Saturday, July 31, 2010

Er-r-r, Um-m-m, Well, Hm-m-m: Mayor Dissembles in Blagojevichian Style

Attempting to respond to the recent, politically cataclysmic decline in the academic proficiency measurements whose "gains" he has insistently touted for the past six years, Mayor Bloomberg resorted in his news conference last week to the sort of double-talk dissembling we have come to associate with Rod Blagojevich. In so doing, he managed at one and the same time to refute the validity of the very measurement system upon which he has built his claimed education record, disparage those who aspire to a college education, and assert that it doesn't really matter what you measure or how you're measuring it as long as the numbers get better.

As reported by Maura Walz in "Going Gaga" at Gotham Schools (in far greater depth and detail than any of the missing-in-action local mainstream media), the Mayor first sought to defend himself using an "it's all relative, anyway" argument.

"Everybody can have their definition of what it [proficiency] means," the Mayor argued lamely. Later in the press conference, he even took the audacious step of asking reporters to stop referring to students who score a 3 or 4 on the NYS standardized (3 - 8) exams as "proficient"! Chancellor Klein, parroting the new party line of relativism, chimed in that "Level 3 is simply a single line," conveniently ignoring the thousands of press releases and millions of dollars the DOE has spent under his watch jerking schools over that "line in the sand" under threat of student retentions, teacher and principal dismissals, and school closures.

No doubt sensing that the relativism argument was not sufficiently convincing, the Mayor tried the Alfred E. Neumann, "What, me worry?" defense by suggesting that academic success (i.e., proficiency) was really not all that it was cracked up to be anyway. "The last time I checked, Lady Gaga is doing fine with just a year of college." Mr. Mayor, you might have noted that LeBron James is doing even "finer" with no years of college. Why should parents worry about education and college when they can aspire to the likes of Lady Gaga and LeBron James? With inspiration like that from their mayor, NYC kids should be taking to the city park basketball courts and music clubs in droves! Perhaps it's time to start creating report cards based on hoops talent and on-stage performance audacity.

Finally, the Mayor fell back on what might be called the "longitudinal data" defense, declaring along with Chancellor Klein that what has really mattered all along was improvement over time. In other words, the validity of the measurements are irrelevant as long as the numbers get better every year. Putting aside for the moment the data-corrupting impact of the Mayor/Chancellor's relentless mix of incentivizing principals and teachers while threatening job loss and school closure over those very measures, the sheer illogical senselessness of this argument is intellectually breathtaking. It's as if we spent eight years teaching students how to empty the ocean with teaspoons, finally realized that it wasn't working, but argued for continuing on the grounds that we've gotten better at it each year and our students are now spooning out 21.47% more water (ever so precisely measured to create more credibility) than they were eight years ago.

Of course, every bit of this is founded on the demonstrably false premise that being a "3" or a "4" in math and reading at any and all points between Grades 3 and 8 somehow defines one as being educated. All it actually appears to signify so far is that one is adequately proficient at taking the NYS standardized Math and/or ELA exams. No known positive correlation exists between being a "low 3" and being successful on the NAEPs, the SATs, high school graduation, college acceptance, or anything else. To the contrary, recent data on required freshman remediation of incoming NYC public school students from SUNY/CUNY suggest that the correlation, if it exists, could just as well be negative, that focusing so intently on a single pair of exams and a single pair of success measures deprives students, as one might reasonably expect, of a genuine education.

The bottom line from last week's news conference? Don't expect to see any changes forthcoming. In true George W. Bush style, today's politician never questions him/herself, never rethinks his/her approach, and never admits he/she might have made a mistake. Dissemble, obfuscate, and rationalize -- no matter the continuing cost and damage done to the city's children. After all, one of them could just be (ugh!) the next Lady Gaga.


Anonymous said... principal lies through her teeth, enables corruption and intimidation, strokes the pta, takes credit for everyone's hard work. No different from Blago...oh, maybe the pta!

Anonymous said...

I am a retired NYC teacher and I just started a Facebook page called Support Public Education. I am hoping to pull together teachers, parents, students and concerned citizens who are upset how the media, politicians, and industry leaders are depicting public education.

Both NYC Educator and Pissed-Off Teacher have been instrumental in getting the word out too. I hope your readers will take a few minutes to look it over and join. This page was started Monday morning and already has 129 supporters from all over the nation.

Thank you.!/pages/SUPPORT-PUBLIC-SCHOOLS/106057986116757?ref=ts

Unknown said...

I feel your pain from Chicago, the land of Blago. I wrote this at to respond to a privatization troll. When I meet the professionals in the classroom, both in Chicago and in the suburbs (I do get around) i am impressed by them. What is beautiful is that the majority of the teachers I speak to is about the practice and the students they serve. I have lost faith in Obama, Daley, CEO"s, patronage MP's and CAO's. I have not lost faith in our professionals in the classroom. They are the greatest resource we have. They are waiting for real leadership that will leverage their expertise to build strong professional communities in each school. This is rigorous work and some may not be able to weather it. None the less, I have more faith in our teachers then your monied pockets. The corporate slash and burn policy does not work since you don't know education. The Chicago Civic Club proved they have no head for education. For the Chicago Civic Club, the Ren 2010 plan was an excursion to make money at the expense of the children of Chicago. You know you are poverty pimps. We need to get off the Daley and Chicago Civic Club plantation. Chicago, if you are listening, authentic school reform HAS NOT BEEN TRIED under Daley. Let us be honest. Daley's trifling hires that were CEO's never were a part of nor at the helm of a successful school reform action. Just so we are honest with each other. Oh.. the buck stops at the top. Remember the business rule that you follow, an organization's dysfunction reflects the leadership. Sorry, you can't excuse Daley's choice of incompetent hires at CEO. You won't address that fact. The CEO's calls the shots and sets educational policy! So if you are complaining about the state of CPS yell at yo boy Daley, since he has been in charge for a long time. Please don't front about caring about our children. You are parasites. Time to take a new route the entails authentic school reform. Please don't confuse the half *ssed school reform tried by Vallas, Duncan or Huberman! Please don't call that half steppin school reform. Be real REAL SCHOOL REFORM HAS NEVER BEEN TRIED!