With their students’ scores the only way,
They could gain the coveted merit pay,
Will not be lost on the Secretary of Ed.
Having written the history of the New York City public schools, I was reminded of the origins of free schooling in certain northeastern cities in the early 19th Century, when wealthy men decided that it was their civic duty to help civilize the children of the poor. In their view and in their day, they were doing good deeds, but their schools were stigmatized as charity schools for children of paupers and were avoided by children of the middle class. Outside of big cities, public education emerged as a community response to a community's need to school its children, not as a charitable venture.
Today, with the proliferation of charter schools, we may be seeing a resurgence of the historic pattern as public schools are privatized and taken over by very rich men (and women) who see themselves as saviors of the children of the poor. Naturally, you find this a repellent portrait because it undermines the democratic foundations of public education. It means that our society will increasingly rely on the good will of wealthy patrons to educate children of color. It means that education is seen as a private charity rather than as a public responsibility. Let's hope that the new owners who have taken over these schools are able to sustain their interest. After all, having 500 children in your care is not the same as having a stable of polo ponies or a vineyard in Napa Valley. If the children don't produce results that make the sponsors proud, they may pick a different hobby.
The Math results for 2009 were not the best of news for NYC. Among the eleven large cities who participated in 2007, only Boston and D.C. showed statistically significant gains in Grade 4 and only Austin and San Diego in Grade 8. No city declined, but the rest, including NYC, showed either no gains or gains sufficiently modest that they couldn’t reliably be attributed to real gains (as opposed to random chance). For NYC, these results stand in sharp contrast to the rather sizable gains in Grade 4 and 8 Math reported over the last two years via the NYS Grade 3-8 annual exams (on which School Progress Reports, grade retention, principals’ bonuses, and the Mayor’s political persona are based).
As reported in the local media (Jennifer Medina in the NY Times, Rachel Monohan and Meredith Kolodner in the NY Daily News, Yoav Gonen in the NY Post, and Beth Fertig at WNYC.org), NYC showed a one-point gain in average exam score in Grade 4 (from 236 in 2007 to 237 in 2009) and a three-point gain (from 270 to 273) in Grade 8. In addition, the percentage of Grade 4 students judged Proficient or better on the NAEP exam rose from 34% in 2007 to 35% in 2009; for Grade 8, the numbers were 22% in 2007 to 26% this year. By comparison, the NYS exams showed NYC Grade 4 proficiency or better increasing from 74.1% to 84.9% and Grade 8 moving up an astonishing 25 percentage points, from 45.6% to 71.3%. Comparable numbers since 2003 are shown below.
Grade 4 - % Proficient or Higher (Level 3+4 for NYS exams, Proficient + Advanced for NAEP)
2003 --- NYS 66.7% --- NAEP 21%
2005 --- NYS 77.4% --- NAEP 26%
2007 --- NYS 74.1% --- NAEP 34%
2009 --- NYS 84.9% --- NAEP 35%
Grade 8 - & Proficient or Higher (Level 3+4 for NYS exams, Proficient + Advanced for NAEP)
2003 --- NYS 34.4% --- NAEP 21%
2005 --- NYS 40.8% --- NAEP 21%
2007 --- NYS 45.6% --- NAEP 22%
2009 --- NYS 71.3% --- NAEP 26%
The inflation in all the NYS-based numbers naturally suggests that NYS/NYC students’ mathematical knowledge is nowhere near what is claimed by NYSED and NYCDOE.
This hardly comes as a surprise to most; it largely reflects the inherent fallacy of the NYSED’s testing regime, whose high stakes under NCLB have been substantially amplified under mayoral control of NYC schools until test prep and teaching to a specific test have come to dominate math teaching in the city. Nevertheless, measuring NYC’ students’ mathematical progress against the NAEP’s does suggest that, at least at Grade 4, both sets of scores are moving upward in some degree of encouraging lockstop. The picture in Grade 8 is far different and far more gloomy, particularly viewed within the framework of the huge reported gains in 2008 (14 percentage points, to 59.6%) and 2009 (another 11.7 percentage points, to 71.3% as shown in the table above).
These latest NAEP results offer a highly reliable reality check on the claimed math gains of NYC public school students. At Grade 4, the NAEPs suggest that the NYS test results have a degree of validity with regard to progress, although the 50-percentage-point gap on achievement is a major contradictory indicator of mastery level. At Grade 8, the NAEP’s paint a truly worrisome picture of a 45-percentage-point achievement gap and almost no measured progress in six years on the NAEPs during a period when NYC results on State exams signal gains bordering suspiciously on miraculous.
More disconcerting still is the realization that the 2009-year Grade 8 students who took these latest NAEPs are the first "pre-high-school end products" of the NYC public school system under Joel Klein and mayoral control during the six-year period (2003 - 2009) since the TUDAs and mayoral control both began.
Michael Bloomberg’s campaign for his third mayoral term was predicated in no small part on his claims to be NYC’s “education mayor” as justified by NYS exam scores and a host of other DOE self-generated statistical measures. In my next posting, I will delve much more deeply into the NAEP’s raw data to compare NYC’s progress since 2003 against the nine other large cities who have participated in TUDA since that time and also reveal how many of the DOE’s (and Mayor’s) claims are simply not supported by the only truly independent measure of NYC public school education currently available.
Approximately 555,000 students have received free or discounted Metro Cards in a longstanding program that had been fully funded by the state and city until 1995, when they slashed subsidies.
The state - which had been contributing $45 million a year to the program - reduced its share to $6 million this year, transit officials said.
MTA spokesman Jermey Soffin said no other transit authority in the country covers the cost of students traveling to or from school, and MTA Chief Financial Officer Gary Dellaverson said the state and city reduced free MetroCard subsidies in the 1990s, leaving the MTA to absorb more and more of the tab.
This year, "the state for all intent and purposes has eliminated its contribution to school fares...," Dellaverson said. An MTA budget document says, "The MTA can no longer afford to subsidize this free service."
Since the mid-1990s, NYC and NYS contributions to the free fare student MetroCard program had remained flat at a combined (and roughly 50/50 split) $90 million, even as fares have risen 80%, from $1.25 through most of 1995 to $2.25 today.
These warnings, however, seemed to have failed to pacify the school community. As one teacher noted, maybe it’s a relief to finally know where we stand and know who we are fighting. And even after years of stress, being on the brink of closure, the staff feels reaffirmed that the school and its successes are worth this struggle. At the public forum on Tuesday, Jan. 12th,at 6pm in Maxwell’s auditorium, the school promises to show the mayor what happens when the talents of many voices come together – to contrast the decisions of just one single man.
- the Community of W.H. Maxwell Vocational HS.
If you want to support this school staying open, please contact Seung Ok, teacher at Maxwell, at email@example.com
Despite desperate searches by his parents , it took eleven days before the police tracked him down, dirty and exhausted, on the D train at Coney Island. What does this sad story have to do with the policies of this administration?
“Though doctors had recommended that Francisco be placed in a small school for children with learning disorders, she said, officials at his school told [his mother] he was testing fine and did not need to be transferred."
Like Kelly Sinisgalli, the 4th grade girl who was barred this fall by her principal from taking dance class and consigned to more test prep because she had only scored a “low 3” on her state exams– meaning at grade level –this sort of lunacy is the consequence of the rigid accountability system that Bloomberg and Klein have imposed, and that the Billionaire's boys club of Gates and Broad, and the Obama administration is trying to impose on the nation.
Following massive publicity, and after she had aced some practice tests, Kelly’s principal finally relented and allowed her to return to dance class, yet the essential situation remains the same.
This morning, the NY Times has yet another article about the city's Gifted and Talented programs, and the high-stakes exams that control admissions to these programs. See today's front page story, Tips for the Admissions Test ... to Kindergarten . It all seems so familiar....and indeed it is.
By my quick count, this is at least the ninth article about G and T that the Times has run in the last seven months.
To add insult to injury, this is the second Times article about the admissions process that omits any mention of its inherently discriminatory nature - which has significantly worsened under this administration. This is due to the Chancellor's insistence that all G and T admissions should be based solely on the results of high stakes exams, which Klein claims ato be more "equitable" but which are highly inequitable in terms of results.
His policies have also directly led to the proliferation of expensive prep programs that few typical NYC families can afford. If you are going to run articles about G and T admissions, failing to cite their contribution to worsening racial and economic segregation in our schools is regrettable. In fact, many people said that these policies would have a racially discriminatory impact, including Patrick Sullivan and Debbie Meier , who both predicted this on our blog when Klein first announced the new admissions policy in the fall of 2007.
For other recent Times articles about G and T, see this one, from October 19, about a new expensive private school in Manhattan: School for the Gifted, and Only the Gifted.
Here is another, a Susan Dominus column from August 17, Connecting Anxious Parents and Educators, at $450 an Hour , about a consultant who helps get kids into private schools: "It would be her mission to democratize information for New York’s most competitive elite."
"Democratize" at $450 an hour? This is like Michael Bloomberg claiming the recent election was fair, when he outspent his opponent sixteen to one.
This was followed by yet another Dominus column on August 25: Early Testing In City Schools Called Faulty. Although she discusses the unreliability of G and T exams, in that children tested at a young age often score quite differently in later years, she fails to mention how the results are also discriminatory, given the influence of socio-economic factors. And she uncritically repeats the administration's claims that their policies are somehow equitable:
" Chancellor Joel I. Klein has tried to rejigger the testing system to be more fair, with uniform cut-offs citywide and better outreach to less-advantaged areas. But what ''Nurture Shock'' suggests, and Ms. Commitante [head of DOE's gifted and talented progrm] somewhat acknowledges, is that just means the randomness of gifted and talented placement is now more equitable."
To the contrary, see this far more informative oped in the Daily News, by James Borland, a professor of education, who points out how inherently inequitable the admissions process has become:
A one-size-fits-all approach to identifying students for the city's gifted and talented programs - which is just what the Department of Education has implemented - is neither equitable nor educationally sound. In fact, testing very young children, before the educational system exerts its admittedly limited equalizing effect, only magnifies the effects of differences in socioeconomic status. It favors children who have had the advantages of expensive preschools; of parents with time, ability and inclination to read to them; and of exposure to cultural events.
On September 7, Dominus yet wrote yet another column, about a new G and T public school in Brooklyn, Going the Distance to Get a Child to a Magnet School , in which she omits any analysis of the economic or racial composition of the school, and instead, approvingly focuses on one "highly motivated" mom, who sends her son, Benjamin, to the school, although it is miles away:
...a bus hired by a dozen families, at about $400 a month each, will pick up Benjamin and another 5-year-old before stopping at homes in Crown Heights, Carroll Gardens, Park Slope and Prospect Heights. Finally, at least an hour and a half after Benjamin has left home, he and the others will arrive at Brooklyn School of Inquiry, a brand-new citywide school for gifted and talented children at the corner of Stillwell Avenue and Avenue P, in Gravesend. Such are the lengths to which some parents — highly motivated parents — will go to take advantage of the city’s coveted magnet programs for gifted children.
Is it really only a matter of motivation? Last spring, the Times ran numerous pieces dealing with G and T programs on the Upper West Side, the epicenter of the phenomenon, including this one on the City Room blog, Are Parents Thinking Differently About Education? (June 29):
The phone keeps ringing at the Upper West Side office of Robin Aronow, an educational consultant and schools guru: anxious families suddenly rethinking whether they can afford private school, distressed parents wondering what to do if their children don’t make it into vaunted gifted and talented programs.
See also these articles from the paper: Students Must Retake Lost Gifted Tests (May 15); Gifted Tests Missing on Upper West Side (May 13), and More Children Take the Tests for Gifted Programs, and More Qualify (May 5).
In this last article, the reporter discloses that the number of students who qualified for G and T seats rose by 45 percent over the year before, but not until the sixth paragraph does the reader discover that the racial disparity in admissions remained largely unchanged.
On the upper West side, the number of children taking the tests rose by 15 percent, while the number of students making the cut off score increased by 48 percent. Though the reporter does not speculate on the cause of this phenomenon, the DOE spokesperson attributed this increase to "families’ increasing familiarity with the new admissions process." Instead, these higher scores are most likely the results of the increased amount of test prep taking place.
By continually reporting on the expensive consultants that are profiting off parents' anxieties to get their children into G and T programs, the Times is encouraging their proliferation. Indeed, the paper deserves to get a cut from these consultants, by regurgitating these articles, over and over again.
If charter schools are the obsession of the editors of the NY Post, gifted and talented programs remain the singular obsession of the Times.
Both serve a tiny proportion of NYC public school students and are far less important than other issues that affect the huge majority of our kids: the systemic and worsening crisis in overcrowding and its impact on class sizes, the lack of transparency and flawed priorities of DOE spending, including the mushrooming school bonus program and the continued growth in Tweed's accountability office, the loss of arts and enrichment programs, the obsession with closing schools rather than improving them, the increased amount of test prep that dominates classroom time and the like -- all of which have contributed to the decline of educational quality in our schools, and all of which our paper of record fails to cover adequately, or not at all.