2009-09-18 / Columnists

The Rockaway Beat

The Bogus School Report Cards
Commentary By Howard Schwach

Okay, Bloomberg, this time you and your stooge school chancellor have gone too far.

You were going along famously, selling the lie that education in our public schools was increasing incrementally even though it was only test scores that were going up while true education was tanking.

This year, coming up for reelection, you tried to sell the Big Lie - that all of the schools in Rockaway (and, indeed the city) are tops in their class - something that everyone, including your supporters, knows is blatantly ridiculous.

Listen to what Diane Ravitch, a nationally-known urban school educator said. "The latest school grades released by the city's Education Department are bogus. Four schools listed as persistently dangerous by the state got an A from the city and three of those deeply troubled schools got a B. Three of the schools that the city wants to close because of low performance got an A. Every school that got an F last year got an Aor B this year. The report card system makes a mockery of accountability. Nobody can be held accountable when everybody gets an A or B."

Take a look at the report cards issued to the Rockaway schools.

Only three local schools received a grade lower than A on the report cards, which were released by the DOE last week and can be found at the agency's website.

PS 47 in Broad Channel received a grade of B.

PS 215 in Wavecrest and the peninsula's only charter school, the Peninsula Preparatory Academy in Arverne, each received a C.

PS 225 in Rockaway Park, which is being closed this year in favor of three small schools, was not rated.

There were no local schools with either a D or an F grade.

In fact, there were no schools in the entire city that earned an F grade this year.

Eighty-four percent of the elementary and middle schools in the city received A's, up from 38 percent last year.

Ninety-seven percent of the city's elementary and middle schools got either an A or a B on their report card.

Last year, only two schools in Rockaway earned an A. The Scholars' Academy, the district gifted magnet school, got a B. PS 114 in Belle Harbor, arguably one of the best elementary schools in the city, got a C.

This year, 13 local schools got an A grade. PS 42 went from a D to anAin one year, earning 30.1 points out of 100 last year and 77.2 points this year. That, despite the fact that only 51 percent of its third-graders, 41.5 of its fourth-graders and 36.9 percent of its eighth-graders were reading at grade level.

Middle School 53, a school at which I taught for more than 20 years, is on the state's list of failing schools. It is one of the most dangerous schools in the district, if you believe the teachers who talk to me.

It got an A, with 96.6 points out of 100. Yet, the ELA scores show that only 58.7 percent of seventh-graders and 48.2 percent of eighth-graders are reading on level.

By the way, you won't find those ELA scores on the report card.

The report card evaluates how well the school did on the reading test by providing a percentage ranking against all of the other schools in the city and against a "Peer Horizon," a group of schools that reportedly have a similar socio-economic and racial makeup.

Nowhere are the absolute ELA or mathematics scores reported on the report card.

Talk about smoke and mirrors. Talk about the Big Lie designed to prove that the mayor has fulfilled his promise and reinvigorated the school system.

How do Bloomberg and Klein get away with something that parents know to be a lie, that staff knows to be a lie and that even the media is beginning to understand is a lie?

He cooks the books and then tells everybody over and over again how well he's doing.

First of all, all his talk about raising the bar is pure baloney. He has actually lowered the bar. Experts tell me that it took 35 correct answers on the ELA test to get a Level 2 three years ago.

This year, they told me, it takes only 22 correct answers to reach Level 2, and add that the test itself has been dumbed down at the same time.

That is basically the same thing Bloomberg has done in conjunction with the state, dumbing down the Regents test and then lowering the passing grade to 50 from 65.

Smoke and mirrors. "There is a big debate about whether the bar has been lowered over time in ways that inflate the percentage of students that appear to be passing," said sociology professor Jennifer Jennings of New York University. "It's unacceptable that no one really knows whether our schools are getting better."

State officials have already announced that the Board of Regents and the State Education Department plan to review the tests.

The impetus for that review, in part, was due to the fact that four of the schools in the state list of "persistently dangerous schools" got an A from the city, with two others on the list getting a B grade.

Last week, a parent waiting for his child outside a Rockaway school was complaining that his child did not even learn that New York is both a state and a city. She is not learning, for example, what the coming election is all about, or that there are various levels of government. He added that she gets very little social studies or science, but gets test prep classes even though she is reading way above grade level.

"Everything is about the tests, from the first day of school, and the kids feel the pressure," he complained.

He is right. Everything is about the test scores.

Little real education goes on. Ten periods a week of reading, ten periods a week for mathematics and five for test prep; that makes 25 periods out of 35. That leaves a total of 10 periods for everything else - social studies, science, foreign language, music, art, computers, etc.

The Department of Education keeps telling me that everything is fine, that the numbers are all correct, that the mayor has done wonderful things since he took over the system.

That is the biggest lie of all.

Return to top


Email Us
Contact Us

Copyright 1999 - 2014 Wave Publishing Co. All Rights Reserved

Neighborhoods | History