Thursday, October 15, 2009

Testing the Political Limits

The shocking discrepancies between the way NYC children performed on state versus national tests, has now become a political rallying cry for mayoral challenger Bill Thompson-as it should be, since the disparities totally debunk the central educational theme of the Blomberg campaign. As the NY Times reports: "But in a show of the politics involving test scores, a spokeswoman for William C. Thompson Jr., the Democratic candidate for mayor, called the Bloomberg administration the “Madoff of the American education system” and a “national disgrace. Bloomberg’s D.O.E. has systemically lied about test scores, graduation rates and dropout rates,” the spokeswoman, Anne Fenton, said in a statement. “Our children deserve a quality education; instead, they have become pawns in Mike Bloomberg’s 200-plus million-dollar public relations campaign to rewrite history.”

That's a good start, and the Bloomberg defense comes up rather lame: "Defending the mayor and the city’s school system, Mr. Cerf, the Bloomberg campaign adviser, said that there were important differences in scope and content between the state and federal tests. And he and Mr. Klein noted that even the federal No Child Left Behind law uses state tests to measure schools’ performance."

But the new head of the UFT begs to differ-and we haven't even touched the obscene spending orgy that accompanies this non-achievement: "Michael Mulgrew, the president of the United Federation of Teachers, the city teachers’ union, said the federal results showed that the state tests were not reliable yardsticks. “We’ve designed a school system that is just test-taking prep, and we have teachers saying, ‘I know I am not teaching children what they need to learn,’ ” he said."

This is all, however, information that the average voter will likely never see-since the air waves have been saturated by Bloomberg's bogus bombast. But Diane Ravitch is right to label this as a gigantic fraud on the parents and the school children. As the NY Daily News tells us: "Between 2007 and 2009, the number of fourth-graders who passed state math tests jumped seven percentage points, to 87% from 80%. The number of eighth-graders passing the national exams increased to 34% in 2009 from 30% in 2007. On state tests, eighth-graders improved by an impressive 21 percentage points during the same period of time, with the number passing climbing to 80% from 59%. State test scores also showed that blacks and Latinos were catching up with their white peers, narrowing the passing rate between them by about 10 percentage points. There is no narrowing of the achievement gap between the same groups on the national tests."

We paid NYC teachers $27 million in bonuses for what? Bill Thompson and all of his political allies need to immediately begin planning a massive rally and press conference in order to expose this scam. If handled properly, this could become a real political game changer.