At Monday's Panel for Educational Policy meeting, Chancellor Joel Klein made a last minute agenda change to make room for Chief Accountability Officer Jim Liebman's rambling and defensive account of how much money his office spends. To make time for Liebman, Klein postponed an update on special education, drawing howls of protest from the many parents of children receiving special education services who had come specifically to hear the briefing. Citywide Council on Special Education member Patricia Connelly waited patiently for the public comment period, then gave an impassioned speech on how Klein's indifference was emblematic of his attitude toward the 180 thousand public school children with IEPs.
The impetus for the Accountability briefing was a report by the Independent Budget Office demonstrating how DOE will spend $129.6 million this year and $105 million next year on its Accountability initiative. The report, which drew wide press coverage, must have struck a nerve because Liebman came loaded for bear with a thirty-page Powerpoint, three live testimonials from DOE administrators and a live demonstration of the much-delayed ARIS system.
You can find the Powerpoint here. From start to finish it is a preposterous document. Some highlights:
- There are the usual statistics on DOE "success" which carefully omit any mention of Federal NAEP tests showing a lack of progress.
- An absurd statement from Columbia's Jonah Rockoff insisting school progress reports released only a couple of months before children sat for state tests were responsible for improving their scores.
- Not one but two pages of endorsements from those great sages of pedagogy, the editors of the Daily News.
- A blatantly false assertion that the $80 million spent on ARIS had to be spent on technology as part of the city's capital budget (actually, new schools, gyms or science labs would have been fine -- exactly the things Bloomberg tells us we can no longer afford)
- An extensive assault on the IBO analysis, the only point of which appears to be that, yes DOE is spending the hundreds of millions IBO said they are but technically speaking, it's not really on "accountability".
The reality is that Liebman is spending even more than even what IBO enumerated; they agreed to exclude the massive Interim Assessments expense which will be $26 million this year alone and another $8+ million in Senior Achievement Facilitators went uncounted.
At the end of his presentation, I asked Liebman how he could justify the six positions posted on the DOE web site with titles like "Knowledge Manager" and "Achievement Facilitator" when we are likely to see layoffs of art & music teachers and cuts in custodians. His reply that he was not necessarily really hiring people drew chuckles from the audience. The net of all this is that the Bloomberg administration is set on protecting this standardized testing juggernaut even if it means passing on the cuts on to our classrooms.
The PEP meeting ended with a long barrage of public comment. The parents who had come for the special education briefing were bitter, ATR and rubber room teachers were out in force and several parents spoke on the ever-present overcrowding crisis. See EdNotes for another account of meeting.