2008-08-08 / Columnists

School Scope

Mid-Summer Course Correction
By Norman Scott

Norman Scott Norman Scott I've been dragged out of my backyard by a few summer events.

Remember that good old achievement gap that Joel Klein and his new best buddy, Al Sharpton, are working so hard to correct with their Educational Equality Project, endorsed recently by John McCain? After all, according to them, closing the academic gap between white/Asian and black/Hispanic kids is the civil rights issue of our time. Or was.

Civil rights, shmivil rights

Here are just a few planks of the new "civil rights" movement.

Assure that parents in urban schools have absolutely no say in education matters by establishing a mayoral control/ dictatorship. Ninety-six percent of school districts in the US, most of them in white suburbs, vote on school boards, which hire superintendents who are actually educators instead of lawyers and vote on school budgets.

Reduce the number of new hire black teachers from 27 percent to 14 percent. I recently wrote about this on my blog with tongue firmly planted in cheek.

The BloomKlein administration has explained the drop in the number of black teacher hires in the BloomKlein years from 27.2 percent in 2001/02 to 14.1 percent in 2006/7 (from 1990 - 2002, when Bloomberg took over the city schools, it rose steadily from 16 percent to 27 percent) as a new surge in their struggle for civil rights.

"Every black teacher we keep from teaching in the city schools is a victory for civil rights," said a public relations spokesperson for Tweed. "We're protecting them from abusive principals who graduate from the Leadership Academy. How responsible would we be if we let them walk into schools run by these ogres? Thousands of potential black teachers have been saved from cruel and unusual punishment. To not have reduced the black hires in half, would be like reversing the emancipation proclamation and returning them to slavery. Or at the least, indentured servants, as so many of the teachers have been complaining about." Achievement gap, ashmievement gap

Eduwonkette, the great blogger over at Education Week, has been nailing BoomKlein over their bogus numbers on the achievement gap, grad rates, etc. since she started blogging less than a year ago. The NY Sun's Elizabeth Green, the best education reporter in NYC, if not the nation, has tapped into her work. Green wrote a great piece, 'Achievement Gap' in City Schools Is Scrutinized: Slight Gains in English Are Reported, on August. 5.

Here are excerpts from Eduwonkette's follow-up to Green's piece:

An Unchanged NYC Achievement Gap Hits the Papers (Plus, Joel Klein's Postmodernist Turn!).

With her article on New York City's lack of progress in closing the achievement gap, Elizabeth Green demonstrates once again that she's the sharpest and most inquisitive education reporter in New York City. I'm pretty sure she's the second coming of Josh Benton, formerly of the Dallas Morning News, who wowed us all with his analyses of original data.

Bottom line: Three NYC professors - Bob Tobias (NYU prof who ran the NYC testing department for 13 years), Howard Everson (Fordham prof and advisor to New York State Ed.), and Aaron Pallas (TC prof) - all agree that there's not much action on the achievement gap in New York City.

The most priceless parts of the article involve Onion-worthy quotes from newly minted postmodernist Joel Klein. Apparently, the achievement gap is really just a matter of opinion!

Silly me - I thought New York City was data-driven. Never mind. Here are some delicious snippets and my commentary in brackets:

1) "In an interview at Tweed Courthouse, the schools chancellor, Joel Klein, said the achievement gap is 'an issue,' but he said it should not obscure the significant gains black and Hispanic students have made under his watch." [Hey, wait! What about that "Educational Equality Project" that was founded specifically around closing the

achievement gap? Now it's not important? Huh? And PS - your own "Chief Equality Officer" Roland Fryer has written two important articles about the achievement gap focused on gaps in scale scores, not proficiency!]

2) "Mr. Klein criticized the National Center on Education Statistics analysis.

'Those are just confidence levels. Nobody is saying this is a science,' Mr. Klein said. He added: 'If three points is flat, and four points is statistically significant, then what you're doing is, you're playing something of a game.'" [A piece of free advice for the Tweed PR Department: You guys need to get someone else out front when there are numbers involved.

Your fearless leader's statistical prowess is quickly becoming the best evidence of high variance in male math achievement, such that men are overrepresented at the bottom of the distribution.]

Eduwonkette blogs at http://blogs.ed week.org/edweek/eduwonkette/.

It's time to get back to the backyard. You can read more at my blog where links to all this stuff can be found.

Email norm at normsco@gmail.com Norm's blog is at: http://ednoteson line.blogspot.com.

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