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.