With the Bloomberg era winding down after twelve long years, top executives are fleeing or rewriting their history. No one at Tweed knows how to help schools that are struggling. They know only how to close them and open new ones. Then they close the new ones when they fail.

Here is an inside report:

“Anyone who follows the debates on the best ways to improve education in America has to wonder: do the educators who tout corporate style reforms really believe what they preach? Do the corporate-style reformers really believe that testing, sanctions, charters, and metrics of all shapes and sizes are really best? How can they refuse to acknowledge the research demonstrating that that these things have perverse consequences and don’t work? Why won’t they consider rich curricula, quality early childhood programs, and expanded support services for schools and for children?

Current events in New York City have helped shine light on these questions. Until the recent upset in the Democratic primary, it was widely expected that the next mayor would be Ms. Christine Quinn. She was expected to continue Mayor Bloomberg’s corporate-agenda-driven education policies. Now it is clear that Bill de Blasio, a progressive who has run on a platform of prioritizing opportunity and equity for all students, will be the next mayor of New York City. He has said “it is clear that the lights are out and no one is listening in the Tweed building.” This has left the bureaucrats at Tweed, the education headquarters of New York City, scrambling.
When Dennis Walcott, the Chancellor, proclaimed to an audience of principals that he doesn’t “involve myself in politics” they laughed. Perhaps we can expect no better from a political appointee. But we can definitely expect more from professional educators. How have they held up?

Just a couple of weeks ago Marc Sternberg, the deputy chancellor responsible for closing over 100 schools, fled to a position with the Walton Foundation. Then the Annenberg Institute for School Reform, an academic institute at Brown University, released a report showing that thousands of struggling students had been deliberately sent to the schools that ended up being closed. Although many of these schools did an admirable job in educating the students they were sent, they were closed anyway. It goes without saying that thousands of struggling students were not sent to the new schools opened up under Bloomberg. Those schools were granted special privileges. Mr. Sternberg escaped just in the nick of time. After refusing to release these data for years he does not have to face the truth. The new schools are Bloomberg’s Potemkin villages.

Shael Suransky, the #2 official at Tweed, has suddenly started to write columns acknowledging the limits of the pseudo-science metrics used to evaluate schools. He seems to have forgotten that he was in charge of the unit that produced those bogus metrics. Or, that less than a year and half ago, he wrote a letter defending them to the New York Times. When education researchers pointed out the flaws of these metrics 5 years ago (see, for example, the eduwonkette blog) he was silent and continued to use those flawed metrics to punish schools and the communities they were a part of. Six months ago New Visions, an organization that supports high schools in New York City, published a comprehensive report noting many flaws with these metrics. Mr. Suransky was silent. He continued to use those flawed metrics to evaluate principals and to decide whether or not to grant teachers tenure. Now that the political landscape has changed he has miraculously found his voice and changed his tune.

As for the other top bureaucrats, although they insist that every educator in every school be evaluated and held accountable we now know, thanks to the intrepid reporting of Leonie Haimson, that not a single one of them receives a performance evaluation. For those not already inured to such things the hypocrisy is astounding

That the educators at Tweed do not care about the truth is not surprising. People want power and will overlook facts and the genuine interests of children to obtain and remain in power. If we truly care about children and want to develop policies that provide educational equity for all students we need to clean out Tweed and develop systems that won’t allow such things to happen again.
It seems clear that mayoral control is a better system than the balkanized structure that existed before. But in order to make it work the Panel on Education Policy needs to be an honest broker of education policy in New York City. The panel should be granted access to all the data and the authority to call on outside evaluators to assess the merit of proposed policies. They will need to serve a conduit for community and parent voice. Only then will the public know and be able to trust that education in New York City in moving in the right direction.”