Saturday, August 27, 2011

One small win for humankind: Comptroller rejected $27 M no bid Wireless contract

One small but significant victory:  public outrage has managed to stop the state contract with Wireless Generation, owned by Rupert Murdoch and run by Joel Klein.   

As reported in today's Daily News, State Comptroller Di Napoli rejected the egregious $27 million contract that the NY State Education Department  wanted to award the company, to build a statewide data system modeled after the highly deficient city system known as ARIS.  

We were the first to post a petition to Di Napoli, the Regents, and the feds, after the Daily News broke the story, and many other petitions and letters to the Comptroller followed.

For some of the reasons this contract should have been rejected see here.

If you would like to thank Comptroller Di Napoli, you can send an email to:

Keep safe everyone on the East Coast, from Hurricane Irene, but savor this win for accountability and for someone who dared to say NO to educrats , apparently intent on wasting taxpayer money and reward their friends and cronies with no-bid contracts. These wins have been few and far between in recent years.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

A court decision on the teacher data reports that will hurt our kids

It is unfortunate that the day after a court decision held that NY teachers should be evaluated by use of multiple assessments, with student scores on state standardized tests only one minor factor, today, the appellate court said that the DOE could release the teacher data reports to the public, based only on these same test scores. 
Most testing experts agree that these reports are highly unreliable and reductionist, and they will unfairly tarnish the reputation of many excellent teachers:
1.     The state tests were never designed for such a purpose – and are technically unable to make year to year judgments on “progress” or value added. 
2.    Many studies have shown the extreme volatility of these measures, and how the results differ even from one sort of test to another.  See Juan Gonzalez’s column on how DOE consultants themselves believe these reports are highly unreliable; here are links to the original documents revealing this, obtained through a  FOIL.
3.    As John Ewing, former executive director of the American Mathematical Society, recently concluded, ”if we drive away the best teachers by using a flawed process, are we really putting our students first?  Mike Winerip reported on a top-notch NYC teacher who was denied  tenure in just this manner.
If NYC goes ahead and releases this data it would likely be the first school district in the country to do so willingly and enthusiastically; when the LA Times generated its own value-added data for Los Angeles teachers, the paper was widely criticized.  Chris Cerf, former deputy Chancellor and now acting State Superintendent of NJ schools, was originally in charge of creating the teacher data reports; he promised that they would never be used for teacher evaluations and that the DOE would fight against any effort to disclose them publicly. In a 2008 letter to Randi Weingarten, Cerf wrote: "It is the DOE's firm position and expectation that Teacher data reports will not and should not be disclosed or shared outside the school community."
Chancellor Walcott should think twice before releasing this data, if he cares about real accountability, the morale of teachers,  and the potential damage to our kids.
Here are some of the recent studies from experts on the unreliability of this evaluation method:
Sean P. Corcoran, Can Teachers be Evaluated by Their Students’ Test Scores? Should they Be? The Use of Value-Added Measures of Teacher Effectiveness in Policy and Practice. As  the author concluded from his analysis, “The promise that value-added systems can provide a precise, meaningful, and comprehensive picture is much overblown… .Teachers, policy-makers and school leaders should not be seduced by the elegant simplicity of value-added measures. Given their limitations, policy-makers should consider whether their minimal benefits outweigh their cost.”  
National Research Council, Henry Braun, Naomi Chudowsky, and Judith Koenig, eds., GettingValue Out of Value-Added: Report of a Workshop, 2010: “Value- added methods involve complex statistical models applied to test data of varying quality. Accordingly, there are many technical challenges to ascertaining the degree to which the output of these models provides the desired estimates.”  
John Ewing, former executive director of the American Mathematical Society, current president of Math for America;  MathematicalIntimidation: Driven by the Data; “Why must we use value-added even with its imperfections? Aside from making the unsupported claim (in the very last sentence) that “it predicts more about what students will learn…than any other source of information”, the only apparent reason for its superiority is that value-added is based on data. Here is mathematical intimidation in its purest form—in this case, in the hands of economists, sociologists, and education policy experts…And if we drive away the best teachers by using a flawed process, are we really putting our students first?"
Sean P. Corcoran, Jennifer L. Jennings, Andrew A. Beveridge, Teacher effectiveness on high- and low-stakes tests; April 10, 2011. " To summarize, were teachers to be rewarded for their classroom's performance on the state test or alternatively, sanctioned for low performance many of these teachers would have demonstrated quite different results on a low-stakes test of the same subject.  Importantly, these differences need not be due to real differences in long-run skill acquisition…
That is, teachers deemed top performers on the high-stakes test are quite frequently average or even low performers on the low-stakes test. Only in a minority of cases are teachers consistently high or low performers across all metrics… Our results… highlight the need for additional research on the impact that high-stakes accountability has on the validity of inferences about teacher quality. "

Friday, August 19, 2011

And they say the 1950's were boring!

Check this photo from the May 8, 1950 edition of Life magazine: students "rioting" in the streets for better salaries for their teachers, after their teachers refused to take on extra duties like chaperoning proms after being denied raises.

Their teachers, paid salaries of from $2500 to $5,325, had been asking $600 raises, but were offered only $150-$200 instead: 
25,000 students held "mass rallies all over NY which had the police department jumping.  Carring banners on which their pro-teacher sentiments were scrawled in lipstick, they held up subway trains, wrecked automobiles, dared police to break them up and were prevented only by hasty police action from forcing their way into the office of Mayor O'Dwyer, who had refused to discuss higher salaries.  School officials declared the riots were staged by 'subversive elements'."
According to the caption on the photo at right, "Milling rowdies overturn car parked near city hall and mount it to shout their insults at the police and Mayor O'Dwyer.  Attempts to storm the mayor's office were thwarted by flying wedges of patient policemen."

And this was before there were cell phones, Facebook and twitter.  Just think!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Karen Sprowal talks about class size at last night's PEP and Verizon vote followed by audience yelling "Shame!"

Karen Sprowal,whose son, Matthew, was kicked out of Harlem Success charter school in Kindergarten, speaks for Class Size Matters about the devastating school budget cuts and the harsh effect on class size at last night's Panel for Educational Policy meeting.

Below this video is another of the audience shouting "Shame" after the Panel vote to approve the $120 million contract with Verizon.

Last night's PEP meeting on Verizon contract and its "Norma Rae" moment

Last night's meeting of the Panel for Educational Policy meeting was exhilarating, stirring, and depressing all at once.   Over a thousand parents, teachers, and striking Verizon workers showed up for the pre-meeting rally, and hundreds more filled the auditorium afterwards at Murry Bergtraum HS, chanting, booing Walcott and the DOE, and speaking up passionately for the need for more caring education priorities, and against the $120 million Verizon contract, which will steal even more resources from our children and the company's workers.

This contract had at least  five strikes against it, each of which would have convinced any individual with a conscience to oppose it, but was nevertheless rubber-stamped by the mayoral appointees (known collectively as the Panel of Eight Puppets, though the chair, Tino Hernandez, was absent), with  four borough reps all voting no.  

This, at a time when our school budgets are being slashed to the bone for the fifth year in a row, and while spending on testing, technology, consultants, bureaucrats, and private contracts like this one are ballooning into the billions.  The resulting cuts are forcing principals to raise class sizes to thirty (even in grades 2 & 3) teach classes themselves, and patrol the halls, as today's  Times article makes clear.

Here is some media coverage of the meeting from the Times, Daily News, Post, NY1.  None of it really captures the intensity of the evening, though the NY1 video comes closest.

Two unmentioned yet electric moments: Patrick Sullivan, Manhattan rep to the PEP and blogger here, revealing  that the Verizon contract actually releases the company from any legal obligation to fulfill their duties in case of a strike(!).  Also,  Dmytro Fedkowskyj, Queens rep, who, in response to DOE counsel Michael Best droning on how Verizon has agreed to pay back any profits they inappropriately received through the fraudulent scheme masterminded by Ross Lanham,  pointed out that the letter the company executives sent yesterday to the PEP contradicts this, as it claimed that they did nothing wrong.  Dmytro called this "insulting," and Walcott admitted that he did not "appreciate" the letter. (!!)

See below, for a "Norma Rae" moment, as Amy Muldoon, a passionate Verizon striker and mom, calls out the DOE for their contempt for workers, kids, and NYC taxpayers, while holding her baby in her arms.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Things are getting hot! Update on rally and letters from Verizon and CM Cabreras

Things are heating up.  Speakers at tomorrow's rally will include  elected officials,  labor leaders, and parent and teacher activists.  Be there or be square!
What: Rally and Protest 
Where: Murry Bergtraum HS, 411 Pearl Street, Manhattan (4/5/6 or N/R to City Hall / Brooklyn Bridge)
When: Wed. August 17, 2011 at 5 PM 
Why?  Verizon is shortchanging their own workers and stealing from schoolchildren!   Say no to more giveaways to private contractors and more wasted spending on technology while our class sizes are increasing! Tell the PEP to vote down the Verizon contract with the DOE!
UPDATE: Meanwhile, Verizon has sent a letter to members of the Panel for Educational Policy, claiming the company was not involved or implicated in any fraud.  

And yet the Special Investigator in his report clearly said that " SCI has determined that Lanham stole millions of dollars in public funds and defrauded the DOE. IBM and Verizon, by their silence, facilitated this fraud. ....Verizon concealed from the DOE and law enforcement that they got millions of dollars in contracts through Lanham only after agreeing to hire CCS as a subcontractor.....It is the recommendation of this office that the DOE recover all the money paid to IBM and Verizon for the Lanham consultants. It is further recommended that the DOE bring in outside auditors to determine any additional cost to the DOE and the Federal government engendered by Verizon’s use of CCS as a subcontractor on work that Verizon could have done at a lower cost."
But up to this point, Verizon has failed to pay any of this money back.  Here is what  Patrick Sullivan, Manhattan member of the PEP, has to say about this matter: 

 "Verizon has sent the PEP members a letter asking us to approve the contract.  It blames CWA for the campaign against the contract.  It attempts to completely misrepresent the SCI [Special Commissioner of Investigation] report which clearly states Verizon concealed billing information and knew of inappropriate arrangements.   Rather than CWA, it was SCI who asked that all funds be recovered from Verizon and that external auditors be brought in to examine Verizon's books." 
Also, please check out what Council Member Cabreras, chair of the NYC Council Technology Committee, wrote in his own letter to Chancellor Walcott, asking him to postpone the vote until he can hold hearings about Verizon's involvement in the scandal. 
For more on this and related issues, see Five Reasons to Say No! to the Verizon contract, and Patrick's recent post

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Contracts Update for August PEP Meeting: Verizon & EPOs

Below is an update sent to Manhattan Community Education Councils this morning:

To: CEC1, CEC2, CEC3, CEC4, CEC5, CEC6:

Dear Parents,

I have received many emails with inquiries or concerns about the contracts agenda for the Panel for Educational Policy meeting on Wednesday the 17th. I'd like to update everyone on my understanding of these issues based on my discussions with DOE:

First, one comment on process. When the PEP was first granted approval authority over contracts we established a committee to review the contracts in detail. The Contracts Committee met publicly to question DOE staff and discuss contract specifics. Recently, the chairs of the Contracts Committee, mayoral appointees selected by the PEP chair, have refused to hold the public meeting. The Committee has not met at all under Chancellor Walcott. The DOE has also begun asking for PEP approval before contracts are drafted. In effect, rather than ask for approval of a contract, we are asked for blanket pre-approval of a potential contract based upon an outline of what's envisioned. This reduction in transparency has hampered the PEP's ability to assess the contracts and carry out our responsibilities under state law.

Verizon Contract

The DOE has explained that rather than conduct a procurement for a provider of fixed line and data telecom services, they've decided to piggyback on an existing city contract with Verizon. My concerns with this approach are two-fold:

First, there has been no resolution of the over-billing issue stemming from the alleged fraud perpetrated by a DOE consultant. The Special Commissioner for Investigation's report explained that Verizon, through it's silence facilitated the fraud. Verizon has agreed to return any inappropriate profit but has not yet done so. I don't believe we should enter into a new agreement with Verizon until they resolve this issue to our satisfaction. The sums involved are considerable, especially compared to the significant budget cuts to the classroom.

Second, Verizon and the unionized workforce of the landlines divisions that would deliver services to our classrooms are engaged in a protracted labor dispute. I have concerns about whether Verizon can actually provide the services we need given this dispute. I am skeptical that with limited staff to maintain landlines and data services that our schools would get appropriate priority compared to Verizon's commercial customers. A failure of telecom services would present a considerable risk not only to the smooth functioning of our schools but a safety risk to our children.

Given these issues, I have asked DOE to defer consideration of this contract and instead initiate an procurement exercise to identify the best provider of the needed services in the present circumstances.

EPO Contracts

The Chancellor has announced his intention to outsource management of a limited number of schools to Educational Partnership Organizations. The Chancellor has this ability under Ed Law 211-e. That law requires the relationship with an outside entity to be strictly delineated in a contract. DOE procurement staff have asked the PEP to vote on these contracts without actually seeing them. Citing a lack of time, they have told us no contacts will be available before Wednesday's vote. This excuse is not acceptable. The DOE needs to draft the contracts, come to terms with the EPOs and then provide them to the PEP for approval. I will not allow our children and staff to be placed under the leadership of outside management without the DOE and their partners demonstrating absolute adherence to the terms of the law.

Borough President Stringer's office and I will continue to engage the DOE on these issues and I hope to have a more encouraging update in the near future.

Patrick J. Sullivan
Manhattan Member,
Panel for Educational Policy / NYC Board of Education

Friday, August 12, 2011

Five reasons to say NO! to the DOE's $120 million contract with Verizon

UPDATE: Since posting this on Friday, new sponsors/supporters of this protest include the Communications Workers of America (CWA), BNYEE, CPE-CEP, New York Communities for Change, ICE, S.E.E.D.S, The MANY,  TJC and the UFT.  Be there or be square!
On Wednesday, August 17, the Department of Education's Panel for Education Policy will vote on a $120 million two year contract with telecom giant Verizon to wire our schools.   There are at least five good reasons to oppose this contract ( see below.)
Join us at the PEP meeting near City Hall to protest this immoral and possibly illegal contract.  At the same time the PEP will be voting on a spending plan that will cut our school budgets - for the third year in a row - and lead to sharply larger classes.
Whether you can join us or not, please  send the message below to the members of the PEP:
What: Picket and Protest 
Where: Murry Bergtraum HS, 411 Pearl Street, Manhattan (4/5/6 or N/R to City Hall / Brooklyn Bridge)
When: Wed. August 17, 2011 at 5 PM
Why?  Verizon is shortchanging their own workers and stealing from schoolchildren!   Say no to more giveaways to private contractors and more wasted spending on technology while our class sizes are increasing! Tell the PEP to vote down the Verizon contract with the DOE!
Take a stand against the increasing section of our education budget given to private contractors and online for-profit vendors, like Rupert Murdoch's Wireless Generation. 
Sponsored by: Class Size Matters, Grassroots Education Movement, New York Charter Parents Association, NYCORE, NYC Parents Union, Teachers Unite (list in formation)  
And please send the following email to the PEP:
Dear PEP member:
Please vote no on the $120 million contract with Verizon. Here are five good reasons:  
1.  45,000 Verizon workers are currently on strike, as management has demanded a long list of concessions, including cutting their health benefits, pensions, and sick time – givebacks amounting to $20,000 per worker. Meanwhile, the company has $100 billion in revenue, net profits of $6 billion, and Verizon Wireless just paid its parent company a $10 billion dividend. The top five company executives have been paid more than a quarter of a billion dollars over the last four years.  Why should the city be contracting with such a greedy and unethical company?
2.      Verizon is implicated in the recent scandal in which the Special Commissioner of Investigation found that a consultant named Ross Lanham in charge of school internet wiring stole $3.6 million dollars through a false billing scheme, and that Verizon profited from and  facilitated this fraud.Though DOE admits that “Verizon is in discussion with the DOE regarding repaying of the overcharges,” the company has not yet agreed to pay back any of this money, and the case has been referred to the US attorney’s office for possible prosecution.   Why should DOE reward Verizon by paying the company more millions?
3.       In the same document in which the DOE outlines the contract, there are twenty other instances listed of suspicious or illegal behavior on the part of Verizon, triggering numerous investigations.
4.      All NYC public schools are already wired for the internet; but according to the DOE, this new round of wiring is for high-speed internet and hi-definition video  to facilitate the expansion of online learning and computerized testing.  This is occurring at the same time as budgets are being cut to the bone, schools are losing valuable programs, and class sizes are rising to the highest level in over a decade.  A quarter of our elementary schools are so overcrowded they had waiting lists for Kindergarten.  It is outrageous that in the midst of this budget crisis, the DOE should be spending $120 million for unnecessary technological upgrades when children do not have seats in their neighborhood schools.

5.   Finally, this contract with Verizon began on January 1, 2011, and DOE is only now asking for the PEP  to approve it “retroactively.”  But there is no allowance for retroactive contracts in state law, unless the chancellor finds that due to an emergency, it is necessary for “the preservation of student health, safety or general welfare” and provides a written justification.  This was never done.  Thus this contract with Verizon is likely illegal on the face of it.  
I hope you will vote your conscience, and reject this outrageous contract, 


Thursday, August 11, 2011

PBS: Are these schools really "drop-out" factories? And what would help?

An intelligent, probing video below from last night's PBS' News Hour of several NYC high school struggling to survive.  Schools examined include Flushing HS, International HS at Prospect Heights, and Robeson HS, which DOE is phasing out.  Full transcript here.  Excerpt:

ROSIE FRASCELLA (teacher): Computers and spending a billion dollars on technology and infrastructure is not going to stop kids from dropping out. Human beings stop kids from dropping out, calling their parents, having that human conversation, that interaction.

SIOBHAN SEN: Fazya couldn't agree more. She thinks having an adult who listens would help kids in school.

FAZYA BACCHUS (student at Flushing HS, where most class sizes average 30-34 ) : And when I talk to somebody, it helps me. I feel better, and I go to my classes. I do what I have to do.

Watch the full episode. See more PBS NewsHour.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Video: how US economic and political trends have led to plutocracy and larger classes

In two and half minutes, Robert Reich tells the truth re the US economy since 1980.  The size of our economy doubled; but wages stayed flat.  All profits went to the wealthiest; and the top percent now have 40 percent of the wealth.
Which gives them too much political power,  influencing our politicians to lower their their tax rates, leading to deficits and budget cuts and yes, higher class sizes (not to mention more charter schools...)
A must see.

Our daily newpapers: four different takes on NYC test scores

  •   The Wall Street Journal says charter schools’ scores – especially those of Eva Moskowitz’s schools -- are so stellar that they should stop opponents in their tracks.
Of course!  Privatization is the goal.
  • The Post says the test scores, though nothing stellar,  should be commended.
Let’s keep boosting Bloomberg, half-heartedly, even though we don’t really believe anything he says.
  • The Daily News says there were only “miniscule gains”  and show that the city’s teachers are at fault and need to be "weeded" out.
Let’s keep attacking the UFT and teachers, whatever happens!
  • The NY Times? No editorial.
Let’s ignore our public schools as much as possible since really, who cares?

For my take on the results, see yesterday's post

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

NYC test scores; small and unreliable gains

Yesterday, the state finally released school test scores; for NYC schools they are posted here.   Individual student test scores will only be made available August 17 – through the ARIS system, for which you will need your child’s OSIS number. 
Although the city showed gains of a few percentage points, the results were nothing to write home about: only 43.9 percent of city students in grades 3-8 met the standards in reading and 57.3 percent in math.
Though the  Mayor predictably claimed the city's gains of 1.5 percentage points in reading and 3.3 points in math showed great progress, actually the results are very mixed.  Only 35% of 8th graders were proficient in reading.  Moreover, I believe the results overall are still highly unreliable.  Why? 
  • The high stakes attached to test scores  in city schools will tend to lead to gains, because of excessive test prep, narrowing of the curriculum, and even cheating, rather than real learning.  (For more on this see our blog.)
  • The same testing company is still writing them and the same “experts” are in charge at the NY State Education Department as in previous years, when there was tremendous test score inflation (the state intends to switch vendors next year.)
  • Even if the exams were perfectly constructed and scaled, the city's gains are so small as to be likely statistically meaningless.
How else do we know the tests are still flawed?  Only 3.5% of students statewide received 4’s (or advanced) on the ELA exam, and only 2.7% in NYC. This is clearly a test which cannot distinguish performance at the upper levels.
Howard Everson, consultant to SED, claimed otherwise to GothamSchools, saying that the gains under the new standards were small, they can be viewed as statistically significant because of the sheer number of students tested. He also said he trusted the state’s ability to track score trends even as the tests’ length, composition, and proficiency standards change.”    
Yet Everson told the New York Times in 2009 that the state tests were "about as good as we can build them," right before the test score inflation bubble burst and after it was clear to most objective observers quite the opposite. 
In addition, this year, some city schools, according to the NY Post, saw suspicious gains of up to 25 percentage points in both subjects.   Yet the  Mayor in his press conference said the precautions to prevent and check for cheating that were in place before he took office were too expensive to implement. He also said there was “no evidence of widespread cheating” (actually, in a Freudian slip, he said “no evidence of widespread teaching” !) 
Unfortunately, NYSED is no longer releasing the test questions, which will prevent anyone from discerning whether they were poorly or ambiguously worded as has occurred quite frequently in past exams; the state claims that this change “helps to ensure that preparation for the tests goes much deeper than simply reviewing past exams.”    But other states and reputable testing companies like the College Board still release the questions on their exams; why can’t NY State do the same?  The lack of transparency can only further diminish public confidence in the results.

There's a short clip of my views in last night's Fox-TV news story here.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Protections against institutional cheating in NYC schools

Spurred by reports of widespread cheating on standardized tests in Atlanta; Washington, DC; Los Angeles; Pennsylvania; and elsewhere, New York State Education Commissioner John King announced last week the creation of a “high level working group” to address "the integrity of our testing system.” The Bloomberg administration responded that this was "a knee-jerk reaction to cheating scandals in other states."

Unfortunately, the announcement was marred by the state’s failure to reveal who was appointed to this task force. As the NY Post noted,
Oddly, the announcement came two weeks after the formation of the group, and department officials couldn't say who or how many people were on it other than Executive Deputy Commissioner Valerie Grey."
Indeed, there is a crying need for more systematic protections against cheating, which were eliminated when Bloomberg and Klein took office, as pointed out in our book, NYC Schools Under Bloomberg and Klein. Here is an excerpt from the chapter on "Institutional Cheating" by Sol Stern and Andy Wolf, showing how multiple procedures were in place previously – even before there was such huge emphasis placed on test scores:
Before test documents were destroyed, the Board [of Education] routinely conducted several levels of analyses to detect cheating. Robert Tobias, former director of testing and assessment for the BOE, provided us with the following summary of the board’s actions to screen for possible cheating:
“One was an erasure analysis that identified classes and schools with a high incidence of answers that were erased and changed from wrong to right. A second was a gains analysis that identified schools where students showed extremely high increases in test scores over the previous year. The third was an item analysis that detected unusual scoring patterns, such as large numbers of students who answered difficult questions correctly but easy questions incorrectly. In addition to these forensic analyses, we collected information on allegations of cheating from District Assessment Liaisons and other informants.
“When this information raised credible suspicion, we placed the respective test answer documents in secure storage, referred the matter to the Office of Special Investigations, and did not destroy the test documents until the investigation was completed. In other instances, we were directed to send the test documents to the State Education Department or the Special Investigator for the NYC Public Schools to facilitate investigations of cheating allegations referred directly to them. These procedures were in place when I retired from the public schools in Nov. 2001.”
It was also the practice of the old Board of Education to dispatch district administrators to each school on test days to oversee procedures. They would check on whether the tests were stored in a secure place in unopened cartons, observe the opening of the cartons and removal of the shrink wrap on the exams, and monitor the distribution and collection of the test materials. Finally they would oversee the delivery of the completed test papers to the district office.
All this was eliminated when Bloomberg and Klein took office. In a 2009 audit, the NYC Comptroller’s office concluded that the city Department of Education had “engaged in sloppy and unprofessional practices that encourage cheating and data manipulation.”

As to this new, rather mysterious state task force, one can hope that it will propose meaningful reforms, though there are many reasons to be doubtful. The NY State Education Department (NYSED) has in the past been known as the murky graveyard of whistleblower complaints, as ineffective as the endlessly inconclusive investigations of the NYC Department of Education, which tend to trail on for years, like a replay of “Waiting for Godot,” with little or no results.

Indeed, one might argue that having NYSED rely on an internal working group to guard against cheating is a little like Rupert Murdoch putting Joel Klein in charge of News Corp’s internal investigation into the phone hacking scandal: neither can be fully trusted to pursue this issue aggressively since they are fatally compromised by their institutional desire to look good; in this case, to show that schools are improving when there may be no actual gains.

Note the way in which NYSED and the Regents have just acceded to DOE’s demands to deregulate virtual (online) learning, with no attempt to provide any sort of oversight or quality control, and no requirement that students even attend classes to graduate.

Instead, the new regulations are a blank check, enabling DOE to continue and expand its fraudulent use of online credit recovery – deregulated by NYSED in 2009 --except that now, high school students won’t have to fail courses initially to gain enough credits to graduate through this substandard educational delivery system.

Jackie Bennett has analyzed how credit accumulation has soared in in recent years, just as it became one of the central components of DOE’s high-stakes accountability system, determining which schools will remain open and which will be closed:
In this city, the number of credits awarded to students in high schools truly is high stakes. It counts as nearly one third of each high school’s Progress Report grade, and the Progress Report counts for just about everything, including the removal of principals and the closing of schools. Since the Progress Reports were introduced in 2006-2007, the percent of students earning 10 or more credits each year has leapt a (truly) incredible 16 percentage points citywide. For schools with the highest concentration of high need students (the schools most likely to be threatened with closure) the jump is 18 points.
At the same time as credit accumulation and graduation rates have risen, the number of NYC high school graduates needing triple remediation (in reading, writing and math) at CUNY community colleges has doubled.

On this blog, we recently featured a post by a teacher revealing how credit recovery was used -- or misused -- in her school, after DOE coached her principal on how to implement it. See also here, and here, for even more cases of fraudulent online credit recovery -- which  flourish with the open encouragement of the educrats at Tweed.

Yet rather than attempt to put the brakes on this growing scam, last month the Regents and the NY State Education Department agreed to eliminate all controls on online learning, including any attendance requirements, allowing schools to give credits to students whether they come to school or not. There are no longer any class size limits as long as the course of study is undertaken under the general “supervision” of a teacher, who can “oversee” any number of students, according to the new regulations.

In the end, however, even if the state was really committed to preventing cheating, nothing is likely to work as long as our high-stakes accountability system remains in force. Campbell’s Law (which Steve Koss wrote about in our book, and as far back as 2007 on our blog) predicts that the more high-stakes testing is used for decision-making, the more cheating and gaming of the system is inevitable. As Bob Tobias pointed out in a recent interview,
the current emphasis on high-stakes accountability …encourages some people to do the wrong thing. So as you kick the stakes up, people are going to focus on the metrics that will be used to determine their fate. They’ll be looking for ways to elevate those metrics, and some people will try to take a short route.”
Yong Zhao, eminent professor at the University of Oregon, has explored the numerous ways in which the growing overemphasis on standardized exams is undermining our public schools. He used the proliferation of school cheating scandals as the jumping-off point for a brilliant five-part series on his blog, concluding that the nation’s public schools must “ditch testing.” In an interview with Education Week, he suggested that as an alternative, the country should move to a portfolio-based assessment system:
“You can’t fix this by changing internal security,” Mr. Zhao said. “If the stakes are so high that the teachers don’t even believe the measurement itself, they’re going to try to cheat.”