Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Educational Enron

It is looking more and more like all of the hoopla over mayoral control of the schools-Bloomberg edition-has been dramatically misplaced. The WSJ has the story: "New York state high-school students' college and career readiness lags far behind the graduation rates that most school districts post, according to data from the state Department of Education...The state education department said that in New York City, only 23% of graduating high-school students meet the college- and career-ready standard, compared with a graduation rate of 65% among general-education students."

Oh, good grief! Is this why we had to be subjected to all of the tabloid vitriol when some elected officials questioned the need to grant the mayor a blank check in reauthorizing mayoral control? But there is a silver lining here-NYC did beat Buffalo! The news for the racial disparities gap was not good either: "While statewide the published graduation rate among black students is 62%, only 15% are considered college- and career-ready."

Let's not forget that the city spent almost twice as much money in achieving these breakthrough results-but we are heartened to find out that the DOE-like Inspector Clouseau-is right on top of this; nine years later: "City officials said they are already ahead of the state in recognizing the problem. "Well before the state announced this plan, we told schools we would begin including robust college readiness metrics to school progress reports," said Shael Polakow-Suransky, the city's chief academic officer. In 2008, the city's DOE formed a partnership with City University of New York to track how its graduates were doing in city colleges, and began sharing that information with the graduates' high schools so they could address deficiencies."

What a load! We didn't hear a peep about this-and if anyone said anything publicly it must have been drowned out by the hallelujah chorus over those phony test results that the mayor used to run for a third term. The NY Times also weighs in on this: "The new statistics, part of a push to realign state standards with college performance, show that only 23 percent of students in New York City graduated ready for college or careers in 2009, not counting special-education students. That is well under half the current graduation rate of 64 percent, a number often promoted by Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg as evidence that his education policies are working."

Kind of like, the operation was a success, but the patient died, don't you think? Chancellor Tisch tells it like it is: "The move parallels a decision by the Regents last year to make standardized tests for third through eighth graders more difficult to pass, saying that the old passing rates did not correlate to high school success. “With three through eight, we ripped the Band-Aid off,” Dr. Tisch said in an interview last week. “The thing we said then, in looking at the business world, is that if you sit on this, you become the Enron of test scores, the Enron of graduation rates. We need to indicate exactly what it all means, especially since we’ve already said that college-ready should be the indicator of high school completion.”

Someone should be going to jail for this kind of fraud-and if the case was undertaken under a RICO indictment, Bloomberg and Klein should be in handcuffs by now: "State and city education officials have known for years that graduating from a public high school does not indicate that a student is ready for college, and have been slowly moving to raise standards. But the political will to acknowledge openly the chasm between graduation requirements and college or job needs is new, Dr. Tisch; David M. Steiner, the state education commissioner; and John King, the deputy state education commissioner, said in interviews last week."

All of which underscores that the graduation rates were a scam as well: "In New York City, roughly 75 percent of public high school students who enroll in community colleges need to take remedial math or English courses before they can begin college-level work. City education officials said the 23 percent college-ready rate was not a fair measure of how the city would do if graduation requirements were raised to a higher standard, because students would work harder to meet that new bar."

Who are these officials, and how can they get away with pointing fingers at anyone but themselves? After bullspiting the public for nine years, we now are told that things wouldn't be so bad if the graduation requirements were raised? Why weren't these, "city educational officials," screaming at the top of their lungs about this? Oh, of course, they were too busy handing out phony bonuses and misleading the public-this is way beyond Knucklehead Award stage.

But the NY Post and NY Daily News-twin culprits in the docket on this massive deception-are both off on the teacher seniority kick; as classic a case of scapegoating and misdirection as you will ever find. Here's the Post audaciously allowing the mayor to style on this issue: "The state includes a 'last in, first out' provision . . . which would force us to lay off some of our very best teachers, while keeping some of our worst. To lose the best and keep some who aren't carrying their weight is just a travesty. These layoffs, incidentally, would be most heavily felt in the city's poorest neighborhoods, where schools tend to have the newest teachers."

If the current data is a true indication of the real extent of the, "Bloomberg educational miracle," than the most gracious thing Mike Bloomberg can do on this subject is take a vow of silence-and the tabloids should either offer a mea culpa; or follow suit in silence. But we get a big kick out of the closing the barn door after the horse have left approach down at Tweed: "While it has not gone so far as to calculate an alternative to graduation rates, the city has already begun tracking how each high school’s students fare in college, and in 2012 it will begin holding principals accountable for it."

Just in time to promote the mayor's fourth term?