In this morning's NY Post, the editorialists go after State Senator Suzie Oppenheimer for her alleged failure to bring former Commissioner Richard Mills in to testify about his department's negligence: "They knew. For years, state officials were warned about inflated scores on school tests -- but shut their eyes. That's the gist of an impressive, 3,800-word report in yesterday's New York Times documenting what many (this page, at the top of the list) have long noted: Top brass in Albany ignored "red flags" and ran a sham testing scheme that for years masked school failure. Outrageous, right? Absolutely unforgivable. Those responsible must pay. Ha! Instead, officials -- Suzi Oppenheimer, who chairs the Senate Education Committees, in particular -- are actually trying to cover up the coverup."
Now we have also excoriated Mills and the entire state ed bureaucracy-along with Sol Stern who has done the most exhaustive work in this area; and it could be true that Oppenheimer-assuming she remains ed committee chair in January-needs to shed light on the malfeasance. But what got our attention is how the Post sets such a low bar for the mayor in all of this test mess-even nervily going after his critics for the temerity of questioning his regime's successes.
Here's the money quote: "Ironically, critics of Mayor Bloomberg and Schools Chancellor Joel Klein, like the union, are now twisting the news about the flawed tests to deny gains in city schools. But the fact is, although scores were inflated, kids throughout the state all took the same test -- and Gotham made more progress than elsewhere."
Are they kidding? The mayor is being criticized-as is the cheer leading of the Post and the NY Daily News-for extravagant and politicized use of badly inflated test scores; as Sol Stern notes: "For Mayor Bloomberg and Schools Chancellor Joel Klein, test inflation was the gift from Albany that kept on giving, and they found ways to build even higher monuments to their reputations as school reformers. The city offered school employees a variety of inducements, including cash payments, for pushing test scores up even farther. The Bloomberg administration didn’t bother to ask too many questions about how the deed was done. Principals received cash bonuses of up to $25,000, and thousands of teachers were offered smaller bonuses for improved test scores — a powerful incentive to inflate the results by any means necessary."
And what about the purported closing of the vaunted racial achievement gap? "One of the most important revelations produced by their recalculation of cut scores this year was debunking the claim made by Mayor Bloomberg that his reforms had led to a significant narrowing of the black–white achievement gap. Still, Tisch and Steiner have taken only the first small steps towards creating."
And there's no doubt that Kleinberg knew what the real score was: "To believe that the rising state and city test results had any objective validity was, by 2009, to believe that education nirvana had arrived in the Empire State. The new commissioner of the Board of Regents, Merryl Tisch, made it clear that she didn’t believe it. Tisch suspected that state education officials, including outgoing education commissioner Richard Mills, were deliberately setting the cut scores low, leading to the big boost in test results in 2008 and 2009."
But, as the NY Times pointed out yesterday, Bloomberg and Klein were furious at Tisch: "But the very day she put out the English test results, she began openly acknowledging doubts about the scores, irking the mayor and chancellor, who privately seethed that she was seeking to undermine their success. “As a board, we will ask whether the test is getting harder or easier,” she said."
This is the Bloomberg complicity in fraud the Post editorial seeks to sweep under rug-eager as it is to chastise a relatively unknown state senator rather that the man who ran for re-election with a degree of triumphalism that should now be seen as an embarrassment: "The English test scores showed 69 percent of city students passing. Mr. Bloomberg called the results “nothing short of amazing and exactly what this country needs. We have improved the test scores in English,” he continued, “and we expect the same results in math in a couple of weeks, every single year for seven years.” Four weeks later, it was announced that 82 percent of city students had passed the math tests."
And what about all of the wasted outlays to teachers and administrators for a job-that turned out to be-not so well done? "The Bloomberg administration didn’t bother to ask too many questions about how the deed was done. Principals received cash bonuses of up to $25,000, and thousands of teachers were offered smaller bonuses for improved test scores — a powerful incentive to inflate the results by any means necessary."
So, by all means, let's have an oversight hearing on what did they know, and when did they know it-but let's not leave out the mayor's metric-oriented team. And if there is a hearing, we have an exit question: will the Post cover it, or be called as witnesses to the re-enactment of the Hans Christian Anderson tale of the Emperor's New Clothes?