Bruce Baker has another brilliant analysis, this time gauging the validity of school ratings just released by the state of New York. A thumbnail sketch: New York is stiffing its neediest schools and districts.

Here are the takeaways:

1. The waiver process is illegal. It is not the prerogative of any federal official–not even a cabinet member–to decide to disregard a federal law and to substitute his own policies for the ones in the law. If the law stinks, as NCLB does, revise it. That’s the way our legal system works. Once the precedent is set, any future cabinet member may decide to change the laws to suit his or her fancy. That’s wrong.

2. New York state released a list of schools in relation to their “performance.”  Surprise, surprise! Here is what Baker discovered:

Notably, schools in “good standing” are lowest BY FAR in % of children qualified for free lunch, percent of children who are black, or Hispanic, and are also generally lower in percent of children who are limited in their English Language Proficiency. Race and poverty differences are particularly striking!

In short, the Obama/Duncan administration has given NY State officials license to experiment disproportionately on low income and minority children – or for that matter – simply close their schools. No attempt to actually legitimately parse “blame” or consider the possibility that the state itself might share in that blame.


The third takeaway is that the state violates its own funding formula and underfunds all schools, but especially the schools that enroll the neediest students.

…the current New York State school foundation aid formula is hardly equitable or adequate for meeting the needs of children attending the state’s highest need districts. But to rub salt in the wound – FOR THE PAST SEVERAL YEARS, THE GOVERNOR AND LEGISLATURE HAVE CHOSEN TO DISREGARD ENTIRELY THEIR OWN WOEFULLY INADEQUATE STATE AID FORMULA.

Even worse, when the Governor and Legislature have levied CUTS TO THAT FORMULA, they have levied those cuts such that they disproportionately cut more state aid per pupil from the higher need districts. As of 2011-12, some high need districts including the city of Albany had shortfalls in state funding (from what would be expected if the foundation formula was actually funded) that were greater than the total foundation aid they were actually receiving.