2011-09-23 / Columnists

The Rockaway Beat

Opening Of School Shows Bloomberg’s Failure
Commentary By Howard Schwach

A new school year always brings problems in scheduling and infrastructure, but this year the school opening has put the spotlight on just how much of a failure Mayor Mike Bloomberg’s administration has been since he took over the school system as well as the fact that parents are beginning to understand just how deep that failure is.

A recent poll asked whether or not Bloomberg has improved the quality of public education in New York City. Only 24 percent of the respondents said that they believe that public education is better under Bloomberg. Forty percent say that education is the same and 27 percent say that it is worse.

When the opinion of parents of public school students are counted, only 23 percent say that their kid’s school is better now.

When parents were asked if they are satisfied by the quality of the public schools, only 29 percent said that they were satisfied. A whopping 58 percent said that they were not satisfied.

Parents know what is going on in their schools better than those at the Department of Education and at the editorial boards of the daily papers, two groups that continue to spin the idea that Bloomberg has had a giant positive impact on the schools and it is only the teachers who are dissatisfied and only because they are held to accountability based on test scores.

It is the teachers who have stopped school reform, Bloomberg and his gnomes continue to say, and those statements are parroted by the publishers of the daily papers, who are so far connected to the mayor and his millions that they can’t separate fact from spin.

Spin: Under the mayor, student achievement, as measured by the standardized tests, went up to the point that more than 85 percent of the schools in the city received A’s and B’s on their report cards. It was only after the state “raised the bar” that scores began to drop last year.

Fact: The test scores went up only because the state lowered the cut score – the number of right answers necessary to reach Level 3 – each year. That gave the illusion of rising scores when, in fact, the scores remained stagnant. It was only when the state was embarrassed by the unrealistic scores that it decided to bring the cut score back where it belonged and scores dropped precipitously.

One only has to look at one Rockaway school, Intermediate School 53 in Far Rockaway, a school where I taught for 20 years, to see the scam.

In 2006, after the cut scores were lowered for the second or third time, 29.4 percent of the students were reading on “grade level,” which means Levels 3 and 4. In 2009, after the final drop in the cut scores, 59.7 percent of basically the same kids were reading on that level.

The mayor gloated that he had raised the reading scores 30 percent, when, in fact, he had not.

Then, in 2010, with the cut scores restored to 2002 levels, only 16.4 percent of the students read on Levels 3 and 4. In 2011, it got only worse, with 10.5 percent of the students reading on grade level.

Yet, the daily papers continue to say that the mayor has done wonderful things for the schools. They should visit IS 53 to see what the mayor and his cronies in the state education department, led by an old Bloomberg friend and millionaire named Tisch, have really wrought.

Spin: Graduation rates have risen under the mayor’s program.

Fact: Like the standardized test scores, the rise in graduation rates is illusionary, more smoke and mirrors from the DOE.

Sure, more kids are graduating than ever before, but by all rational standards, many of them do not deserve to graduate and would never have graduated ten years ago.

A recent student by the state shows that only a quarter of those who graduate are ready for either college or the world of work. The other 75 percent are being passed on to further the mayor’s ego and his legacy.

There is one local story that illustrates what is happening.

A student, who shall go nameless here because his parents would be mortified, was way behind in his high school credits and was not slated to graduate with the rest of his class. His failure was all his. He did not show up for class very often, was indolent when he did attend and failed to take many of his class tests.

Yet, he was offered “credit recovery” by his school which, by the way, is not on the peninsula.

He was put into a computer lab with several other students also on a credit recovery program.

He was told to do a report on Pearl Harbor and the impact it had on America. There were no adults in the room, so he simply went to Wikipedia and downloaded the file on Pearl Harbor. He played with it a bit, formatted it, went to some other websites that discussed World War II and how it helped America get out of the Great Depression, printed them out and added them to the main article. Then, he designed a cover, put his name on it and handed it in.

He received an A and all of the credits he needed to graduate for completing a Portfolio Interdisciplinary Report on a major issue and was allowed to graduate.

The whole report took him about an hour and did not require any study or research.

That’s how kids graduate today just to make the mayor and his gnomes look good.

That is what passes for education in this city under Mike Bloomberg.

Scores are down, high school graduation is a fraud, vital schools are being closed to create failing smaller schools, class size is rising and all the money is going to testing and monitoring the scores.

The teachers know the real story and so do the parents. It is time for somebody to wake up and tell the story of what Bloomberg has done to the once-proud public schools.

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