of the run up to the mayoral control decision editorially vamping for Mike Bloomberg. Now, after the dust has settled, we get comical grade inflation that obfuscates even further the failure of the current system-with its billions of additional dollars-to really transform the educational life of the city's school kids.

And the shame of the tabloids in this matter is the degree to which they used the tests-and allowed Mike Bloomberg to huff and puff them-in order to extol the merits of a governance system that is inherently flawed. We'll give the Post the last word on these test scores: "But scores on those tests have risen so substantially in recent years that the state has already committed to raising the benchmarks needed to pass them."