Mayor Bloomberg’s schools get an F

From the Nov.-Dec. 2010 issue of News & Letters:

Mayor Bloomberg’s schools get an F

New York–In June 2009, Mayor Bloomberg and Schools Chancellor Joel Klein, together with the president of the Council of School Administrators and United Federation of Teachers President Mike Mulgrew, announced an increase in the four-year high school graduation rate for New York City public schools to 60.7% in 2008. Overall performance on achievement tests had increased, and Black and Hispanic students continued to narrow the gap with their white and Asian peers. And on an “A” to “F” scale, 84% of elementary and middle schools were rated “A.”

However, once New York State mandated new tests in 2010, the “achievement rates” plummeted. Math and English proficiency dropped for all ethnic groups from 2006 to 2010. Despite the Bloomberg-Klein claim of a narrowed racial gap, only 40% of Black and 46% of Hispanic students met math standards compared to 75% of white students. Only 33% of Blacks and 34% of Hispanics met English standards compared with 64% of whites. Since Mayor Bloomberg has controlled the NYC public schools, even the Board’s own statistics reveal a drop in graduation rates from 67.7% in 2001 to 57.8% in 2005. And the 84% of schools rated “A” in 2009? Only 25% were rated “A” in 2010! Overall charter school achievement also dropped and charter school math scores were similar to those of public schools.

Parents and teachers had already suspected that Bloomberg’s statistics did not gibe with their own experiences. At a forum in August, an angry audience forced the Chancellor and the Panel of Educational Policy to leave early after participants learned that the new tests yielded a precipitous decline in the passing rates. More and more students are now told that they will not be ready for high school; of those who do graduate, 50% need remedial courses when they enter college.

According to the 2010 Schott Foundation Report, NYC has the highest number of black students in the nation but only 28% graduated with a Regents diploma (earned by passing statewide exams in addition to high school credits.) Over 100,000 Black students did not graduate from high school in four years. Also, researchers from Harvard University discovered that past achievement test scores had been inflated: over 109,000 elementary students achieving 3-4 (at or above grade level) were really at the 1-2 level.

Diane Ravitch, Assistant Secretary of Education under President George H.W. Bush, observed:

  1. Consolidating the school system into 10 districts has not reduced bureaucracy, which includes too many administrators with no background in education;
  2. Bloomberg has had no independent research to affirm the value of his reforms;
  3. in giving Mayor Bloomberg control, the New York State Legislature has reduced the role of parents and teachers. The new districts’ Community Education Councils can only advise the Chancellor.

In addition, not enough attention is given to successful educational programs; class size has increased; charter schools in the same buildings as public schools take space and resources; music and art have been reduced or eliminated.

The Bloomberg-Klein policy of undemocratic centralized control, closing 91 “underperforming” schools, diverting funds to charter schools (now at 250), spending more time and energy on testing, and making students, teachers and principals “accountable” to these tests, has resulted in no significant progress in achievement levels. The damage that these policies have visited on students and teachers cannot be measured. It is time for the community and the teachers’ union to hold Bloomberg accountable. His policies have been a resounding failure. The State Legislature must end excessive, invalid testing, increased funds for charter schools and, most of all, mayoral control.

–Tom Siracuse

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