2010-08-06 / Editorial/Opinion

Where There’s Smoke, There’s Often Fire

The standardized test scores released last week prove what most teachers have known for years and what most parents recently began to suspect – that the mayor’s stewardship of the public school system has been a bust, not the boom that he and his Chancellor, Joel Klein, have crowed about for the past several years. Last week, the state education department finally said what most people already knew. “Now we are facing the hard truth that not all of the gains were as advertised,” said Merryl Tisch, the Chancellor for the State Education Department. “We are finally offering a clear and honest answer to the public to the question, how are our children really doing?” The new testing results showed that more than half of the city’s students were not meeting state standards in reading at the same time that Mayor Michael Bloomberg and his chancellor boasted that more than two-thirds of the students were at grade level. All the proof you need that something is wrong is to look at the smoke – the scores at one local school, PS 42 in Arverne. In 2007, after the state reduced the number of right answers necessary to reach the Levels 3 and 4, the passing levels, 36.1 percent of the school’s students were at those levels. The following year, in 2008, that number jumped to 41.5 percent. In 2009, after the cut score was reduced again, 54.4 percent of the students were at Levels 3 and 4. This year, however, with the score “readjusted” to reality, only 19.7 percent of the same students reached those levels. To add to the debacle, while public school scores fell by 28 percent, students in charter schools showed a 34 percent drop. We must hold our mayor and the other officials at the state and at the city’s Department of Education to answer for the debacle. Were they simply trying to build self-esteem by insuring that everybody scored higher, as some suggest. Or, were they trying to gain political capital by showing how well their stewardship of the public schools was going? Both state and city education officials, as well as the mayor, are going to have to answer that question, and answer it sooner than later before they can once again gain the trust of their constituents.

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