Sunday, November 30, 2008
Just want to know how your kids fair in our public schools? If they attend high school in any number of our poverty stricken (read ghetto) neighborhoods, do they tell you how it feels to be searched and wanded before entering their school buildings? Do they speak on the daily humiliation of being verbally assaulted by security staff and teachers for minor infractions like talking to their friends? Have they spoken to you about being yelled at constantly while contained in overcrowded classes that offer no meaningful instruction relevant to their cultures, interests or futures, or feel patronized by over-wrought, inexperienced newbie teachers who liken their classroom experiences in any of NYC’s over 900 Title 1 schools to being Peace Corps workers in Third world countries?
Oh, that's right-- you aren't a NYC public school parent! Nor did you grow up here or attend our highly segregated school system. As an out-of-towner, can we safely assume your children (if you indeed have any), aren’t participating in the Mayor's great social experiment?
Let’s be very clear about the PR spin at Learning NY. You don’t represent students and their concerned parents’ needs or interests-- just the Mayor's and Chancellor's. In fact, you really have NO CLUE about what really goes on inside the majority of NYC’s very out dated, overcrowded, shabby buildings located all over the five boroughs---you'd be scared to park your car down the street from most of them. None of you have the faintest intention of responding to the Y.R.N.E.S. (Youth Researchers for a New Education System) report sponsored by the Independent Commission on Public Education (iCOPE) and presented to the Department of Education by our high school students who overwhelmingly claim race, class, income and gender bias against them. Nor is there a plan to address the Girls Gender Equity Inc. survey of over 1,400 middle and high school boys and girls who report that 80% of them have been sexually harassed inside their schools.
Still, in all your wisdom and experience with bureaucratic BS, maybe you can give me a quick solution to this nagging school environment concern. My son’s high school has 525 students, is located on one and ½ floors in a shared building with three other schools and it has no lockers. Last year, my son had to divert his learning attention to act quickly in order to remove his jacket from his seat back and zip up his book bag so the mouse scurrying around in his English class wouldn’t climb in. When he saw this, the novice teacher laughed and said the school's mice and other assorted roaches and rodents are just trying to get taken back to where they came from: my home.
As soon as you and all the other upper income, Caucasian honchos at the DoE integrate the schools by enrolling your own children in them, we parents will believe you really care and will do meaningful, innovative work that provides a high quality, equitable education to all children of this city. Only then will we know that our concerns are yours.
Until then-- as the kids say, "stop frontin'" which loosely translated means, just shut up.
Meanwhile, over the same time period, more than four times as many seats will have been created in the new Yankee and Mets stadiums alone – projects which the city has directly subsidized to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars.
The city also pressured the IRS in giving the Yankees the use of more than $1 billion in tax-free bonds to build the stadium, just as the city is starving for tax revenue.
While the administration wants to cut way back on school construction, it also plans to spend $3 billion in capital funds to redevelop contaminated land in Willet’s point, $440 million to reopen and expand the Brooklyn house of detention, and $1 billion to build a 35-acre police academy in Queens.
The cost of the latter two projects alone if invested in schools instead could double the number of new seats in the proposed new capital plan to 50,000.
So what has the Bloomberg administration focused on instead of schools? The city has been busy negotiating itself free food and a free suite at Yankee stadium: According to the Daily News:
The Yankees got the city to write a letter to the IRS so they could obtain $942 million in tax-free bonds. The team plans to request $366 million more, saving them a total of $247 million in lower borrowing costs. In return, Bloomberg's team wanted a free luxury suite and the right to buy at cost 180 of the best seats to all home games, including post-season, the e-mails show.The NY Times puts it this way:
The Bloomberg administration was so intent on obtaining a free luxury suite for its own use at the new Yankee Stadium, newly released e-mail messages show, that the mayor’s aides pushed for a larger suite and free food, and eventually gave the Yankees 250 additional parking spaces in exchange.
The parking spaces were given to the team for the private use of Yankees officials, players and others; the spaces were originally planned for public parking. The city also turned over the rights to three new billboards along the Major Deegan Expressway, and whatever revenue they generate, as part of the deal.
The e-mail messages between the aides to Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and Yankees executives were obtained and released by Assemblyman Richard L. Brodsky, Democrat of Westchester, who questions whether taxpayers were adequately protected in the city’s deal with the team.
Mr. Brodsky said what emerges from the e-mail correspondence is a sense of entitlement ingrained in Bloomberg officials. He said that the city appeared to be pushing for use of the suite for not just regular-season games, but for the playoffs and the World Series, and for special events like concerts, too.
“There’s this ‘
This represents the reign of Bloomberg at its finest – plutocrats who fight for their own privileges, over the interests of the taxpayer – and public school children. The administration's noblesse oblige is typical, as NYC Educator points out:
The administration's noblesse oblige is typical, as NYC Educator points out:
“It's kinda like when Bloomberg announced some pretty draconian job and program cuts earlier this month but refused to make the same kinds of cuts in his own office and doled out raises to some of his high-level cronies in the Transportation Department.
Or like when Bloomberg said it is very important that Wall Street executives at AIG, Citigroup, and other companies that have received hundreds of billions of dollars in taxpayer bailout money continue to receive their end-of-the-year bonuses despite driving their companies to near bankruptcy and ruin.”
Friday, November 28, 2008
My wife and I are graduates of the specialized high schools, and our daughter currently attends one. We are supporters of public schools, and would not want to see these schools weakened. But every student – regardless of race, gender, or ethnicity -- deserves a properly vetted system for determining who is admitted to these schools. And that’s not what the NYC Department of Education currently provides.
I recently published a study -- High Stakes, but Low Validity? A Case Study of Standardized Tests and Admissions into
Using test results from the 2005 and 2006 specialized high schools test (SHSAT), which is the sole determinant of admissions, I found a number of glaring violations of widely-accepted educational testing standards and practices.
For example, thousands of students of all backgrounds are rejected with scores that are statistically indistinguishable from those who are admitted. And the NYC Department of Education fails to provide estimates of how well the SHSAT is able to differentiate among students who score close to the admission/rejection line, or whether other criteria could be used to reduce these uncertainties. I made several requests for this information to senior officials at the NYCDOE, to no avail.
Different test versions are used, but no details are provided about how these versions are statistically equated and how accurate that equating is (again, despite requests, and in violation of testing standards and practices). The scaled scores vary across different versions more than the chance distribution would suggest is plausible, suggesting that the equating system may not be leveling the playing field across test versions of varying difficulty – so that students who received certain versions may be more likely to gain admission than those who received other versions.
The SHSAT exhibits an unusual scoring feature that is not widely known, and may give an edge to those who have access to expensive tutors. Someone with a very high score in math and a relatively poor score in English, or vice versa, has a better chance of admission than someone with relatively strong performances in both. Alternative scoring systems would yield far different results, and no evidence is offered to support the current system.
No predictive validity studies have ever been done– not only to see if the test suffers from prediction bias across genders and ethnic groups, but to see if the test is linked to any desired outcomes. In fact, the NYCDOE has never established what specific, measurable objectives the SHSAT is supposed to achieve. Without well-specified objectives and carefully constructed validity studies, there’s no way to know if these admissions criteria are serving their purpose, or if an alternative system would be more reliable.
The SHSAT is widely assumed to produce clear-cut, valid, and equitable results. But for many students who are rejected, they might have been admitted if they’d been assigned a different test version, if the winds of random variation had blown a bit differently, if a slightly different scoring system had been used, or if they’d been made aware in advance of how the scoring was done.
Of course, no admissions criteria is “perfect.” Uncertainty and imprecision are inherent in all decisions, whether they be based on test scores, grades, portfolios, or a combination of the above. Standard psychometric practice is to choose criteria that minimize uncertainties and enable students to demonstrate the skills needed to succeed in ways other than captured on a single standardized test.
The only systematic, objective way to do this is by conducting predictive validity studies, as are regularly carried out for tests like the SAT to help refine the test, and help colleges decide how much weight to put on SAT scores, grades, and other factors in their admission decisions. Overwhelmingly, studies have found that multiple criteria, used in tandem, provide a better guide to future student performance than a single one. Indeed, it’s partly because of such validity studies that psychometric standards caution strenuously against using any single metric as the sole criterion for admission, and virtually all educational institutions use multiple criteria to determine admissions decisions.
The DOE violates accepted psychometric standards, by refusing to provide detailed information about these exams, refusing to carry out any validity studies for them, or even reveal what the tests are designed to accomplish.
We should press the DOE for answers, and more importantly, to reform the system. Formal predictive validity studies need to be carried out. Based on the results of these studies, a determination should be made as to what admissions process is most likely to achieve a specific, quantifiable admissions goal in a transparent, equitable way.
If these studies conclude that it is best to use additional criteria along with a standardized test, the
As parents, we should bring these issues to the attention of our elected representatives, on the City Council and in the State Legislature. I sent a copy of my study to my City Council member Jessica Lappin, my State Senator Liz Krueger, and State Senator Kenneth LaValle -- but have yet to hear back from any of them. This is unacceptable. --Josh Feinman
You can contact Josh for more information at email@example.com
The Australian media continue their refreshingly skeptical coverage of Joel Klein’s promotion of his educational policies during his visit down-under.
Expose bad schools, says US educator (Sydney Morning Herald)
Big business dominates educational planning (Sydney Morning Herald)
US educationist talks tough on schools The Age ( ) Melbourne
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
"... the group unveiled a Web site dedicated to spreading the Bloomberg school-reform gospel, a hub filled with fact sheets, carefully culled news clips and grassroots platitudes. (“We will listen. And we will be heard.”) One section, promoting the “real results” of mayoral control, takes a page from the global-warming-is-real play book. “It’s not just a feeling,” it declares. “It’s really happening.”
In interviews with reporters, the group’s director, Peter Hatch, “offered what he called “opportunities for improvement” (he rebuked the term “criticisms”)—among them, finding ways to give parents more input, make city finances more transparent and nurture independent analyses of school data.
I expressed skepticism to the Times reporter that Hatch would propose ways to give parents more actual input – rather than simply suggest more public hearings. As any NYC parent knows by now, we’ve been subjected to hundreds of hearings, and never once has this administration really listened to anything we’ve said. If Bloomberg or Klein had been had been interested in our views, after all, they would have included questions in the parent survey about whether we agreed with their policies, but this they refused to do.
“Leonie Haimson, a critic of Mr. Bloomberg’s efforts and executive director of the nonprofit Class Size Matters, said she saw the group’s efforts as an attempt to preempt an onslaught of criticism from parent groups. She said she was skeptical of the group’s proposed changes to the mayoral control law.
While Hatch denied to reporters the organization has received funding from Bloomberg himself, he refused to disclose his contributors, though he admits to having “millions” to work with.
And the way in which Brian Keeler, the group’s media consultant, whom we had dubbed "the Mayoral control troll" left anonymous comments on our blog promoting Mayoral control, without disclosing his identity, does not bode well for this group’s sincerity about the need for more transparency.
From Gotham Schools:
“Leonie Haimson of Class Size Matters has already done impressive digging into the group’s media strategy. A spokesperson for the group confirmed to me today that the blog commenter Haimson noticed voicing his passion for mayoral control is indeed on the payroll of
The Times article confirms that the MirRam group has been hired as one of the lobbying firms that will try to push Mayoral control through the legislature. As noted previously, MirRam’s chief lobbyists are Roberto Ramirez, formerly chief political boss of the
The Mayor and the DOE won't stop there, of course. Along with the nakedly political campaign of saturation subway ads, etc. being pursued by the Fund for Public Schools, Elizabeth Green of Gotham Schools in a separate article has the goods on how Garth Harries, head of DOE’s portfolio office, used a retreat paid for by the Gates Foundation to persuade charter school and small school operators to help proselytize for continued Mayoral control;
Our tax dollars hard at work.
GBN News asked J. Fredrick Runson, head of the Political Science department at Manhattan University, if a turkey can possibly manage such a challenging responsibility. “I don’t see why not”, said Professor Runson. “If a monkey can predict school progress as well as the DOE does, a turkey can certainly do as well with the Department’s credibility.”
In what would be a “lateral move”, the Obama transition office announced today that Chancellor Klein is being seriously considered as one of the turkeys for next year’s White House pardoning ceremony.
Monday, November 24, 2008
Check out the first hour of our terrific forum about Mayoral control elsewhere in the country, with Mary Levy, director of the Public Education Reform Project at the Washington DC Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights, Julie Woestehoff director of Parents United for Responsible Education in Chicago, and Prof. Stefanie Chambers of
Here are biographies of the three speakers; more information on the effects of Mayoral control in Chicago is topic is available through Julie's summary; Mary prepared a fact sheet on DC; and also a useful one-page chart about patterns of Mayoral control around the country.
From the Melbourne Age: [In NYC] Students are required to sit standardised tests, schools get an annual report card grading them from A-D and F ...Schools that need help get resources to improve but if they fail to lift their game, they are closed or restructured — and more than 70 have been shut.
His critics argue that the measures are too punitive, that he relies too heavily on standardised testing and that the improvements to his students' results are not significant.
"The only independent check on student achievement in
Sydney Morning Herald : While Mr Klein says student scores have vastly improved under his watch, analysis by Diane Ravitch, a research professor of education at
A former Productivity Commission economist,
An Australian education authority, Brian Caldwell, professorial fellow at the
Angelo Gavrielatos, of the Australian Education Union, said the
ABC News: AEU (Australian teacher union) president Angelo Gavrielatos says it would be counter-productive to take
Canberra Times : The federal Education Minister, Julia Gillard, claims that reforms such as reporting individual school results are ''working'' and have produced ''remarkable outcomes''. She says that there has been continual improvement in student achievement in
These assertions are refuted by test results in reading and mathematics. National tests show that average student achievement in
The National Assessment of Education Progress tests conducted by the US Department of Education show no statistically significant change in average student scores for reading in grades 4 and 8 between 2003 and 2007 in
They also show that there was no improvement in average reading scores for low income, black and hispanic students in either Grade 4 or 8. There were small improvements in average mathematics scores in Grade 4 for low income, black and hispanic students. In Grade 8 mathematics, there was no improvement for black and hispanic students, but a slight improvement for low income students.
The Australian : During Mr Klein's week-long visit in
He addressed a forum in
Mr Klein's visit comes ahead of a looming showdown between the commonwealth and states and territories at the meeting of the Council of Australian Governments on Saturday over the reporting of school performance.
Addressing the forum yesterday, Mr Klein was effusive in his praise for Education Minister Julia Gillard, and described her speech outlining the Government's commitment to transparency in schools as one of the "greatest" on education reform he had heard. "The level of courage in a public official isn't as rare as I sometimes thought," he said….
Mr Klein received a mixed response from the 100-strong group of educators and policymakers at the
Mr Klein said multiple measurements risked covering up underperformance. "The more we have multiple measures the risk is we dilute the power of accountability,
Unfortunately, Anonymous outed himself before we could write about him – in the comment section on our blog below.
He is Brian Keeler, VP of Politics and Advocacy for VShift – a media consulting company, and as we guessed, he is working for MASS, and its new website, www.learn-ny.org, the organization Bloomberg established to retain control over our schools. VShift is conveniently located at 895 Broadway, along with MASS, and its consultants, the Global Strategy Group, NY’s most influential political consulting firm. On the same floor is the “MirRam Group” run by lobbyists Roberto Ramirez, former chief political boss of the
Brian Keeler, a vice president at media consultancy VShift, said the key to social media is credibility and enlisting consumers in the act of marketing itself. But if you upset your audience, it can mean trouble. “With the online media, things can go viral and spin out of control really fast,” he said.
Here are excerpts from the VShift website, which reminds their clients:
It is important to remember that competitors will respond in some way to your actions in the market so it is useful to consider what they may do and prepare for it. We help you respond to the competition and determine the best course of action.
Nice to meet you, and thanks for introducing yourself on our blog.
A question: are you a NYC public school parent? Do you live here in NYC? Are these webpages about you, or another Brian Keeler?
In any case, to give you some background, we’ve been living the last six years under the nightmare of an administration that is both incompetent and that doesn’t give a damn about how parents feel about how their kids should be educated; and that openly and continually dismisses the issues we care about, like class size, even though Bloomberg and Klein themselves sent their own kids to schools where no classes were larger than 15.
Though you may have millions of dollars to spend try to convince less involved and aware NYers otherwise, it will be a hard slog to convince us that this administration has been accountable to parents, or to anyone else for that matter, aside perhaps from the “real” stakeholders in this system, which as Gary Babad has pointed out, have been the Gates and Broad foundations, as well as the sons and daughters of Bloomberg’s billionaire buddies, who’d like to set up their own charter schools inside our already overcrowded school system.
But hey, we’re open to listening to what substantive proposals your organization may have to ensure that parents have more input in the future, that there is more transparency, and even perhaps, that in the future, the administration may intend to comply with state and city laws. Indeed, accountability in our democratic system surely does not equal dictatorship.
And though you claim that you “are advocating for the renewal of the law regardless of who the mayor will be”, it is well known that Mayor Bloomberg intends to spend up to $100 million of his private fortune to get re-elected, as well as countless millions more retaining his iron grip on our schools.
How about having a public discussion about some of these matters? You or anyone of your choosing? I’ll even bring the snacks.
Thanks, by the way, for you or whoever corrected the misspellings and at least some of the statistics on your website, after I’d pointed out these errors on our listserv late last night. Perhaps Bloomberg could pay me a salary to copy-edit your site?
Please keep in touch,
Leonie Haimson, Class Size Matters
The organization funded by Bloomberg to keep his absolute power over our schools intact, awkwardly called MASS (for Mayoral Accountability for School Success), just launched its website called LearnNY.
It features the embarrassing picture to the right, as well as a glossy and detailed brochure full of misleading but reassuring statements, like there are “Multiple checks and balances” in the current system, and that increases in spending have helped “to pay for smaller class sizes.”
More false information is featured on its website, like the following: “The percentage of elementary schools that exceed capacity went from 38 percent in 2002 to 13 percent in 2007.”
Actually, according to the capital plan, 27% of elementary school buildings are over capacity, and according to DOE’s official capacity report, the “Blue Book”, 47% of elementary grade students are in overcrowded schools.
(Along with the inaccuracies, the LearnNY website is also full of misspellings. Check out little widget entitled “For parents” that misspells “Mayoral Control”.)[addendum: after I posted this message, they corrected the spelling and deleted the particular misstatement about elementary schools.]
It’s not only MASS’s website that has started in earnest.
In today’s Daily News, Geoffrey Canada who runs charter schools and is the chair of MASS, has an oped entitled Accountability = achievement.
The piece is full of the same PR spin we’ve heard so many times before, and will surely become even more familiar over the next few months, but features one rather interesting new tweak:
Is the law perfect? Of course not. As we go about renewing the legislation, we should improve it. That starts by increasing transparency. There is more data available now than ever before, but parents and citizens deserve to have full confidence in its accuracy. An independent organization should be formed to analyze school performance and policy effectiveness. There should also be increased fiscal transparency, with audits to ensure that money is going toward children and learning.
The Department of Education has not done nearly enough to engage parents. Parents should have more notice before major decisions, like school closings or the cell phone ban, are made. And they should be given forums to voice their opinions - not merely free-for-all complaint sessions, but substantive discussions that are taken seriously. The DOE should establish community engagement benchmarks to monitor progress toward greater involvement of parents.
I would guess that this new “independent organization” to analyze school performance will be identified in coming days as … the Research Alliance – finally getting off the ground after three years, with Joel Klein and Kathy Wylde, the head of the NYC Partnership and Bloomberg’s biggest booster, both conveniently on its governing board.
And what about these forums mentioned above, to give those pesky parents an ability to “voice their opinions”? I predict what they mean is just more public hearings. This is the last thing parents need; hearings in which DOE hears nothing we say and wastes our precious time. With four more years of pointless hearings, soon no one will bother to show up, except those paid to agree with the administration.
What I believe we must not accept, for the sake of our children, is the undermining of accountability. For instance, some have suggested, in the name of parent involvement, that the citywide Panel for Education Policy be made independent from the mayor - or that the 32 local school district offices should be reinstated.
Both moves would be misguided. The key to the success of the new system has been holding officials truly accountable. It is not about any one mayor, but about having an elected official whose job description includes a clear mandate to improve schools… We can't have it both ways: either one person is in charge, or no one is.
In other words, the Mayor must continue to have complete and dictatorial power over our schools, with no one else, including parents, having any say.
(What’s funny is that whoever wrote this oped didn’t seem to realize that there still are 32 local school district offices – which were officially reinstated after State legislators and the CSA sued the administration and won a consent decree, as state law inconveniently requires community school districts to remain. The district offices were reinstated, but in name only –now nearly empty of staff or function, with the superintendents now ordered to spend 90% of their time, traveling from one borough to the next, coaching schools outside their districts on how to pump up test scores.)
Another sign that the MASS operation has started spreading its disinformation campaign wide and far is the fact that on Friday afternoon, someone was very busy in cyberspace between 4 and 5 PM, offering a series of happy little talking points:
At 4:16 pm , after an article in
“With 89% of teachers voting to keep their schools in the bonus program, it’s clear that teachers at participating schools were happy with the program’s first year. Good things happen when someone sets a clear direction, as the mayor has done, and gives motivation to succeed. Good news is always welcome.”
Good news indeed! Four minutes later, at 4:20 PM, now on our blog at "Joel Klein as a tone-deaf Oedipus?", the same little elf, now renamed “Anonymous,” left this dropping:
“I hope we don't lose Joel Klein, since schools have made real progress under his watch. I like that we've had stable leadership and accountability at DOE, for the first time in a long time.”
Nine minutes later, Anonymous skipped over to the Huffington Post, where we had linked to Benjamin Barber’s accurate description of Joel Klein as “completely tone-deaf to the communities he supposedly serves.” Now renamed LHK, s/he added plaintively: “I hope we don't lose Joel Klein in NYC. He has infused accountability in the Public Schools.”
Then this busy little cyber-elf flitted back to our blog, and at 4:31 PM, resuming the moniker “Anonymous” at Performance bonuses: DOE throws away money to benefit adults rather than our kids, pointed out:
“I can't imagine how happier, more fulfilled teachers wouldn't have an effect on their students. A set direction, a set of standards, builds a culture of accountability and responsibility, something our schools used to lack. We're facing tough times and tough decisions in NY, but I'd think that we want invest and support those we trust with our children's education.”
Six minutes later, at 4:37 PM, at "Why does the NY Times feature the voices of LA public school parents but not ours, Anonymous offered up this little gem:
“Mayoral control has delivered results. We cannot go back to the bad old days, where we had 32 local boards and a board and a chancellor and a mayor, but one who could be held responsible.”
Finally, Anonymous finished up a busy afternoon at 4:52 PM at Patrick’s post about the PEP meeting last week, "Klein Stiffs Parents of Children Receiving Special Education Services" concluding:
“Mayoral Control has delivered realresults,[sic] and going back isn't an option. Our job should be to figure out how we improve the process, make things more transparent and give parents more opportunities for input. The two things can work together.”
So who does this prove? That all of you real NYC parents should be sure to add your thoughts in the comments section of our blog; regularly and often; so that readers will know that the views of this paid employee of the Mayor’s operation are neither accurate nor typical.
And who is running MASS, the organization the Mayor founded to keep his iron grip over our schools? Clearly, Canada is too busy running his charter schools; the DOE press office is occupied putting out fires as well as publicizing Klein’s frequent trips to other cities and abroad, and the Mayor’s staff has lots of other things to worry about– like trying to solve the budget crisis with an increasingly unruly City Council, who apparently didn’t understand that giving Bloomberg unlimited term extensions meant they should shut up and let him do whatever he wants.
On its website, the organization is listed as located at 895 Broadway, 5th floor. Two politically-wired groups share this address and floor. One is the Global Strategy Group, NY’s most influential political consulting firm, according to Wikipedia, on retainer to Paterson and the State Democratic Party as well as “the premier Democratic political polling firm."
The address and floor is also home to the “MirRam Group” run by lobbyists Roberto Ramirez, former chief political boss of the
Announcing a contest: the next person to spot comments in cyberspace from the MASS staffer, please send us the links; you will be awarded the distinguished decoration for discerning disinformation.
Also, please post nominations in our comments section for what we should call this unknown staffer – whoever he or she may be – the MASS elf or Anonymous or BK or LHK or whatever name s/he happens to have adopted on a particular day is not good enough.
Sunday, November 23, 2008
This week, Joel Klein is visiting
Question: "You can't have a system corrupted or distorted by a principal under pressure or a principal that wants to boost his or her status by encouraging teachers at the school to go soft on the students in tests to help them cheat in effect?"
JOEL KLEIN: "It's happened on a handful of occasions since I’ve been here and we’ve terminated principals, terminated a couple of teachers at one point, but I don't think systematically that's a powerful explanation.
And even before our system there was a Federal system here in the
In reality, there is now rampant test prep in NYC schools – as well as many serious allegations of cheating – few of which are ever followed up by this administration, even when the allegations are based on reliable evidence from people on the ground. In fact, many principals have been promoted and given bonuses whose schools have seen large and unexplained boosts in test scores. See for example this article, detailing allegations about cheating at one school, where test scores jumped 30 points in one year, where Chancellor Joel Klein spoke at the school's graduation while wearing a "
In fact, Klein doesn’t appear to care what’s causing test scores to rise, as long as they do. And as pointed out by independent experts like Diane Ravitch, as well as in the NY Times and elsewhere, test scores on state exams have not been matched by NYC's results on the more reliable national assessments called the NAEPs. Indeed, an analysis of NAEP scores between 2003-2007 reveals that NYC came in 10th out of 11 urban school districts across the nation in changes in test score changes over the course of this administration.
JOEL KLEIN: "The class sizes have reduced…”
Actually, Joel Klein has stubbornly refused to reduce class size, the top priority of NYC parents, even when it means ignoring the law. As a result, our class sizes remain the largest in the state and among the largest in the nation, despite hundreds of millions of dollars allocated by the state to reduce class size.
In a 2006 audit, the State Comptroller found that only 20 additional classes were formed in NYC schools over the baseline figure, despite $89 million in annual state funds specifically allocated to reduce class size. The audit concluded that “while the [NYC] DoE was receiving State funding… it was reducing its own support for early grade class size reduction and using it for other purposes.” The NY State Comptroller proposed a number of recommendations to improve compliance with the law– all of which the Chancellor rejected.
Then again, this past September, the NY State Education Department found that despite commitments by the city to use millions of dollars in new state aid to reduce class size, instead “53.9% of
Accordingly, over 80% of NYC parents say that there has been no improvement in class size under this administration, and 86% of NYC principals say that they are unable to provide a quality education to their students because of excessive class sizes at their schools.
JOEL KLEIN: "The President of our [teachers] union, who's also the President of the National Union, she said on the first day of school this year in September that she had been traveling around the
Among NYC teachers, there has been overwhelming disapproval of the leadership and policies of Joel Klein. Last year, the NYC teacher’s union released its own survey, showing that 85% of its members believe that Klein has refused to provide the support and resources they need to succeed; 85% disagreed with his emphasis on high-stakes testing; and 83% said that he had put other interests above the learning needs of the children.
According to Klein’s top spokesperson, only two out of twenty of the top administrators at the Department of Education are long-term educators; instead, he has largely staffed the Department with corporate consultants and attorneys.
In the past few weeks, thousands of teachers in NYC and elsewhere have signed petitions, warning President-elect Obama not to appoint Joel Klein to his administration, because of his misguided policies.
Check out this petition, which has been signed by nearly 4200 educators in NYC and nationwide:
"The NYC Department of Education under Joel Klein has been run like a ruthless dictatorship -- with no input from parents or educations. Teachers have not been respected, consulted, nor listened to. And little thought has been devoted to how the policies he has imposed on our schools have been destructive to the children and their futures...While focusing on test scores, he has consistently ignored the crisis of overcrowding in NY schools. Thousands of children are being given special services in hallways or in closets."
See also this petition, signed by more than 3600 teachers and academic experts nationwide, in opposition to Joel Klein's "vision of privatized, corporatized, and anti-democratic schools."
QUESTION: "How do you answer the critics who say your school statistics are flawed because of wild statistical fluctuations or results from year to year, which suggest fundamental flaws?"
JOEL KLEIN: "I don't think that's a fair criticism. I've actually studied the statistics. There are some year to year fluctuations that are significant, but that's because schools that weren't making progress refocused and decided that the risk to them was they were gonna close.
"And so they decided that they would focus much more effectively on promoting student performance. But all of these things will come out over the years, meaning this is not a one year or two year experiment.”
Some year-to-year fluctuations? School grades have widely varied between one year to the next, which is not surprising considering they are primarily based on one year's worth of test score gains or losses, which experts have shown to be 30-80% random.
See this analysis by Daniel Koretz, an expert on testing and statistics from Harvard, pointing out that three quarters of NYC schools that received an “F” last year received an “A’” or “B” this year. As Koretz writes:
“It strains credulity to believe that if these schools were really “failing” last year, three-fourths of them improved so markedly in a mere 12 months that they deserve grades of A or B ...This instability is sampling error and measurement error at work. It does not make sense for parents to choose schools, or for policymakers to praise or berate schools, for a rating that is so strongly influenced by error.”
Aaron Pallas and Jennifer
As another of their summaries suggest, “a Monkey [could] Do a Better Job of Predicting Which Schools Show Student Progress in English Skills than the New York City Department of Education."
In short, NYC parents and teachers have this advice for Australians: Do not be fooled by either Klein or his claims.
Achievement has not significantly improved under his leadership. Instead, his administration has consistently misused millions of dollars meant to reduce class size that would have provided children with a better chance to learn, while spending millions more in taxpayer funds on expanding the bureaucracy with high-paid corporate consultants, no-bid contracts, and more testing in our schools.
Along the way, he has stubbornly refused to listen to parents, teachers and academic experts who have pointed out the destructive impact of his policies.