Friday, October 22, 2010

Rocky Mountain High Comedy

It's a story that would find a worthy place in the pages of the Onion-a fabulist's tale of accomplishments that are not visible to the naked eye. The fable, contained in a Bloomberg press release, describes the mayor's touting of his illusory school success story while on a trip to Colorado: "“Students in the United States are falling through the cracks and struggling to compete in today’s global economy,” said Mayor Bloomberg.  “New York City has made great gains in ensuring that every child who graduates high school is ready to start college or a career.  But unfortunately, our state has not been able to implement large-scale, comprehensive reforms.  The reforms adopted in Colorado are really a model for the Empire State, as well as the entire country.”

The Bloomberg Big Lie has apparently reached Denver, Colorado in its most unadulterated form: "Under Mayor Bloomberg’s leadership, New York City has been an important model for big-city school reform,” said Denver Schools Superintendent Tom Boasberg. “And today was a terrific opportunity to share ideas and continue working together to build on the strong progress we’re seeing in our cities’ schools.”

A model? Reminds us of our feeble attempt at putting together the plastic B-52 we received for our eigth birthday-glued together the pieces resembled nothing that has ever lifted off of the ground in flight. But for those with their hands out, the Emperor is an exemplar of sartorial splendor: "We’ve watched the reforms going on in New York City, and we are thrilled to have Mayor Bloomberg here to see the progress we are making in Denver,” said Denver Scholarship Foundation Executive Director Cindy Abramson." (Pant, pant)

Than there's the issue of racial disparities-follow the pea and guess where it lands: "Over the last 8 years, New York City’s 1.1 million students have made progress.  Graduation rates have gone up 16 percentage points, and our African American and Hispanic students have closed the ethnic achievement gap on state tests by 37 percent in reading and 18 percent in math."

This is just fraud, pure and simple-and you'd think that after the state tests were exposed similarly as fraudulent, these jokers would have the decency to exercise a bit more reticence. As we noted in August-citing the seminal analysis of Diane Ravitch: "Writing in yesterday's NY Daily News (and credit the paper for printing her piece), Ravitch calls a lot of spades, spades: "When the scores were released, there was a sound of bursting bubbles across the state. What once were miracles turned into mirages. Since 2005, Mayor Bloomberg and Chancellor Joel Klein have trumpeted historic gains. But after the state's adjustment, the pass rate on the state reading test among city students fell from an impressive 68.8% to an unimpressive 42.4%, and from an astonishing 81.8% to a disappointing 54% in mathematics. Overnight, the city's historic gains disappeared. Now, look at the achievement gap between the performance of white students and that of minorities. Last year, black students were 22 points behind white students in passing the state English exam. This year - after the state corrected its scoring - the gap increased to 30.4 points. In math, the gap grew even more. Black students were 17 points behind whites last year. Now they've fallen 30 points behind."

The press release prevarications in this regard are simple breathtaking-as Andy Wolf reminded us on HuffPo last week: "Valerie Strauss of the Washington Post, perhaps America's most perceptive observer of the education scene, puts it this way: "After 8 years as the czar of New York City's public schools, Klein might want to stop blaming other people for his failures." Klein, a lawyer and not an educator has had his chance. He and Mayor Bloomberg were given absolute, unprecedented powers over the schools by the state legislature in 2002. Now as they begin the 9th school year under their regime, the scope of their failure is increasingly being understood."

As the exhaustive expose of the NY Times dramatized, the entire Bloomberg miracle is simply a house of cards-and for the mayor to try to take a national victory lap on the basis of inflated scores that he improperly flaunted for his own political purposes, is simply an egregious attempt to add insult to injury. But the clue to understanding Bloomberg's excellent Denver misadventure can be gleaned from the following press statement: "Mayor Bloomberg will address 1,600 of Denver’s community leaders as the keynote speaker at the Denver Scholarship Foundation’s annual benefit dinner later tonight."

Oops, there it is! The collusion of the extended handed sycophants-salivating while applauding the mayor's faux triumphs-with the expectation that their complicit duplicity will soon be amply rewarded by a large check for their scholarship fund. This, however, is a phony pas de deux that the rest of us can decline to participate in. The facts contradict the myth-let us all disenthrall ourselves.