Wednesday, October 03, 2007

An Outside Agency

The NY Times reports today that Mayor Bloomberg and Chancellor Joel Klein have agreed to create an "outside agency" to gather reams of data on New York City’s public schools and analyze the numbers to figure out what works and what does not in schools.

Finally Moneybags and Uncle Joel are going to open up the books to somebody outside of the Bloomberg administration and provide some transparency for the school system.

Finally somebody other than Klein/Moneybags is going to get look at the methodologies of Bloomberg's vaunted city tests and see if the score increases are real or fake.

Finally somebody is going to get to peer into Bloomberg's "reform movement" (three school reorganizations so far in six years) and see what is actually happening with it.

Finally we'll see some accountability from the people running the New York City school system.

Sounds great, right?

Well, not exactly.

You see, the "outside agency" that is being created to track all the school data (God, how Klein and Bloomberg love their data!!!) is full of Bloomberg cronies and other people with vested interests in making sure this "outside agency" only returns positive reports about Bloomberg's reform movement. Plus the agency is being funded by "education reformers" like the Gates Foundation with strong ties to Bloomberg.

Here is how the Times writes it up:

The partnership includes social scientists from New York University, Columbia University’s Teachers College and the City University of New York, who have already begun researching topics like school financing and high school choice.


The New York partnership has received initial financing from private organizations, including the Gates, Carnegie and Spencer foundations.


The governing board includes Schools Chancellor Joel I. Klein; Randi Weingarten, the president of the city teachers’ union; William G. Bowen, the former president of Princeton University; and Robert L. Hughes, the president of New Visions for Public Schools, which has helped start dozens of small high schools in the city.

The Times article does acknowledge that some critics of the partnership have noted that including Klein and Weingarten on the governing board creates a conflict of interest. But then the Times article dismisses that argument by quoting John Q. Easton, a member of a similar education analysis group from Chicago, who says some part of the established education hierarchy has to be present or officials won't buy into the findings after they are published.

But taking a closer look at just who will be doing all the analysis and who will be paying for it, you'd have to say that nearly everybody in this supposed "outside agency" is connected to the school system.

Clearly Klein and Weingarten have vested interests in the outcome. Does anybody really trust what they are going to have to say about the school data?

Then you have Robert L. Hughes, a small schools guy who clearly is going to have a lot of positive things to say about small schools. Does anybody trust him to tell you why large schools are bad?

Then we have the whole thing being funded by "education reform movements" like the Gates Foundation that have already spent millions of dollars to push their small school/charter school agenda. Does anybody trust them to fund honest analysis?

The whole thing is a sham, but of course the Times writes it up uncritically and dismisses the legitimate criticism that this "outside agency" is rigged.

I don't know why they have to even go through all of this dog-and-pony show. Why not just issue the findings now and be done with it?

Let me help. Here is what the report will say when all is said and done:

Bloomberg's reforms are great.
More reform is needed.
Small schools are good, large schools are bad.
The school day needs to be longer.
The school year needs to be longer.
Teacher tenure is bad, merit pay is good.

You know how I figured out what their future report will say?

I went to Edin08, a website funded by many of the same groups funding this "outside agency," that is pushing the above "reform agenda" for the 2008 presidential campaign.

The Edin08 people are putting up at least $60 million to get their agenda across to the public and the presidential candidates and I wouldn't be surprised to find out that this "outside agency" dog-and-pony show taking a look at the New York City school system is also on their expense account.

In any case, when the group finally releases their report, it will be meaningless drivel that will state what I have listed above and the news media, including the NY Times, will by-and-large report the findings uncritically just the way they have reported the creation of the group.

That's the beauty of having "education reform" being run by a billionaire media mogul mayor - he knows how to manipulate the media as masterfully as Andy manipulates Barney Fife every night on the TV Land channel.
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