2007-11-23 / Editorial/Opinion

Tell Parents The Truth About Their Schools

In January of 2003, right after he took control of the city's public school system, Mayor Michael Bloomberg bet his legacy and his reputation on taming the system and significantly raising the education bar. It is clear now, nearly five years later, that the mayor has failed in his quest to provide a better education for the city's students. In fact, the sad truth is that he may have raised test scores marginally while providing less pure education than was provided before he took over. Why? Because the mayor and his minions at the Department of Education bet the farm on raising scores on standardized tests and, while the mayor and the chancellor are already taking a victory lap, there are many indicators that show scores are stagnant or marginally up throughout the spectrum. And, that stagnation comes at the expense of social studies, science, art, music and foreign language instruction, all marginalized in the name of test preparation. Each year, the federal Department of Education gives a sample population of fourth and eighth grade students reading and math tests called the National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP). The results of that test are considered something akin to a national report card. How did New York City do in the wake of constant press releases trumpeting success in ELA and math tests from the DOE? We basically bombed in everything with the exception of fourth-grade math, where the city has made gains but remains behind the rest of the nation. What does that mean for parents? First of all, it means that the city's standardized test gains are an illusion, a three-card monte game that "proves" the mayor's contention that his takeover has done wonderful things for the public school system. Sure, more high school students are graduating. That is no wonder, what with the reduction of the passing grade for a "local diploma" to 50 from 65. We wonder why the score to pass the regents isn't lowered to a zero. Then, the state and the city can claim that all of its students passed the test. It is clear that the majority of the mayor's claims of success are illusionary. It is clear that more kids are making the grade because the passing grade has been lowered. It is clear from the recent school report cards that the mayor and his Department of Education have no idea what the word "education" really means. It is one thing to give up everything in order to improve students' reading and math skills. It is quite another to give up everything and not to do any better than you did in the past.

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