Archives for category: Klein, Joel

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.

The principal of PS 106 in Far Rockaway, now in the news for its lack of curriculum or books, is a graduate of New York City’s vaunted Leadership Academy.

When Joel Klein took charge of the New York City schools in 2002, one of his earliest “reforms” was the creation of the Leadership Academy, a fast-track program for new principals. Originally, it was funded for three years with $75 million from the business community. Its inspiration was Jack Welch, the legendary tough guy from GE, who sometimes gave speeches to LA recruits and imbued them with his philosophy of stack-ranking and firing the bottom 10% of workers.

In the “bad old days,” pre-Klein and Bloomberg, educators became principal by first spending several years as classroom teachers, then several years as assistant principal. Only after they had deep experience were they eligible to apply for the important job of principal.

Klein had no regard for experience in education; he possibly thought it was a handicap that locked educators into old ways of thinking. It was innovation he wanted, so the Leadership Academy was created. Its first CEO was a businessman from Colorado who brought his large staff with him and commuted to Denver on weekends. When he left after a few years, the program was handed over to a professor at Baruch College who taught leadership classes but had never been a principal. Joel Klein was chairman of the board of the Leadership Academy.

After the three years were over, the Department of Education had a competitive bidding process for an organization to run leadership training, and–wonder of wonders–the Leadership Academy won $50 million for five years.

Meanwhile, the pre-Klein educators scoffed at graduates of the Leadership Academy. Some schools and districts were told they had to hire them. To career educators, their lack of experience was a minus, not a plus. Imagine how assistant principals with a dozen or more years in the system reacted when they learned that their new principal had been a teacher for only one or two or three years.

Yet, outside of New York City, the Bloomberg PR machine told about the amazing principals its Leadership Academy created in only one year. Other districts and states began copycat programs.

In the dying days of the Bloomberg administration, the Leadership Academy got a new contract for $45 million.

Marc Epstein taught at Jamaica High School in Queens, New York City, for many years. The school is under a death sentence, which means the end of many programs that served children with different needs. Here he makes a plea to Mayor de Blasio to save some of the doomed schools.

A De Blasio Clemency?

 

 

This is the time of year that governors and the president issue pardons and clemencies.  They are issued to prisoners who have either been exemplary citizens during their incarceration or set free because extenuating circumstances indicate that their punishment didn’t fit the crime.

 

Mayors aren’t granted this kind of executive power, but this year Bill De Blasio does have the executive power to call a halt to the systematic elimination of several of New York’s comprehensive high schools that have had their fate sealed by Michael Bloomberg’s school closing policy.

 

Ostensibly, these school closings were to result in improved student performance in small schools that were placed within buildings occupied by the traditional high schools. It was an idea hatched by Bill Gates, an idea that he abandoned long ago.

 

In the waning days of his mayoralty, Bloomberg has embarked on a citywide tour, touting his legacy.  The papers have dutifully transmitted City Hall’s talking points, with hardly a demurral finding its way onto the printed page.

 

The Wall Street Journal’s 3,000 word “Bloomberg Reshaped The City” article credited the record high 60% high school graduation to Bloomberg’s stewardship of the schools and politely left out the inconvenient statistic that shows a record high number of New York’s high school graduates are unprepared for college and require remedial courses in math and English.

 

In an interview with Joel Klein, Bloomberg’s schools chancellor for over 10 years, that appeared in the Scholastic Administrator, Klein expressed his hope that the next schools chancellor will continue Bloomberg’s education legacy.

 

If only Mayor De Blasio will pick “someone who is committed to building on the progress of the last 11- plus years,” Klein’s tenure won’t have been in vain, at least according to Klein.

 

If that should be the case, we should prepare for record numbers of meaningless diplomas, more school closings, an unstable teacher work force, and a school system where academic apartheid defines education opportunity.

 

Record numbers of students now use mass transportation to get to the “school of their choice.” Why have 250,000 students using mass transit when many of them could walk to school instead, is a question that has gone unasked and unanswered by reporters and politicians for over a decade.

 

The community has been de-coupled from the neighborhood high school, because hardly a neighborhood high school exists anymore. The result is that parental participation suffers, after-school activities suffer, and the community suffers.

 

A record number of students attend boutique schools that screen their applicants.  I estimate that close to 10% of the seats available to high school students are now reserved for these students.  Most of these students used to help make up the population of the traditional high schools.

 

When Jamaica High School was handed its death warrant, the Department of Education, fearing a backlash from parents who simply didn’t buy the line that Jamaica was a failed school, cleverly carved a Gateway School out of the Gateway program that had existed in Jamaica for about 20 years.

And then, miracle of miracles, the new Gateway High School received an “A” on its report card!

 

Is there a serious argument that can be made for a public policy that is perpetually closing and reopening school houses because they are “failed”?

We’ve all heard of the Amityville Horror, but does that mean we should treat the schoolhouse as we would a haunted house?  But if closing and opening hundreds of schools is the new normal, we’d do better to hire Shinto priests to exorcise the evil spirits in these buildings rather than renaming and re-staffing them.

 

Our lowest performing students usually carry baggage that includes unstable home life, poor to no healthcare, limited language skills, and physical impoverishment. 

 

If instead of further destabilizing their school environment, Mayor Bloomberg had thrown his energy and resources into creating schools along the “Comer Model,” he might actually have had something to show to the public. 

 

The Comer school model developed by Dr. James P. Comer at the Yale Child Study Center has been around for close to fifty years and has a proven track record in addressing the problems of low achieving students in the inner city. But the lure of the well-meaning philanthropist with no expertise proved irresistible.

 

Instead, we are left with the tired litany of the teachers and union as villains, and the mayor and his minions as heroic for taking them on. But beneath the surface Bloomberg has created a highly segregated school system that keeps the disadvantaged far away from the middle classes and the upwardly mobile.

 

If Mayor De Blasio wants to reverse this death spiral, he’d do well to grant clemency to schools like Jamaica High School and Beach Channel High School and give them the resources they need to make them work for the children and their communities.

 

In their heyday comprehensive high schools included students who were on multiple career paths. There were differentiated diplomas and a multiplicity of choices. The students might not have attended all the same classes together, but they played on the same teams, shared the same teachers, and developed mutual respect for one another.

 

Inexplicably that has been destroyed, and instead of these students existing side by side with each other in the same community, they live and learn as peoples apart.

 

When this consideration is no longer a part of our education system we all become impoverished.  Clemency is one way to begin turning this around.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In an article in the New York Times magazine, Joel Klein asserted that his company’s products were needed because spending on education had doubled in recent decades had doubled but achievement remained flat. This assertion was wrong but went unchallenged.

In this article, Richard Rothstein of the Economic Policy Institute sets the record straight.

The New York Times magazine has a long article by Carlo Rotella about the first trial of the Amplify tablet in the schools of Guilford County, North Carolina. Amplify is owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation and run by Joel Klein, the former chancellor of the NewYork City public schools.

Klein is certain that public education in America is a disaster and the only things that can save it are disruptive technology and the Common Core. Those are the same recommendations made by the task force Klein co-chaired for the Council on Foreign Relations last year.

Happily for Murdoch, Klein, and other apostles of saving the schools by selling technology to them, they have a friend in Arne Duncan. He is quoted as follows:

“To keep doing the same thing we’ve been doing for the past hundred years — everybody working on the same thing at the same time, not based on competency. . . .” He sighed and let the thought trail off, then added his standard reminder that we must equip our students to compete with counterparts in India and China. He did acknowledge, though, that the fear of falling behind puts added pressure on school systems to do something, anything, which then makes them more vulnerable to rushed decisions and to peddlers of magic bullets. “There are a lot of hucksters out there,” he said.

“Duncan, whose longtime allies include Joel Klein, Bill Gates and other apostles of disruption, has a record of supporting reforms that increase the role of market forces — choice, competition, the profit motive — in education. He wants private enterprises vying to make money by providing innovative educational products and services, and sees his role as “taking to scale the best practices” that emerge from this contest.”

One of the trainers of teachers uses a phrase that we have now heard about a million times , meaning that we are experimenting on you and don’t know how things will turn out: “Another PLEF, Wenalyn Bell, told her group, “It’s like building a plane while it’s flying.”

Rotella retains a healthy skepticism. He knows that Los Angeles laid off teachers while it spent big bucks to buy iPads.

He ends with these observations from his last interview with Klein.

“Take Finland,” Klein continued, citing everyone’s favorite example of a country that puts its money on excellent teachers, not technology, and routinely finishes at the top in international assessments. “There’s a high barrier for entry into the teaching profession,” the kind that lets in the Robin Britts and keeps out weaker aspirants. Teachers there are also well paid, held in high esteem and trusted to get results without being forced to teach to the test. But America’s educational system is a lot bigger, messier, less centralized and more focused on market-based solutions than Finland’s. Also, our greater income inequality and thinner social safety net make for much wider variation in student performance, and a toxic political climate has encouraged our traditional low regard for teachers to flower into outright contempt.

“Still, if everyone agrees that good teachers make all the difference, wouldn’t it make more sense to devote our resources to strengthening the teaching profession with better recruitment, training, support and pay? It seems misguided to try to improve the process of learning by putting an expensive tool in the hands of teachers we otherwise treat like the poor relations of the high-tech whiz kids who design the tool.

“Are our overwhelmed, besieged, haphazardly recruited, variably trained, underpaid, not-so-elite teachers, in fact, the potential weak link in Amplify’s bid to disrupt American schooling? Klein said that we have 3.5 million elementary- and middle-school teachers. “We have to put the work of the most brilliant people in their hands,” he said. “If we don’t empower them, it won’t work.” Behind the talking points and buzz words, what I heard him saying was Yes.”

Aaron Pallas is one of the wisest education scholars in New York, and therefore (as we New Yorkers all believe) in the world.

He consistently brings a fresh perspective to the unfolding drama and spectacle that is now U.S. education.

And he is one of the few academics willing to enter the arena and engage with current events.

That is one of the clear benefits of tenure.

In this post, Pallas says that he predicted--with uncanny accuracy–how proficiency rates would change as a result of the Common Core tests.

He also notes the incomprehensible glee with which Joel Klein and Mayor Bloomberg reacted to the news that only one in five students of color are considered “proficient” after a full decade of their policies.

As he observes, Mayor Bloomberg sees everything on his watch as good news, whether scores go up, stay the same, or go down.

Pallas writes:

Here’s the dirty little secret: no one truly understands the numbers. We are behaving as though the sorting of students into four proficiency categories based on a couple of days of tests tells us something profound about our schools, our teachers and our children. There are many links in the chain of inference that can carry us from those few days in April to claims about the health of our school system or the effectiveness of our teachers. And many of those links have yet to be scrutinized.

Does Mayor Bloomberg understand the numbers? Perhaps he’d care to share with us the percentage of children in each grade who ran out of time and didn’t attempt all of the test items, and the consequences of that for students’ scores. Or how well the pattern of students’ answers fit the complex psychometric models used to estimate a student’s proficiency. Or how precisely a child’s scale score measures his or her performance. Or how many test items had to be discarded because they didn’t work the way they were intended. Or what fraction of the Common Core standards was included on this year’s English and math tests—and what was left out.

These are just some of the factors in the production of the proficiency rates that have been the subject of so much attention. And the properties of the test are just one link in the chain.

Hmmm. When no one understands the numbers, not the Mayor who is in charge of the schools, not the scholars who study the schools, not the State Education Department, no one: What does that mean?

 

This morning the New York Times published a lengthy defense of the Common Core standards by Bill Keller, previously executive editor of the paper.

Keller asserts that opposition to the Common Core comes from extremists on the far-right fringe. (He does say that there are critics on the left, and adds a link to my blog, but not to the post explaining my reasons for not supporting the Common Core.  My main reason: They have never been field tested and we have no evidence how they will work and whether they will do what they claim, and what their effects will be on real children in real classrooms).

Please take the time to read Keller’s article and add a comment, if you are so moved.

Susan Ohanian went postal when she read Keller’s article.

She titles her response: “Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire: War on the New York Times Embrace of the Common Core.”

She begins thus:

“Well, at least New York Times editorial remains consistent, proving once again that you can lead a reporter to evidence but can’t make him think. Keller was executive editor at the New York Times from 2003–2011, where he was a leading supporter of the Iraq invasion. Although he has since returned to his status as writer, he remains infected by the Times editorial bias on education policy. It seems significant that Keller’s father was chairman and chief executive of the Chevron Corporation. 

Keller employs a deliberate strategy of welding opponents of the Common Core with the lunatic fringe. Note that no progressive who opposes the Common Core is mentioned. No superintendent of schools opposing the Common Core is mentioned. No researcher opposing the Common Core is mentioned. No parent opposing the Common Core is mentioned.”

Keller says that the Common Core implies no curriculum, just standards. He quotes E.D. Hirsch, Jr., whose K-3 curriculum has been adopted by New York state as its official Common Core curriculum. Keller obviously didn’t know that Rupert Murdoch’s Amplify division (run by Joel Klein) bought the rights to the Core Knowledge curriculum for 20 years, meaning that every school in the state will pay a royalty to Rupert Murdoch whenever they buy the resources to teach the state curriculum.  Amplify and Core Knowledge plan to expand the curriculum to cover grades four and five. So this is quite a goldmine!

Arthur Goldstein, a New York City high school teacher, has a great article in today’s Daily News lambasting the Common Core and the tests based on the Common Core.

Goldstein writes that if he gave a test and 70% of his kids failed it, his principal would be outraged at him.

He wonders why state officials predicted high failing rates and then–voila!–the failing rates were as high as they predicted.

He scoffs at those who say that Common Core is the salvation:

“Are our kids failures? Have schools and teachers failed? Have parents failed?

If there is failure, it’s on the part of those who set the curriculum. It’s those who hired teachers and ran schools. It’s those who boasted of the very successes they now paint as worthless.

If anyone has failed, it’s the very people who now tell us Common Core is the answer to all our problems.”

Read more: http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/education/common-core-tests-answer-article-1.1420940#ixzz2bOfM4eu0

In this article, Joel Klein acknowledges that scores across New York state, obviously including New York City, will be devastatingly low.

He was in charge of the New York City public schools from 2002, when he was selected by Mayor Bloomberg, until January 2011, when he was succeeded by the ill-fated publisher Cathie Black.

During his tenure, Klein boasted every year of “historic gains.”

The mayor was twice re-elected because of those alleged “historic gains.”

Klein traveled to Australia and persuaded the Minister of Education Julia Gillard that there was a New York City miracle, and she fell for it. Now Australia is copying the New York City model of test, test, test, test.

Now, Klein tells us that the students for whom he was responsible didn’t learn much at all, and that the new test scores will show just how terribly they are doing.

Australians might well ask if they can abandon the Klein plan now that its failure is evident even to Klein.

Having failed to improve achievement in New York City over his long tenure in office, he has found the answer that eluded him: the Common Core standards.

This is the miracle cure we have all been waiting for.

Is there any evidence that the Common Core standards will improve test scores?

No, the evidence is that they cause test scores to plummet, as they did in Kentucky–by 30 points–and as they have in New York.

Will they lead to higher achievement in the future? No one knows.

 

 

Marc Epstein has been teaching in the public schools for almost two decades.His articles on school violence, curriculum, and testing have appeared in most of the New York papers, the Washington Post, Education Next, and City Journal. He is a regular contributor to the Huffington Post.

 

 

Public Education And The Next Mayor

—Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passions, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence: John Adams

 

With less than six months to go in his tenure, Michael Bloomberg is intent on chiseling his overhaul of the New York City schools in stone. Bloomberg’s control of the schools is unprecedented. He has enjoyed absolute suzerainty over the largest public school system in the country, with increased expenditures of over $120 billion dollars over the past eleven years. There was no board of education to veto his administrative restructurings, question no-bid contracts, or approve his choice of chancellors to oversee the day-to-day operation of the school system.

 

So with his reputation as the consummate entrepreneur on the line, it comes as no surprise that Bloomberg would craft a Pharonic dynastic history of sorts to validate his radical overhaul of the school system at such great cost to the taxpayers.

 

This past May, Javier Hernandez of the New York Times reported that Dennis Walcott, the schools chancellor, warned that the school system risked falling into disarray should any of the Democratic candidates for mayor dare to tinker with Bloomberg’s reforms. “Halting the momentum of this extraordinary transformation would be a tragedy,” Walcott suggested to an audience of over a thousand school administrators gathered at Brooklyn Technical High School.

 

In the same article Hernandez stated that the schools’ chief academic officer Shael Polakow-Suransky was so distraught that a rollback of Bloomberg’s policies by his successor might be in the offing, that he phoned Kaya Henderson, the head of the Washington D.C. schools, to ask her advice.

 

Why someone so convinced of the rightness of his actions would consult the successor to Michelle Rhee is something of a puzzle. After all since Rhee’s departure a series of embarrassing accusations and investigations, including massive administrative doctoring of test results, has tarnished the Rhee miracle.

 

And this brings us to the crux of the matter. Will the next mayor have a realistic comprehension of what the consequences of the Bloomberg education reforms are and how profoundly the school system has been transformed under his tenure?

 

The problems the new mayor will face are exacerbated by the sui generis nature of Bloomberg’s mayoralty. Bloomberg, listed by Forbes as the 10th wealthiest person in America, campaigned on the promise that he couldn’t be bought. He kept his word.

 

But he didn’t promise to refrain from using his checkbook to get his way when the normal give and take of city politics didn’t get the results he wanted. In a remarkably harsh expose that ran close to 2,500 words in the New York Post, Tom Robbins documented Bloomberg’s use of “coercive” philanthropy to buy both the silence and support of various NGO’s and politicians.

 

“ ‘No one will ever know everything Mike Bloomberg did with his money,’ said a political expert who has seen the mayor reach for his wallet more than once.

What we do know is this: When it comes to the flow of private mayoral cash into the arenas of politics and civic need, the Bloomberg years have been a true hundred-year flood, one that often ran through subterranean channels, invisible to the public or the press. And unlike Hurricane Sandy, the Bloomberg money superstorm is unlikely ever to be repeated.

The next mayor — whoever it is — won’t have that kind of deep-pocketed backup plan at his or her fingertips when the going gets rough.”

 

That is why a rehearsing of the state of affairs prior to, and after Bloomberg’s ascension and takeover of the largest bureaucracy in the state, without the fog of Bloomberg’s massive public relations machine, with an assist from his own news empire Bloomberg News, is essential to the very life of the city as it moves forward into the post-Bloomberg era.

 

Within six months of taking office Bloomberg gained state approval for mayoral control of the nation’s largest school system.

Bloomberg’s reorganization is the most radical in the history of the public schools. It is the exemplar of the “creative destruction” theory that was a staple of our business schools in the 1980s. It assumes nothing in the old system worked or was worth saving.

 

Despite its enormous problems and dysfunction, the vast New York school system had components that functioned efficiently. In fact, educational professionals, as opposed to the education “experts” operating out of the universities, created and ran innovative programs throughout the city with positive results.

 

Often the problem was translating the local successes into citywide programs, because the local community districts operated like autonomous duchies immune to outside suggestion. The five high school districts under the chancellor’s direct control had skilled administrators who knew how to staff and run New York’s high schools on a citywide scale. While the poor graduation rates remained, they had less to do with the quality of teaching and administration and more to do with an accumulation of failed public and education policy and the breakdown of the nuclear family among what is now referred to as the underclass.

 

But as a result of Bloomberg’s assumptions and philosophy of how to get things right, all institutional memory was purposefully shattered.

 

The mayor openly announced that the deliberations of his new team would be conducted in secrecy. When critics suggested that you couldn’t apply the same business model to a then thirteen billion-dollar a year public school system as you would to a high tech start-up, he reminded them that this was the way he ran his company, and the reform of the schools would be his major legacy.

 

Reform after reform was rolled out: ending social promotion in the third grade; a “Leadership Academy” headed by GE’s Jack Welch, and supported by private donations, to train new principals. And in keeping with Bloomberg’s managerial philosophy, candidates with little or no education experience were encouraged to apply.

 

In 2003 thirty-two local school districts and the five high school districts were eliminated in favor of ten mega regions, drawn without regard to the geographical integrity of neighborhoods.

 

When it came to instructional content, Joel Klein opted for a barely disguised “whole language” program promoted by the progressive left wing of the educational establishment. Bloomberg retreated from his campaign pledge to eliminate bilingual education, ensuring that a city school system inhabited by the greatest wave of new arrivals since the turn of the 20th century would be subjected to the failed nostrums of the 1970s once again.

 

But the main result of the fabled reorganization was mainly chaos, removing competent administrators without bothering to train their replacements. The most obvious sign of the system’s near collapse was the school safety issue. The reformers dismantled the high school hearing process for the worst offenders and replaced it with nothing. The inevitable explosion of violence in the schools produced embarrassing headlines in the tabloids. In panic, Bloomberg flooded the worst schools with police and declared that he would have a “cop for every kid” if that is what it took to ensure safety.

 

When the mayor admitted he had taken advice from the wrong people, the editorials lauded Bloomberg’s “the buck stops here” attitude. What went unmentioned was the hurried call to certain administrators who were shown the door and brought back to recreate what had just been smashed.

 

Since institutional memory is an anathema to revolutionaries, long-time administrators either retired or were pushed out. Record numbers of retirements, often in the middle of the school year, signaled the success of these administrative purges.

 

Other parts of the system were left in equally bad shape. When thousands of special education students were left unevaluated, the blame was placed on the inability of one person, the school psychologist, to move as fast as the dismantled three-member evaluation panels had done before. No consideration was given to the myriad of state and federal regulations that make this process a nightmare at best. When the New York Times chronicled this fiasco in a 3800-word front-page story by Michael Winerip, Chancellor Klein’s office claimed that new efficiencies took time to implement.

 

This kind of overhaul for a bureaucracy servicing over 1 million children and employing almost 135,000 people would be enough to make any organization rock back on its foundation and take a decent passage of time to digest and reconfigure its operating procedures, but it turns out that this reorganization was just the appetizer at Bloomberg’s bureaucratic bacchanalia.

 

Four years later, Klein reshuffled the organizational chart and eliminated the ten mega-regions. The new order was supposed to increase the authority of the over one thousand principals in the system over their budgets. Rather than having a superintendent guide a cluster of schools, the school would pick a “network” to mentor and guide them. Some of the networks answered to not-for-profit organizations, further blurring the line between government and non-government organizations.

 

The networks weren’t confined to contiguous geographic areas and, instead, administered schools throughout the city. If you could have cloud computing, why couldn’t you have cloud administration as well? It doesn’t take an operations research expert to recognize that the proliferation of parallel institutions with ill-defined roles was quickly overwhelming the system. This made audit and accountability a nightmare for any successor who wants to understand the flow and distribution of funds and the responsibility for who actually performed what task.

 

Not content with the results, Klein ordered another reorganization in 2010. Principals were told that the School Support Organizations and Integrated Service Centers created in 2007 were out of business, and the Children First Networks would now serve the entire system!

 

If you attempted to write an internal institutional history of the reforms you would face an insurmountable take. You’d do better if you imagined that you are the FBI investigating the forensic trail of how monies were spent, and just who was responsible for spending it, in a multi-billion dollar conglomerate that kept reincorporating and renaming a series of shell corporations over a period of a decade.

 

Which finally brings us to the purpose of this grand design, the children. Mayor Bloomberg and Chancellor Klein pointed to test scores and data to validate the fortunes of taxpayer dollars spent and to justify the shattering of the old bureaucracy. Year after year, the city’s Department of Education released glowing reports of student progress on state tests that satisfied those who neither knew nor cared much about what was actually taking place.

 

It all came crashing down when outside pressure forced the state to conduct an audit of state tests by testing expert Daniel Koretz of Harvard. On July 19, 2010, State Education Commissioner Steiner issued a preliminary report based on Koretz’s findings, which revealed that the jump in state test-score results over the past four years was too good to be true. “It is very likely that some of the state’s progress was illusory,” Koretz concluded. Improved test results didn’t mean that more students were adequately prepared for high school or college.

 

Only more bad news has followed. Even the New York Post, a longtime supporter of the Bloomberg reforms and a part of Rupert Murdoch’s empire which is now the current employer of Joel Klein, admitted as much in an April 21, 2013 editorial titled Spotlight on Failure:

 

“But even without the new tests the facts of failure are becoming impossible to ignore.

Last Year 79.3% of the public high-school grads who enrolled in CUNY’s community colleges had to take remedial classes in math, reading or writing because they fail basic qualification exams.”

If all this weren’t bad enough, the consequences of the decision to destroy the neighborhood comprehensive high schools and replace them with small schools inside the old buildings that were decoupled from the community has yet to be fully felt.

 

Klein, much like Robert Moses, who in a bygone era, tore through the neighborhoods of the Bronx in order to install an expressway to the George Washington Bridge, justified killing off the neighborhood high schools based on the unfounded whim and monies of Bill Gates, who thought this experiment would turn inner-city graduation rates around.

 

When Gates abandoned the project and stopped funding it nationwide, Klein remained undeterred, pointing to New York’s remarkable progress, based on what we now know to be phony test scores and inflated graduation rates, boosted by “credit recovery,” in which a student gains a semester of credit by showing up for only a few days of classes. Though Klein is long gone, the mayor continues, even in the waning days of his term, to complete the destruction of these once great institutions, circumventing a court order to place “new schools” inside of those schools that fought and won an injunction against the closures.

 

In a report just issued by NYU’s Steinhardt School, entitled

 

Moving the Needle-Exploring Key Levers to Boost College Readiness Among Black and Latino Males in New York City, the abject failure of over a decade of Bloomberg’s reforms can be summed up in these two sentences:

“In New York City, while graduation rates have increased dramatically over the last decade, college readiness rates remain troublingly low, especially for young men of color. Among students scheduled to graduate in 2010, for example, only 9 percent of Black males and 11 percent of Latino males graduated college ready.”

 

One would think, as the facts and the weight of evidence piled up, that a more critical eye would have been cast by the Fourth Estate on this radical exercise in social engineering. So what accounts for the broad-based uncritical support for Bloomberg’s initiatives from observers of the New York scene as diverse as the editorial writers at the Wall Street Journal, The Daily News, and The New York Post?

 

In part, the litany of failure and political upheaval of the past decades has exhausted and desensitized observers and made a nuanced critique of public education all but impossible. As the kaleidoscope of New York has reconfigured, a more attenuated chattering class removed from life on the streets of New York’s working class and its schools has evolved.

 

Today New York’s schools are filled with new arrivals, strivers, and a low achieving underclass. Few of the parents read New York’s papers, and when they do they are written in Spanish, Chinese, Urdu, and Bengali. The latest studies indicate that over half of New York’s inhabitants don’t speak English as their first language, and close to ninety percent of the city’s cab drivers are immigrants.

 

The press believes that Bloomberg’s efforts are in the best tradition of progressive noblesse oblige, with the added attraction of “the bottom line.” While the screw-ups are duly reported, the editorials echo the “work in progress” and “Rome wasn’t built in a day” defense for the myriad of blunders.

 

If Michael Bloomberg’s plan was to open the door to privatizing public education and replacing what remained with non-government run, though taxpayer supported, charter schools, the chaos and abysmal performance over the past ten years have been cunningly successful.

 

But if his objective was to bequeath to his successor something more than a mortally wounded public school system, then he has been an abject failure.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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