Sunday, November 11, 2007

Accountability Is for the Little People

The NY Times editorial board today took a stand directly opposing the simplistic A-F grading system embraced by Bloomberg and Klein:

...Bloomberg should ditch the simplistic and counterproductive A through F rating system. It boils down the entire shooting match to a single letter grade that does not convey the full weight of this approach and lends itself to tabloid headlines instead of a real look at a school’s problems.

I couldn't agree more. I'd say, though, the "tabloid headline approach" is precisely what's worked for this mayor in the past. Few, if any, of his "reforms" would pass muster if they were examined closely (as they often are by that pesky Diane Ravitch).

In fact, few observers look very deeply, which is why NY "reforms" are emulated all over the country. I just got an email from Pittsburgh, where they're adopting the NY model of 6-12 schools. I don't know about you, but I have a kid in 6th grade, and I would not be altogether keen on having her share a building with some 21-year-old loser working on his sixth high school credit.

A commenter from LA recently wrote that he follows this blog with interest, as idiotic NY "reforms" (like mayoral control) have a way of showing up on the left coast within 6 months of inception here. I speculated they may have sent us Green Dot solely for revenge, but the fact is people all over the country look to Mayor Bloomberg for examples. Ms. Weingarten can claim the new merit pay program is not a merit pay program (and what on earth is the difference between merit pay and performance pay?), but merit pay proponents all over the country can use the UFT's concession as an excuse to use merit pay in their communities.

Typically, there are huge flaws in the mayor's plan:

...people all over the city were understandably skeptical when a high-performing school was given an F and several low-performing schools — those actually on the state’s failing list — were given A’s and B’s.

Beyond that, people who know the growth models well were displeased to learn that New York’s first crack at the system for elementary and middle schools was based on a single year’s test data, instead of the accepted standard of three years.

Yet you won't be hearing those details on the 6 o'clock news, and that's not what people will remember. Mayor Bloomberg no longer needs results to support his programs. He can simply blame all problems on working people, close the schools in which they work and fill them with non-union or union-lite charters, saving a great deal of money for sports stadiums and luxury boxes.

If this mayor truly gave a damn about schools, he'd insist on good teachers, reasonable class sizes, and decent facilities for all the schools. Instead he focuses on cost-cutting nonsense that utterly fails to address the dysfunction in our system and continues to shove public school kids into obscenely overcrowded buildings, often on toxic waste sites. The mayor's priorities are crystal clear.

For the most part, recent critical press notwithstanding, you'd have no clue from the sleepy media.
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