I don't want to rewrite what I wrote last week about how the statistics in New York City high schools are basically as phony as a three dollar bill in many schools and have been for a long time. We called for a truth commission to expose what has gone on since school reform began under former Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
More evidence came out in four related NY Post articles the last few days. In one, the Post found a student to admit that she did not deserve to have passed a class that she needed for high school graduation. They called this a student's stunning plea. As I was walking through the city Monday, I came upon a newsstand and saw the Post's front page headline on schools. In the story, a teacher said giving kids passing grades is just about making the school look good and we teachers are pressured to pass em all. Last night the Post continued the onslaught, as if they had discovered gold, as they interviewed other teachers about undeserving pupils who pass. I'd like to send a memo to the NY Post: this is old news. It's been going on for years. The Post even covered transcript fixing in the past.
There is nothing surprising about this pupil or the school where it happened, Bryant High School, As long as there are high stakes for principals and teachers attached to student graduation and passing rates, games are going to be played in multiple schools to get the students to graduate. Some are legal and some are not. The goal of education today is to graduate the students, not to educate them in too many instances. The kids do receive an education about how they don't have to meet much of any standards to graduate and thus some pupils don't do much. Can you blame them?
The Post just discovered this! I have news for their editorial board that wants to fire Chancellor Carmen Fariña: pressure to pass students at all costs went on during Mayor Michael Bloomberg's years just as much if not more than under the current regime of Mayor Bill de Blasio and Fariña. It is just a continuation of bad policy. I found something from blogger Chaz dating back to 2006 complaining about social promotion of eighth graders. The Post editorial board is very late to this dance.
By threatening schools with receivership (where principals and teachers can be replaced) or renewal and labeling them struggling, persistently struggling or God only knows what else, the problem of administrators trying to manipulate data is going to continue as adults do what they have to in order to protect their livelihoods. The elite of this city can bring in as many investigators, prosecutors and reporters as they want but someone is still going to find a way to play the game to make themselves look good and most will find ways to do it legally.
We all know that student test results are well beyond teacher control for the most part but this doesn't matter to the power elite in this country that has for the most part given up on public schools and quite probably would be elated to see our schools fail.
Manipulating numbers is the inevitable result of tying teacher and principal ratings to student performance. Many students are not interested in school and when they find out educators will take the blame if they fail, they play the game to their advantage.
The best way to stop the statistical hocus-pocus would be for the UFT and CSA (principal and assistant principal union) to tell the Mayor we are no longer going to play the numbers game. Instead, we would encourage members to expose everything that is occurring and has occurred in numerous schools throughout the system since school reform took hold when Joel Klein was Chancellor.
I'm glad to see that Perdido Street School on Sunday linked to my brother Professor John Eterno's work showing that crime numbers were not on the level for a long time just like school statistics. Perdido is correct that de Blasio is being judged totally differently than Bloomberg on crime. De Blasio now has a real opportunity to work with the unions to expose the numbers game. He has only been in office for a year and a half so he can still plausibly claim he inherited this problem and he is going to solve it. This would give him a built in reason to explain why the statistics aren't so good that will work for a while. Make the story the integrity of the numbers and not improvement of statistics. He can actually then be the champion of unions that he is accused of being, but in reality he has not been, since taking office.
De Blasio attempting to do Bloomberg lite on data more than likely will not succeed. The most probable response to the Bryant kid who didn't attend class much but still passed will be to say it is an isolated incident and then condemn one or two people who will take the fall. The Post will then go scouting for the next school where unhappy employees will blow the whistle and it will go on and on. Better to get out in front of this and put the blame where it belongs on school reform and the whole test the kids and punish the educators evaluation system now in place. If de Blasio doesn't change course, we can pretty much be certain the press will not relent because some of the media seem to have an agenda to bring him down.
When Police Commissioner Bill Bratton says overall crime is down, it is the second part of the story now. The first part is murders are increasing. The media is going to jump on every report they can find where grades have been played with and every shooting is going to be a front page headline to make de Blasio look bad.
In the schools, silence from our union because they love the mayor and chancellor is just going to encourage teachers to go rogue and report incidents anyway. The UFT and CSA leadership would probably wish for everything to be swept under the rug. I've got news for the mayor, chancellor and union leadership: you are not going to convince many teachers to play nice when too many principals are hammering teachers over the head every day. It's easier to enforce silence in a para-military agency like the Police Department.
The 2016 presidential election will probably dominate the political news in New York for the next year and change. However, after November 2016, all political eyes in NYC will turn to the 2017 mayoral race. Does anyone believe de Blasio's budget surpluses are going to garner huge headlines? No, it will be the negative news.
To further emphasize how accentuating de Blasio's negatives has already begun, AM New York has an editorial that is justifiably critical of de Blasio for breaking his promise on lowering class size. Has lower class size traditionally been a big media editorial issue? In 2017 schools will be a big reelection issue and the press will use de Blasio's broken promise on lower class size, the failure of Renewal Schools, or if they succeed, cheating in Renewal Schools, or maybe a combination of failure and cheating, to clobber him.
The UFT's strategy will probably be to tell teachers to look the other way as the numbers game is played in the schools. This might not work as planned as the press along with frustrated teachers may blow the whistle all over the place. This could be one factor leading to a right wing Democrat or a Republican being elected to City Hall.
I would rather see a union course correction now which is why this blog called for a truth commission that goes back to the Bloomberg years. We could call for it throughout the city agencies.
Note one more time how the Post didn't call it a scandal and demand Chancellor Joel Klein's resignation when it was revealed how transcripts were blatantly changed to give kids credit at Jamaica High School in 2010 when Bloomberg was mayor, nor did they scream and yell for heads to roll after other incidents from the Bloomberg era. The current mayor is scored very differently. Why not call them on it using union power?
I realize a push to end the game and challenge the very tenets of school reform is a very risky proposition for a politician or unions to take but this is a real chance to shine the light on what is really happening inside many schools under so called education reform.
You got a better idea, I'm so all ears. (I stole that line from a Mitch Easter song so credit where it is due.)