Sunday, April 12, 2009

The Education Agenda

It's fairly clear what's going on in this country. The priorities of billionaires like NYC Mayor-for-Life Michael Bloomberg have come to the forefront, our money goes to bail out the rich, and as usual, working people can move to the rear. Nowhere is this more clear than in the mayor's naked power grab, overturning the term limits New Yorkers twice affirmed at the polls. But it's also undeniable that Education Secretary Arne Duncan shills for mayoral control, saying, "I've got the figures right in front of me."

And like a good number of the sloths that populate our press corps, Mr. Duncan can't be bothered to fact-check the same doctored figures Bloomberg's been feeding the tabloids for years. And I have a strong suspicion Mr. Duncan will make it a point not to read Diane Ravitch's op-ed in the NY Times, which addresses his lack of curiosity in no uncertain terms:
There were no significant gains for New York City’s students — black, Hispanic, white, Asian or lower-income — in fourth-grade reading, eighth-grade reading or eighth-grade mathematics. In fourth-grade math, pupils showed significant gains (although the validity of this is suspect because an unusually large proportion — 25 percent — of students were given extra time and help). The federal test reported no narrowing of the achievement gap between white students and minority students.

The city’s Department of Education belittles the federal test scores and focuses on the assessments given by New York State. And, indeed, the state scores have soared in recent years, not only in the city but also across New York state However, the statewide scores on the N.A.E.P. are as flat as New York City’s. Our state tests are, unfortunately, exemplars of grade inflation.

And it stands to reason that if mayoral control were indeed the greatest thing since sliced bread, the state scores would have soared even higher when magic of mayoral control was applied. But no such luck. Fortunately for mayoral control supporters, Duncan can't be bothered thinking such things through. So he, along with the new President, can prance about singing the praises of charter schools, where teachers have no unions, and do more work for less pay, thus setting an example for our children.

Closer to home, the newest source for education reporting is Gotham Schools, which hopes to covince doubters (like me) that it doesn't have an agenda focusing on charter schools at the expense of public schools. Typically, that piece is preceded by one about charter boss Eva Moskowitz, another about charter school funding, an invidious comparison of a charter school and a public school, and of course yet another on Gotham's big scoop. the shocking revelation that the perfidious teacher union wishes to influence local politics.

Is Gotham biased? To be fair, it presents both praise and criticism--but if you bother to check, the criticism comes from two working teachers, while the praise is from a charter school organization and a long-time critic of teacher unions.

If I want to know everything that's happening in the world of union-busting charter schools, I know exactly where to go. But the fact is there's life outside Manhattan, the overwhelming majority of public schools are not charters, and there are stories every day about how the billionaire agenda hurts kids like the ones I see all the time.

You won't hear them from Mike Bloomberg or Arne Duncan. Frankly, they're notoriously absent from Gotham Charter Schools as well.
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