Archives for category: Bloomberg, Michael

The Network for Public Education has issued a BIG MONEY ALERT about efforts to swamp state and local school board races with outsize campaign contributions.

The ALERT focuses on a handful of races where corporate reformers are using their vast financial resources to win control. Many of the biggest donors are out-of-state and have no ties to the public schools other than a desire to promote charter schools, high-stakes testing, and test-based evaluations of teachers.

The race for state school superintendent in California has attracted the most corporate reform money. Marshall Tuck is the favorite of the billionaires and hedge fund managers. State superintendent Tom Torlakson is an educator with solid support among the state’s teachers and administrators. Torlakson is supported by teachers and their unions.

Tuck is the darling of the corporate ed-reform donors, having received such contributions as:

Eli Broad’s donation of $1,375,000;
Walton daughters and heirs, Alice and Carrie with $450,000 and $500,000 respectively;
Julian Robertson of the Robertson Foundation with $1,000,000;
Doris Fisher of the Donald and Doris Fisher Fund with $950,000;
Ex NYC mayor Michael Bloomberg contributed $250,000;
Houston billionaire and DFER friend John Arnold;
San Francisco venture capitalist and TFA Board member Arthur Rock.

If you know of other races where the big corporate money people are tilting the scales, please contact Robin Hiller, executive director of the Network for Public Education, or leave a comment here.

Let me say at the outset that I am neither for nor against small schools. Sometimes they work well, because they have small classes and extra attention, sometimes they don’t, especially when they don’t provide classes for English language learners or advanced courses or foreign languages. As always, it depends.

Recently a report by a research organization called MRDC asserted that New York City’s Gates-funded small high schools were surprisingly successful.

But an underground researcher in the NYC Department of a education says, wait a minute. Review the evidence.

He/she writes:


How to Reform a Portfolio District


In what has become an annual propaganda exercise, MDRC (yes, their corporate name is just the initials), a “research foundation” in New York City, has self-published a non-peer reviewed paper on their website claiming that the new small high schools created under the Bloomberg administration are a success.[1] The New York Times followed up with an editorial claiming that “the Bloomberg approach has been vindicated” and that de Blasio should continue the same educational policies.[2]


Is there any truth to these claims? Does the data support any of this? The answer is “no.” The papers self-published by the MDRC are shoddily researched with clear biases and poor grounding in reality. It order to keep the size of this essay to a manageable length let’s limit ourselves to a Top 10 list of the paper’s flaws.


  1. The Gates Foundation provides the funding for these papers. The Gates Foundation also funded many of the new small high schools in New York City. What we have here is a circular process of self-congratulation. The peer-review process might be expected to uncover the biases produced by this unholy alliance.[3] But these papers have, of course, never been peer reviewed. They are self-published by MDRC on their website and then touted in press releases and newspaper editorials.
  2. It is becoming standard practice for researchers to publicly post data-sets used in such studies. MDRC has refused to release the data-set. This makes it impossible for their results to be independently verified or questioned.
  3. The papers claim that the new high schools “are open to any student who wants to attend.” This claim invents its own reality and ignores the existing literature that has shown how schools manage their admissions and enrollment processes so as to selectively screen out more challenging students. [4] It also ignores the facts on how the lottery process for these new high schools actually worked. In reality the new high schools used such tools as required attendance at information sessions, applications with essays, student biographical data, and listing mandated uniforms in the high school directory to screen out more challenging students prior to the lottery process as well as post the lottery process prior to enrollment. [5] A review of earlier papers in the MDRC series concluded that “carrying out the lotteries using the method described in the report may have resulted in nonrandom differences between the study groups.” [6] MDRC has never addressed these issues and continues to self-publish these papers on their website. It seems MDRC is more interested in continued funding than actually figuring out what really works for all students.
  4. The new small high schools have been found to engage in questionable academic practices and the manipulation of data at a higher rate than other high schools. For example, the new small high schools represent about 25% of all New York City high schools, yet in one year they made up 60% of the schools with patterns of data so suspicious that the Department of Education did not give them a grade. This should raise some serious concerns that MDRC does not address.
  5. For mysterious reasons MDRC excluded 33 small new secondary schools, a potential 30% increase in the number of schools examined in their self-published papers, even though 9th graders also apply to these schools through the high school admissions process. This may lead to significant bias in the results, especially since 6-12 schools are included in the comparison group.
  6. The new small high schools were closed at the same rate as existing schools, raising serious doubts about claims that the new small high schools as a whole were an improvement over existing schools.[7] This reality, of course, also biases the outcomes of the MDRC papers. Since the closed and closing new small high schools cease to accept 9th graders, their lower student outcomes would have a smaller impact on outcomes in these reports. The closed and closing new small high schools include, Manhattan Theatre Lab, Gateway School For Environmental Research and Technology, International Arts Business School, Global Enterprise High School, High School of Performance and Stagecraft (renamed Performance Conservatory), Urban Assembly Academy for History and Citizenship for Young Men, and the School for Community Research and Learning. Interestingly enough about 7% of the schools in the MDRC sample have closed, which is very close to the effect sizes MDRC claims the new small high school have produced.
  7. The MDRC papers only examine what they term “oversubscribed” new high schools. Only about 85% of the new small high schools meet this criteria. Meaning that 15% of new small high schools did not have enough applicants to fill their seats. Remember this is in context of students listing up to 12 high schools on their application. This means that the comparison groups are not equivalent. The outcomes of the presumably much weaker new small high schools are excluded. In order to make the comparison equivalent, the 15% of comparison schools with the weakest outcomes that the matched students attended should have been excluded as well. MDRC did not, of course, make this correction.
  8. Even with their biased methodology the MDRC papers have shown that the new small high schools have no significant impact on mathematics outcomes for students. Given the greater constraints in scoring on math exams, this difference suggests that any positive effects in the new small high schools are due to more relaxed grading policies rather than true increases in educational attainment. There is a lot more evidence suggesting the same thing, none of which MDRC addresses. For example, examination of credit accumulation in New York City schools has shown that while new high schools grant more credits, the credits do not correspond to a rigorous college ready curriculum.[8]
  9. When analyzing outcomes of specific student populations the MDRC papers lump students into very broad categories such as English Language Learner and Special Education Status. Given the data showing, for example, that the new small high school serve fewer of the neediest special education students, such comparisons are clearly biased in favor of the new small high schools.[9]
  10. MDRC does not acknowledge the special “favors” that were granted to Bloomberg’s new small schools. This includes receiving a higher percent of their Fair Student Funding formula than other schools [10], having more available facility space than other schools [11], and excluding special needs students [12] and English Language Learners in their early years [13]. Any comparisons made in such an inequitable policy environment are ridiculous.


The current popularity of the portfolio district approach can be attributed to the following factors:


  1. a) Superintendents of urban districts and other district officials with no background in education- with zero expertise in education they have no clue how to improve teaching and learning.
  2. b) A reluctance on the part of districts to take ownership and responsibility for the success of their schools- this leads to the strange but increasingly familiar scenario of districts trashing the public schools they are actually supposed to be supporting and improving while praising and granting special favors to charter schools (see Newark, New Jersey and Camden, New Jersey).
  3. c) The short time-frame of most superintendents and other district officials in each posting. With no long-term accountability they can play the portfolio game for a couple of years- closing schools, opening schools, closing even more schools- giving off the impression of activity and hard work. Though no real progress is made, by the time this becomes obvious, they have transitioned into other positions at reform think tanks and foundations. [14]


Mayor de Blaiso and Chancellor Farina, please do not continue the education policies of the previous administration as the New York Times demands. Thankfully, you have already made very clear that you do not intend to, as the data show that the portfolio district approach employed by the previous administration was a failure.[15]


Here is what you should do instead:


+ Develop rich, engaging curricula that support student learning and train teachers in implementing these curricula with fidelity while having the flexibility to customize the curricula to the needs of their students.


+Return to a geographic approach of school support and governance based on feeder patterns between elementary, middle and high schools. This will allow for articulation and alignment of supports as students progress from one grade band to the next.


+ Improve the metrics currently used to evaluate teachers and schools. The current metrics penalize schools that serve more challenging students and are open to manipulation. The initial revisions to the school Progress Reports are a good first step in what needs to be an iterative and ongoing process.


+ Focus on equity and fairness at every level of the organization. Enrollment practices must be reformed so that all students are educated by every single school. Tracking practices must be reformed so that every student receives a challenging academic program. Funding practices must be reformed so that schools are funded at levels appropriate to the students they serve.


This is how New York City will progress and truly serve every single student.







[3] Peer review is, of course, not the perfect solution for identifying bias in research. For example, the famous Chetty et al. study that was used to support value-added measures to evaluate teachers and played a role in the California tenure lawsuits now appears to have significantly exaggerated its claims. See Jesse Rothstein’s working paper at where he notes:

“Like all quasi-experiments, this one relies on an assumption that the treatment – here, teacher switching – is as good as random. I find that it is not: Teacher switching is correlated with changes in students’ prior-year scores. Exiting teachers tend to be replaced by teachers with higher measured VA when students’ prior achievement is increasing for other reasons, and by teachers with lower measured VA when student preparedness is declining. CFR have confirmed (in personal communication) that this result holds in their sample as well.

The evidence that the teacher switching “treatment” is not randomly assigned implies that CFR-I’s quasi-experimental analyses, which do not control for changes in student preparedness, cannot be interpreted causally…

It is not clear that the association between VA and long-run outcomes can be interpreted causally. The evidence of bias in VA scores means that the association between a teacher’s VA and students’ long-run outcomes may reflect the student sorting component of the VA score rather than the teacher’s true effect. Moreover, even if this issue is set aside there is still a concern that students assigned to high-VA teachers may be advantaged in ways that are predictive of the students’ long-run outcomes, implying that the estimated “effect” of being assigned to a teacher with high estimated VA is upward biased. In both CFR’s district and the North Carolina sample, teachers’ measured VA is correlated with students’ prior scores and other observables. Neither CFR-II’s observational estimates nor their quasi-experimental estimates of teachers’ long-run effects control fully for students’ observed, predetermined characteristics.”

[4] See Jennings, Jennifer L. (2010) School Choice or Schools’ Choice? Managing in an Era of Accountability. Sociology of Education 83: 227-247 “Although district policy did not allow principals to select students based on their performance, two of the three schools in this study circumvented these rules to recruit and retain a population that would meet local accountability targets.”




[8] and

[9] See and for other significant demographic differences between older schools and the new small high schools.





[14] See, for example, the cases of Joel Klein, former chancellor of the New York City Department of Education, who now works for the Murdochs and of Marc Sternberg, former deputy chancellor of the now shuttered Division of Portfolio Planning at the New York City Department of Education, who now works for the Waltons.


Feeling down about corporate ownership of almost everything? So is David Greene. Gates, Walton, Bloomberg, Bezos, Murdoch, Koch. What don’t they own? Our votes.

David thinks back a century. Other oligarchs owned almost everything then. Of course, it didn’t occur to them to monetize the schools.

But we beat them back. We elected people to regulate the oligarchs. We can do it again.

Jeff Bryant notices an interesting new phenomenon: Corporate reformers have dropped their triumphalist tone, and now they want to have a “conversation.” But the curious aspect to their concept is that the conversation they want begins with their assumptions about the value of charters, vouchers, collective bargaining, and tenure. As he shows, their “conversation” doesn’t involve actual classroom teachers or parent activists working to improve their public school. It typically means a “bipartisan” agreement between people who work in DC think tanks or veterans of the Bush and Obama administrations or grantees of the billionaire foundations promoting privatization.

In short, the “new” conversation isn’t new at all. It is a shiny new echo chamber where the voices of working teachers (not counting TFA and AstroTurf groups like Educators4Excellence and TeachPlus and others created and funded by Gates, Broad, and Walton) will not be heard.

A real conversation includes the voices of those who know the most about schools and teaching and learning: real working classroom teachers, as well as those who know the most about children, their parents. If the reformers listened to these voices, they would quickly learn that those who are most closely involved in education are not part of the Beltway consensus.

The New York State Senate has written a budget bill that opens the public coffers to charter schools and guts mayoral control in New York City. If the Republican-controlled Senate has its way, the charters will get more money, will not pay rent, will get new slots for pre-K, and will be protected against any effort by Mayor de Blasio to reverse decisions made by the lame-duck Bloomberg administration.

In the past, Mayor Bloomberg gave the charter operators whatever they wanted. He was also a major funder of Republicans in the State Senate. The very sizable campaign contributions by hedge fund managers (Democrats for Education Reform) to New York politicians are paying off for the charter operators, which enroll 3% of children in New York State and 6% in New York City.

According to the report in the New York Daily News,

“The Senate’s budget proposal expected to be unveiled later in the day would bar Mayor de Blasio from rescinding co-location agreements with charters, boost per pupil funding for charter school students, and prohibit school districts from charging rent to charters that co-locate in an existing public school building, the Daily News has learned.

“The measures are part of a comprehensive seven-point charter school plan expected to be put forward in a one-house budget resolution by the Senate Republicans and five dissident Democrats who control the chamber together, sources briefed on the plan say.

“De Blasio recently rescinded co-location agreements with three charter schools operated by former City Councilwoman Eva Moskowitz. The Senate plan put together by Senate GOP Leader Dean Skelos and his members along with the Independent Democratic Conference led by Sen. Jeffrey Klein would reverse that, sources said.

“Under the proposal, the sources said, any charter school that was approved to co-locate in a public school building prior to Jan. 1, 2014 would be protected. The measure will state that any significant change in school building utilization relating to co-location shall not be authorized without the consent of the charter school.

“Charter schools in New York City receive nearly 30% less in public funding per pupil than traditional public schools. The Senate plan would boost the basic tuition amount the city would transfer per pupil to the charters.

“Charter schools for the first time would also be eligible to receive separate state building aid funding after de Blasio cut $210 million in city capital money earmarked for the charters that build in private locations.

“The plan would also pressure the city to provide public space for charters by creating an additional cost to the city if they don’t. Under the plan, sources said, the city would be required to pay an additional 25% on top of the per pupil money it gives out to charter schools so a charter can go into a private space.

“And in hopes of protecting charter schools from future problems with the city, the Senate would allow them to apply to the SUNY Charter Institute or the state board of Regents to oversee and supervise them, rather than the city.

“The Senate would also authorize charters to provide full-day prekindergarten programs, something Gov. Cuomo has said he would also push.”

Over the past dozen years, former Mayor Michael Bloomberg and his schools’ chancellor Joel Klein had total control of the New York City school system. The Mayor controlled the “school board,” which dared not ever vote no. They could do whatever they wanted, and their PR team cranked out press release after press release. The news of the “New York City miracle” spread around the world, buoyed by phenomenal test score gains every year. Australia and other nations swallowed the story whole.

When the New York State Education Department admitted that the test scores had been manipulated by lowering the passing mark, the city switched its success story: now the “miracle” was soaring graduation rates.

But all the while, the Department of Education was closing schools with low scores, opening new schools, and warehousing low-scoring students in schools that sooner or later would also be closed. Schools opened, schools closed. She’ll game.

Now the New York Post tells the story of what was once a well-regarded high school that was turned into a dumping ground. After the Post wrote about Murray Bergtraum High School as a failure factory–a school that is within sight of the New York City Department of Education headquarters, at the foot of the Brooklyn Bridge–students at the school wrote letters of complaint to the Post. The letters were filled with errors of grammar and syntax. The Post took this as evidence of a failed school system. The letters are indeed evidence of the quality of the school system where these students spent 11 or 12 years.

If they graduate, it will be a triumph of “credit recovery,” which the DOE encouraged to boost the graduation rate.

Conclusions: there was no New York City miracle. Judging school quality by graduation rates encourages credit recovery and fraud. What’s needed most now is a Truth Commission to sweep away false claims and to establish a record unsullied by boasting and pretense. It is not likely to happen, unfortunately, given that the de Blasio administration wants to ease quietly into a new and better world, without publicly airing the dirty laundry left behind. More revelations like this one, however, and the truth will out.

In this post, Mark Naison explains why so many parents seek to place their children in charters in New York City. Fr 12 years, the Bloomberg administration showered preferential treatment on the charters and ignored the needs of the public schools tat enroll 94% of the city’s children.

He predicts that the policies of Mayor de Blasio and Chancellor Farina will reverse some or most of the damage done to public schools by the policies of the past dozen years:

He writes:

Charter School Growth, Bloomberg Style, Creates Dilemma for the de Blasio Administration- A Special Report to BK Nation
January 31, 2014

By Dr. Mark Naison

In today’s New York Post, an article appeared claiming that Charter School Applications in New York City were 56 percent ahead of what they were at this time last year, putting pressure on the de Blasio administration to re-evaluate its efforts to slow charter expansion.

Those numbers are REAL. They reflect the desperation of inner city and working class parents who hope to find high performing, safe schools for their children and see charters as the best hope for that.

However, they are making that judgment, based on what they observe in their own neighborhoods, not because of the inherent superiority of charter schools, but because the Bloomberg Administration rigged the game by giving huge preference to charter schools, both substantively and symbolically, and using charters not as a strategy to improve public education in the city, but as a wedge to privatize it and smash the influence of the city’s teachers union.

The challenge of the de Blasio administration is see what happens when the competition is even, and when public schools are given the resources, encouragement and support charters were given in the Bloomberg years. When and if that happens, the demand for charters is likely to decrease as parents see public schools in their neighborhood improve dramatically and innovative new public schools open in their neighborhoods.

Under the Bloomberg administration, aided and abetted by police systems of the U.S. and NY State Departments of Education, charter schools were consciously selected over public schools as the preferred alternative when low performing public schools were closed. This preference was manifested in several important ways:

• Charters were given facilities in public schools rent free.

• In schools where they were co-located with public schools, the charters were given preferential access to auditoriums, gymnasiums, laboratories, and often put in the most desirable locations in the buildings.

• Although charters selected their students by lottery, they were allowed to weed out students who had disciplinary problems, or who performed poorly on standardized tests. As a result, according to Ben Chapman of the Daily News, only 6 percent of charter students are ELL students and 9 percent special needs students, far lower than the city average for public schools.

• When you count space, charters received more city funding than public schools, and when you add to that private contributions that they solicited, charters spent significantly more per student than public schools.

• Community organizations and universities willing to start new schools were encouraged by the NYC Department of Education to start charter schools rather than public schools.

These preferences had an absolutely devastating effect on inner city public schools, which were in the same neighborhood as the charters. In the case of schools who had charter co-location, it led to humiliating exclusion from school facilities which they once had access to, leaving their students starved of essential resources. But in the case of all inner city public schools, it led to a drain of high performing students, whose parents put them in charters, and an influx of ELL students, special needs students and students pushed out of charters for disciplinary problems, taxing those schools resources and making it much more difficult for them to perform well on standardized tests. The school closing policies of the Bloomberg administration added to the stress on those already hard pressed schools, forcing their staffs to work under the threat of closure and exile to the infamous “rubber room” for teachers who were in excess when schools were closed.

What occurred was a “tale of two school systems” within inner city neighborhoods- one favored, given preferential access to scare resources, hailed as the “savior” of inner city youth; the others demonized, stigmatized, deprived of resources, threatened with closure and deluged with students charter schools did not want.

If you were a parent, which school would you want to send your child to?

But what happens when the game is no longer rigged? When charter schools have to pay rent? When they can’t push out ELL and Special needs students? When facilities in co-located schools are fairly distributed? When schools are no longer given letter grades and threatened with closing, but are given added resources when they serve students with greater needs? When universities and community organizations are encouraged to start innovative public schools, not just create charters?

If all those things happen, and I expect some of them will during the next few years of a de Blasio/Farina Department of Education, then public schools in the inner city will gradually improve, charters in those neighborhoods will become less selective, and students, on the whole, will have enhanced choice and opportunity because there will be more good schools in the city.

The current hunger to enroll students in charter schools is understandable, given the policies pursued by the Bloomberg Administration, but those policies, which undermined public education, did not enhance opportunity for all students, and pitted parent against parent and school against school in a competition for scarce resources.

The de Blasio policy of restoring public schools to public favor is a sound one, and should be pursued carefully, humanely, and with respect for the hunger of parents and students of New York City for good educational options

Mark D Naison
Professor of African American Studies and History
Fordham University
Co-Founder, Badass Teachers Association

A few days ago, the Néw York Times published a bizarre and illogical editorial. It went like this: black and Hispanic students are very ill-prepared for college. The numbers are appalling. However, the Bloomberg administration accountability program was a great success, and–except for the simplistic and failed A-F system. So, if so few students were succeeding, why is the accountability program indispensable? I posed this question to an expert on the DOE staff. Here is his answer:

In its editorial, “Getting an Accurate Fix on Schools,” the New York Times argued for keeping, with modifications, the school grading system started under Mayor Bloomberg. Two forms of argument were presented to support this proposal; illogical arguments and arguments based on made-up facts and data.

Let’s start with the illogical arguments. The editorialists begin by noting the “striking racial disparities” in the college readiness of New York City’s graduates.

They could have added that this is true about non-graduates as well, about 20% of White and Asian students don’t graduate while over 40% of Black and Hispanic students don’t graduate. The illogic here is obvious. If Bloomberg’s policies have failed to address this very issue why would any rational person want to keep those same policies? For further details see the comprehensive review essay at this link.

The editorial then notes we “must now find a way to solve it [the achievement gap] by ramping up the quality of education for poor and minority children.” So far so good.

But the very next sentence begins “for starters, the city must preserve, at least in part, the controversial school evaluation system.”

Huh!? In order to increase the quality of education… we need to keep the school evaluation system? It is hard to come up with an analogy that is equally absurd.

Perhaps think of a football coach readying his team for the Super Bowl. Should he focus on developing the skills and tactics of his players? Or should he spend his time tinkering with the quarterback rating formula? Which strategy would you bet on?

Logically you would think that in order to increase the quality of education we should focus on increasing the quality of education. Well proven initiatives should be promoted such as universal pre-K programs focused on building the academic and social/emotional skills of pre-schoolers, after-school enrichment programs, extended summer school for all students, intervention programs for students struggling academically, the development and implementation of a comprehensive and rich curriculum for all grade levels, and smaller class sizes in the early grades.

Next the editorialists write that “de Blasio has rightly decided to junk the simplistic…A-through-F grading system. Their proposed solution is “continue to report a separate rating for each relevant metric.” Why would a whole bunch of simplistic letter grades per school be any better than a single simplistic letter grade per school?

But enough with the illogical arguments. Let’s take a look at the made-up facts and data. The editorialists claimed that “the Bloomberg administration devised a way to control for demographically driven differences.”

Not true. In fact, according to the Independent Budget Office “the method of calculating the continuous metrics on which final progress report scores are based may not fully control for confounding variables. All other things being equal, a school with a higher percentage of black and Hispanic students or special education students is likely to have lower performance and progress scores than other schools.”

A report by the Metropolitan Center for Urban Education found that “schools with higher percentages of Black and Latino students received lower Progress Report grades” and “school demographics play an important role in predicting grades.”

Yet another report, by New Visions for Public Schools, found that “schools’ overall PR scores remain associated with many preexisting risk factors, suggesting that a school’s score can be influenced by factors outside of its control.”

The editorial asserted that “the data show that over the last two years, nearly 80 percent of the lowest-performing schools improved their ratings after receiving help in the areas where they were weak.”

Not true. A check of the actual data posted on the New York City Department of Education’s webpage as a “multi-year summary” of “Progress Report citywide results” reveals that this is inaccurate. Of the 23 schools that received grades of F for the 2011-12 school year one got an A the next year, 5 got B’s, 10 got C’s, 3 got D’s, and 4 got F’s. Another 10 schools with F’s were closed. For the 2012-13 school year 45 schools got F’s. At almost double the number of F’s than the previous year there is no evidence that 80% of schools improved. Of these 45 schools 4 were brand-new schools for which the F-grade was their first grade ever.

It is worth noting that this is a higher failure rate than that of pre-Bloomberg era schools. Another 4 schools got F’s the previous year, 12 had D’s, 17 had C’s and 8 had B’s. The data show that over the last two years school grades appear to randomly swing in all directions. From one year to the next over half of the schools with failing grades one year can be expected to get average or good grades the next. And over half the schools with failing grades had received an average or good grade the year prior—calling into question the school grading method.

The New York Times declared that without these grades we “will never know how well students are doing.” In fact the data show that the grades give a contradictory picture. The other high-stakes but qualitative school metric, the School Quality Review, shows zero predictive correlation (as opposed to backwards looking correlation, which Mayor Bloomberg’s Department of Education artificially produced by forcing reviewers to align their score to the prior year’s report card grade) with Progress Report grades. Of the schools that swung from a B-grade in 2011-12 to an F-grade in 2012-13 the median Quality Review score was between “well-developed” and ”developing.” Of the schools that swung from F/D grades in 2011-12 to an A-grade in 2012-13 the median Quality Review score was “developing.” The schools that ended up scoring higher on the quantitative measure scored lower on the qualitative measure. Schools that ended up scoring lower on the quantitative measure scored higher on the qualitative measure. Instead of clarifying things the grades leave total confusion in their wake.

When the Grey Lady reads like Pravda, with complete disregard for facts and a seemingly bottomless willingness to make up data, education in the United States is in serious trouble. Instead of trying to defend poorly designed metrics using false data we need to figure out how to provide schools with better oversight and support. The non-geographic network support structure should be abandoned.

Replacing networks with local community superintendents, who have proven capacity as instructional leaders, would be a good first step. These superintendents would oversee 15 or so schools and develop a deep understanding of each school’s successes, needs, and challenges.

They would develop strong relationships with the community, build close ties with families, and form connections to groups that could provide families with out-of-school assistance. They would work with a re-organized Tweed to make sure that families, students and schools get the support and programs they need. Only then will we make progress in closing the achievement gap.

This debate between Bruce Fuller of the University of California and me was just posted online by the New York Times.

Bruce takes the position that de Blasio and Farina should maintain some or many of the changes that Bloomberg made.

I argue that de Blasio has a mandate to stop closing schools, to get rid of the A-F grading system, to drop the failed Leadership Academy, and to drop the former administration’s attitude of hostility towards parents and educators. I also call for a revival of what was once a highly reputable research department, to take the place of the PR machine.

Feel free to make your comment on the NY Times website.

Marc Epstein, a teacher for many years at Jamaica High School (targeted for closure) here describes the Bloomberg years in New York City public schools and how difficult it will be to unravel the changes he imposed:

Bloomberg’s School Disaster

When Mayor-elect de Blasio announced Carmen Farina as his choice for schools chancellor and pointedly added that she was an educator, a metaphorical puff of white smoke appeared on the horizon for most of the city’s 75,000 schoolteachers.

That’s because after a succession of four chancellors over the past 13 years who had no professional education experience, it was if the Babylonian Captivity of the papacy had finally come to an end with Farina’s succession.

The hope is that Farina, with 40 years of experience that includes two decades in the classroom and another two decades holding administrative positions as principal, district superintendent, and deputy chancellor, has a fair idea of what has gone on in the school system over the past 12 years of mayoral control.

But there is also a fair amount of anxiety. The fear is that political forces outside of the school system reaching as far as the White House have a vested interest in seeing to it that unraveling public education continues unabated.

There’s even word from Valerie Strauss at the Washington Post that Secretary of Education Arne Duncan helped put the kibosh on one of the candidates on de Blasio’s short list for chancellor.

Within hours of the Farina appointment the editorialists began espousing their anti anti-Bloomberg position. Anyone who might seek to undo Bloomberg’s accomplishments is a regressive Neanderthal according to the Wall Street Journal, Daily News, and New York Post.

Should Farina maintain the status quo, the fate of public education in New York City will be sealed. What’s more, she will enjoy the accolades of the media, a media that has become heavily invested, both figuratively and literally, in the narrative put forth by Michael Bloomberg about business solutions and data driven decision-making.

That’s because Bloomberg, with his vast wealth intact, despite having spent more than $600 million dollars on his mayoralty, will continue to shape the narrative with commissioned dynastic histories and the use of his own news empire.

In addition, Rupert Murdoch and his Newscorp, which includes the Wall Street Journal and New York Post, are heavily invested in the “education revolution.” Murdoch boasts former chancellor Joel Klein as his vice-president in charge of education operations too.

So if this to be the party line, and Mayor de Blasio and Chancellor Farina want to begin undoing the damage of the past 12 years, they would do well to expose the train wreck that has become the New York City school system under Michael Bloomberg sooner rather than later.

For the past 12 years New Yorkers have been treated to a steady drumbeat over the airwaves and in print that posits that Mike Bloomberg was able to housebreak an unresponsive, unmanageable, sclerotic public school system and head it in the right direction.

He accomplished this by taking on the teachers union, introducing business-tested management techniques, creating a new kind of school principal purposefully chosen with little classroom experience, but trained in these business techniques, reconfiguring the school districts, closing failed schools and creating hundreds of new schools that offer a wide variety of school choices to parents who could shop schools to their heart’s content.

The numbers would determine all decision-making on the macro and micro level, because numbers don’t lie. Principals were given control over their budgets so they could run a school unencumbered for the first time.

And, every editorial page, intellectual journal, and radio wordsmith, bought Bloomberg’s spiel hook, line, and sinker. They’ve bought it despite irrefutable reports of poor student test performance, record numbers of students entering college unprepared, and an on-time graduation rate of 3% at New York’s community colleges. What’s more, they celebrate a budgeting system that gives the principals an incentive to hire younger, cheaper, inexperienced teachers, over more senior teachers that Bloomberg wants pushed out of the system.

The simple truth of the matter is that all of Bloomberg’s claims are counterintuitive. Numbers were manipulated in the service of his prejudices and ideology. The multiple reconfigurations of the state’s largest department actually destroyed institutional memory, and hence accountability.

State education laws regarding services are flouted with impunity. English language learners and more advanced ESL students are denied mandated instruction. The “litigate and be damned” attitude has defined the operatives at the Tweed Courthouse.

The only ones held culpable in Bloomberg’s education universe were the average teachers, and that was good enough for the pundits and Wall Street. But culpability should never be confused with accountability!

A young schoolgirl drowns on an improperly chaperoned field trip and the assistant principal who was supposed to go on the trip is let off the hook because he was busy with the school budget. Oh, there were no parental consent slips either.

Before Bloomberg, heads would have rolled possibly as high up as the chancellor, but for Joel Klein it was just another day at the beach.

A student becomes ill but is left unattended because there is no nurse in the building and the Dean’s office was instructed not to call 911 for fear that an emergency call would damage the school’s safety record being monitored in the new data driven accountability system.

It turns out the student suffered a stroke and was left permanently impaired. Her name disappeared from the enrollment list, and it was only because a lawsuit was brought against the city, and the illegal memo was leaked to the Daily News by someone in the school that the story saw the light of day.

An investigation was conducted. The chancellor promised a full report. But in Bloomberg’s universe, time heals all wounds. Nobody was held to account or lost their job. No report assigning responsibility was issued, and the city quietly settled the lawsuit.

Two weeks ago science experiment went terribly awry. All the facts aren’t in, but it appears all sorts of safety regulations were ignored.

But that’s to be expected when you have supervisors who haven’t been seasoned by years of experience or are petrified by honest reporting because they fear that bad news could lead to the demise of their school.

This has become a school system that simply can’t handle the truth. I’ve been writing about the schools for a decade, and for the first time my name has been sent to a conflicts of interest board about the content of my writing.

It’s not because I’ve become rich doing it, mind you. It’s because a thuggish ethos has became part of the DNA of the New York City schools and you speak your mind at your peril. Learning, inquiry, and dissent are being systematically flensed from the classroom and the schoolhouse in much the same manner it was done in totalitarian societies.

The net result is that the school system that Mayor de Blasio inherited is not a “mixed bag” of good innovations and things that need tinkering with, but a $25 billion dollar a year city department that is in a death spiral.

Large bureaucracies fight their battles with the tools they are given. Time and again history demonstrates that a bureaucracy can be bent to the will of the political forces running them in ways that are inimical to its mission and its very existence.

During the Korean War it seems that the generals running the war had far less intelligence capabilities at their disposal than they had when they were fighting WW II.

So what did they do?

An expert in army intelligence during this period once told me, “they fought the war they had with the tools that they were given. That’s the nature of bureaucratic organizations.”

Which brings me back to the New York City school system. My belief is that the breakdown in accountability, the widespread dissemination of doctored statistics, and the predisposition to hold the classroom teacher responsible for everything that has gone wrong in the schools has deeply compromised institutional memory. And without institutional memory, a bureaucracy of this breadth is doomed.

As a consequence, nothing short of a South African post-apartheid style commission that examines the past decade of mayoral control will suffice.

This is imperative because a well-funded chorus of writers and journalists continue to churn out a hagiography of the Bloomberg era, and portray it as a Golden Age of public education when all the evidence indicates that there has been no progress at great expense to the children and taxpayers of New York.

It should be composed on one level of well known people whose impartiality is beyond reproach and include representatives of all segments of the teaching, clerical, and administrative pool.

If the past 12 years are simply papered over, and Bloomberg’s gutting of the school system is treated as a “work in progress” that wasn’t completed because three terms as mayor didn’t give him enough time, then Farina and de Blasio will ensure that a once great system now at its tipping point, plunges over the public policy cliff.


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