Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Race to the Bottom

The NY Times reported yesterday on the bursting Bloomberg educational miracle bubble-and focused on the false triumphalism of the Kleinbergs over the narrowing of this key vector: "Two years ago, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and his schools chancellor, Joel I. Klein, testified before Congress about the city’s impressive progress in closing the gulf in performance between minority and white children. The gains were historic, all but unheard of in recent decades. “Over the past six years, we’ve done everything possible to narrow the achievement gap — and we have,” Mr. Bloomberg testified. “In some cases, we’ve reduced it by half.”

Call the Better Business Bureau-or better yet the Bunko Squad. This mayoral control odyssey has been nothing more than a magical mystery tour-with all of the factual foundation of a Pulitzer Prize work of fiction: “We are closing the shameful achievement gap faster than ever,” the mayor said again in 2009, as city reading scores — now acknowledged as the height of a test score bubble — showed nearly 70 percent of children had met state standards. When results from the 2010 tests, which state officials said presented a more accurate portrayal of students’ abilities, were released last month, they came as a blow to the legacy of the mayor and the chancellor, as passing rates dropped by more than 25 percentage points on most tests. But the most painful part might well have been the evaporation of one of their signature accomplishments: the closing of the racial achievement gap." (emphasis added)

A blow to the mayor's legacy indeed-and well deserving for this billionaire blowhard. The Soviets didn't create such compelling disinformation when they constructed their Potemkin Villages. Really, is there anything left of the mayor's big bucks boosting of the school dog that didn't bark? Apparently, even the silver ware has been lifted: "Among the students in the city’s third through eighth grades, 40 percent of black students and 46 percent of Hispanic students met state standards in math, compared with 75 percent of white students and 82 percent of Asian students. In English, 33 percent of black students and 34 percent of Hispanic students are now proficient, compared with 64 percent among whites and Asians. “The claims were based on some bad information,” said Michael J. Petrilli, a vice president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, a research group that studies education policy. “On achievement, the story in New York City is of some modest progress, but not the miracle that the mayor and the chancellor would like to claim.”

So, what exactly have we got to show for the past eight years-and $17.9 billion worth of money for nothing? Not much: "But the latest state math and English tests show that the proficiency gap between minority and white students has returned to about the same level as when the mayor arrived. In 2002, 31 percent of black students were considered proficient in math, for example, while 65 percent of white students met that standard."

The folks are certainly wising up-as the NY Daily News reports: "Protesters angry over the sharp drop in student scores on state exams disrupted a meeting of a city Education Department panel last night - leading the schools chancellor and panel members to walk out. The 100 parents and students forced the meeting of the Panel for Educational Policy to disband before it could vote on several budget-related items as well as more than $5 million in contracts. Led by the Coalition for Educational Justice advocacy group, the demonstrators demanded to speak immediately following an agency presentation on the scores."

The DOE response? Decorum everyone: "It's extremely unfortunate that parents who came to voice their opinions before the panel could not be heard tonight because a small, unruly group refused to respect the process and wait for the public comment period to begin," said agency spokeswoman Natalie Ravitz." We think the protestors got it just right.

And cue up another Al Sharpton rendition of the, "Sounds of Silence." Where is Big Al and his patented, "No justice, no peace," chant? Probably cashing his retainer check-as we commented on earlier. But the Times can't resist this: "Mr. Klein began to use test scores to measure schools’ performance, and joined with the Rev. Al Sharpton in forming the Education Equality Project in 2008 to promote good instruction and education reform for minority and poor children. “It is certainly what makes Joel Klein tick,” said Kati Haycock, the president of the Education Trust, which advocates for progress on the issue. “And you can’t say that for everyone.”
Who or what is this Education Trust? And is Haycock on the same pad as Rev. Al? It would seem so, given the inordinate praise she has for Klein's, "really trying hard," performance. She should take a cue from the late John Wooden's play book: "Never mistake activity for achievement."
So, at the end of the day, with all the extra funds expended, what exactly do we have to show for it? In our view, money for nothing.