City University Officials Find 80 Percent of New York High School Graduates Cannot Meet Basic Reading, Writing, and Math Skills

CUNY_logo_-_blue_cubeThe City University community college system released a shocking statistic last week that roughly 80 percent of New York City high school graduates fall below proficient levels of reading, writing, and math and must take remedial courses before starting any classes.

It is the latest disclosure of our school system that shows how we are creating a lost generation of kids in a sub-standard educational system. It is a disgrace that the vast majority of kids going into the community college system would not have the most basic skills required of graduates. It shows how our schools are often churning out students and “making the numbers” — and failing our students.

Nearly 11,000 kids who came from city high schools needed remedial courses to re-learn the basics.

This should be seen as a far greater threat to our national security than terrorism or economic pressures. We are educating a population that simply cannot compete on a large scale with other nations that put greater effort and support behind education. Worse yet, we are widening the gulf between classes in our society of those people who are highly educated and affluent and those who are left with a remedial level of education. The failure in our school system has now shifted basic learning to the college level. Notably, many kids never go to college, so they are left without even remedial education.

We remain a country that maintains the highest level of war-making capabilities while disregarding the low performance levels of our schools. It is a trend that can only lead to problems in the future. We will become the world’s soldiers while other nations take the lead in science and the economy. This is not to say that we do not have a highly educated elite. However, we have a large unskilled and barely educated population going into a world that demands greater and greater sophistication in the workforce.

Source: CBS

44 thoughts on “City University Officials Find 80 Percent of New York High School Graduates Cannot Meet Basic Reading, Writing, and Math Skills

  1. More money, more money, more money is the endless cry, yet more money is not the cure. In western NY, voters approve almost every increase in school taxes. Every year school taxes increase. The suburban schools churn out rote robots and the city schools churn out barely functional “graduates”. The education industrial complex does not need more money, which usually goes to grossly overpaid superintendents and administration officials, pro-like sports facilities and other extravagant props. Responsible parenting, which includes some sort of remedial discipline, which is in very short supply in most city or suburban school districts, is key to any turnaround. The education industrial complex works hand in hand with lousy parenting; both are feeding off each other’s dysfunction.

  2. We are not creating a “lost generation”. No, indeed. We are creating another lost generation. But why should we care? The Dow is on a record high, the Nanny State is on the run back to Loserville (aka poor, downtrodden Scandinavia), and Public Education can go hang.

  3. shocking statistic?!? Not really, after seeing people on TV like the Jay Walking segments…and then we have the voters that elect some of these morons in office…

    Gonna get worse before it gets better…

  4. Don’t worry NY mayor Bloomberg and his possible successor Ms. Quinn have the answer: more and bigger tax breaks and subsidies for billionaire developers to build bigger and bigger and more luxurious buildings under the guise of affordable housing. “We don’t need no education.” What we need is more tax breaks for billionaires!

  5. Justice Holmes,

    Let us not forget Joel Klein. He was chancellor of the New York City school system for more than eight years for Mayor Michael Bloomberg. He now makes lots of money working for Rupert Murdoch’s education company.


    The reform movement is already failing
    By Diane Ravitch
    August 23, 2011

    In my nearly four decades as a historian of education, I have analyzed the rise and fall of reform movements. Typically, reforms begin with loud declarations that our education system is in crisis. Throughout the twentieth century, we had a crisis almost every decade. After persuading the public that we are in crisis, the reformers bring forth their favored proposals for radical change. The radical changes are implemented in a few sites, and the results are impressive. As their reforms become widespread, they usually collapse and fail. In time, those who have made a career of educating children are left with the task of cleaning up the mess left by the last bunch of reformers.

    We are in the midst of the latest wave of reforms, and Steven Brill has positioned himself as the voice of the new reformers. These reforms are not just flawed, but actually dangerous to the future of American education. They would, if implemented, lead to the privatization of a large number of public schools and to the de-professionalization of education.

    As Brill’s book shows, the current group of reformers consists of an odd combination of Wall Street financiers, conservative Republican governors, major foundations, and the Obama administration. The reformers believe that the way to “fix” our schools is to fire more teachers, based on the test scores of their students; to open more privately-managed charter schools; to reduce the qualifications for becoming a teacher; and to remove job protections for senior teachers.

    The reformers say that our schools are failing and point to international test scores; they don’t seem to know that American students have never done well on international tests. When the international tests were first launched in the 1960s, our students ranked near the bottom. Obviously these tests do not predict the future economic success of a nation because we as a nation have prospered despite our mediocre performance on international tests over the past half century.

    The last international test results were released in December. Our students ranked about average, and our leading policymakers treated the results as a national scandal. But here is a curious fact: low-poverty U.S. schools (where fewer than 10% of the students were poor) had scores that were higher than those of the top nations in the world. In schools where as many as 25% of the students were poor, the scores were equal to those of Finland, Japan and Korea. As the poverty rate of the schools rose, the schools’ performance declined.

    An objective observer would conclude that the problem in this society has to do with our shamefully high rates of child poverty, the highest in the developed world. At least 20% of U.S. children live in poverty. Among black children, the poverty rate is 35%.

    Reformers like to say — as they did in the film “Waiting for ‘Superman’” — that we spend too much and that poverty doesn’t matter. They say that teacher effectiveness is all that matters. They claim that children who have three “great” or “effective” teachers in a row will close the achievement gap between the races. They say that experience doesn’t matter. They believe that charter schools, staffed by tireless teachers, can close the gap in test scores.

    Unfortunately, research does not support any of their claims.

    Take the matter of charter schools. The definitive national study of charters was conducted by Stanford University economist Margaret Raymond and financed by the pro-charter Walton Family Foundation and the Dell Foundation. After surveying half the nation’s 5,000 charter schools, the study concluded that only 17% got better test results than a demographically similar traditional public school; 37% got worse results, and the remaining 46% were no different from the matched public school. An eight-state study by the Rand Corporation found no differences in results between charter and regular public schools. On federal tests, students in charter schools and regular public schools perform about the same.

    The overwhelming majority of charter schools are non-union. They can hire and fire teachers at will, and teacher attrition at charter schools is higher than in regular public schools. Many studies have shown that charters have a disproportionately small number of students with disabilities or students who don’t speak English. Yet, despite these structural advantages, they don’t get better results. Furthermore, right-to-work states where unions are weak or non-existent don’t lead the nation in academic achievement; most are middling or at the bottom on federal tests. Brill simply refuses to acknowledge these inconvenient facts because the charter movement is a central part of the “reform” claims.

  6. America’s Poverty-Education Link
    By Howard Steven Friedman, Statistician/Economist for International Organization, Columbia University
    Posted: 08/29/2012

    Poverty and education are inextricably linked where education is a primary means of social mobility, enabling those born into poverty to rise in society. Powerful evidence of the link include the fact that 46 percent of Americans who grew up in low-income families but failed to earn college degrees stayed in the lowest income quintile, compared to 16 percent for those who earned a college degree.

    The link between poverty and education can be seen at all educational levels. From the earliest stage, pre-primary education, poorer Americans start disadvantaged. Children of parents earning less than $15,000 a year have pre-primary enrollment rates about 20 percent lower than children of parents earning more than $50,000 a year. This pre-school disadvantage for poor people has far-reaching impacts, since students who participated in preschool education were 31 percent less likely to repeat a grade and 32 percent less likely to drop out of high school. Additionally, pre-primary education reduces crime rates where children who were randomly chosen from a low-income neighborhood to attend preschool were shown to have one-fifth the chance of becoming chronic criminal offenders as the matched control group.

    The educational disadvantage of those poorer students continues as they grow older. Less than 10 percent of school revenue comes from the federal government while about 90 percent comes from the state and local governments. As a result, school funding varies from state to state, and funding within a state also tends to be unequal. As of 2006, schools with the highest poverty rates received on average nearly $1,000 less per student than schools with the lowest rates, and in some states like New York and Illinois, this gap is more than $2,000 per student.

    The locally driven funding (and its resulting funding gap) causes poorer students to have even more learning disadvantages. Top teachers are more likely to gravitate toward the schools that pay the most, offer the best facilities, present the safest working environments, and provide the most advanced learning environments. Consequently, poorer students are far more likely to encounter uncertified teachers, fewer resources, and substandard facilities. In the 1970s and 1980s, courts in ten states found that public education funding was unconstitutional. Corresponding court-ordered changes in state funding closed the achievement gap in states required to make changes, while the achievement gap persists in states where no such order was forthcoming.

    The resulting educational disadvantage to the American poor is apparent in cross-country exams such as the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) exam. In this exam, the United States placed average to below average versus other developed countries in reading, science, and math, but these averages mask the influence of poverty.

    The average American PISA reading score for higher-income schools exceeded that of all other developed countries while the average score for lower-income American schools was far lower. In fact, the PISA scores by America students were more influenced by their parents’ backgrounds than every other OECD country. American students who move up one socioeconomic level would earn on average 60 points more in science, while students in other developed countries who did the same would gain fewer than 40 more PISA points. While it is not surprising to learn that wealthier students outperform poorer students, this extremely large disparity in performance among American students is of great concern because of what it implies about social mobility.

  7. The Roman philosophy was ‘give ’em bread and give ’em a circus’ – that’s what’s been done here over decades. What has television done but be a baby sitter for parent too busy to raise their children – or even care to do so. Let the nanny state do it. With tax breaks for the wealthy and an uneducated working class, the middle class has taken the financial hit.

    Dumbing down the population doesn’t result in the ability to sustain world leadership. It would seem some of our politicians are products of the public education system.

  8. U.S. Schools Have a Poverty Crisis, Not an Education Crisis
    By Michael Rebell & Jessica Wolff
    Posted: 02/1/2012

    In the 10 years since enacting the No Child Left Behind Act, we have made very little progress toward our national goal of closing the achievement gap between students from low-income families and their better-off peers. Implicitly acknowledging this lack of progress, President Obama announced last fall that his administration would grant states waivers that would, among other things, give them more time to meet the law’s goals. More time won’t help, however, unless the Obama administration and Congress acknowledge the most glaring flaw in NCLB and the educational policies of most states — their failure to recognize and mitigate the enormous impact of poverty on the chances for the school success of millions of American schoolchildren.

    In America, we don’t have an education crisis; rather we have a poverty crisis. The latest Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) scores indicate that American schools that serve few low-income students rank higher than the world’s top-scoring advanced industrial countries. But when they are averaged with the scores of schools with high poverty rates, the United States sinks to the middle of the pack. At nearly 22 percent and rising, the child-poverty rate in the United States is the highest among wealthy nations in the world. (Poverty rates in Denmark and in Finland, top global performers on the PISA exams, are below 5 percent). In New York City, the child-poverty rate rose to over 30 percent in 2010. Like other aspects of the inequitable U.S. distribution of wealth, our child poverty crisis seems to fall within a national blind spot.

    Childhood poverty has a profound impact on learning. Achievement gaps for disadvantaged children begin before they start school and widen throughout their school careers. But research shows that change is possible.

    Most non-poor students in this country come to school equipped with the basics for success. They arrive with the preschool experiences they need to be ready for grade-level work; their health and mental-health needs are largely being met; they enjoy a range of both academic and nonacademic learning experiences beyond the school day that complement what they learn in class; and they receive the family support that ensures they are motivated and prepared to learn during the school day. Children raised in poverty cannot count on these advantages. As a result, too many are unprepared, inattentive, or chronically absent.

  9. Class Matters. Why Won’t We Admit It?
    Published: December 11, 2011

    Durham, N.C.

    NO one seriously disputes the fact that students from disadvantaged households perform less well in school, on average, than their peers from more advantaged backgrounds. But rather than confront this fact of life head-on, our policy makers mistakenly continue to reason that, since they cannot change the backgrounds of students, they should focus on things they can control.

    No Child Left Behind, President George W. Bush’s signature education law, did this by setting unrealistically high — and ultimately self-defeating — expectations for all schools. President Obama’s policies have concentrated on trying to make schools more “efficient” through means like judging teachers by their students’ test scores or encouraging competition by promoting the creation of charter schools. The proverbial story of the drunk looking for his keys under the lamppost comes to mind.

    The Occupy movement has catalyzed rising anxiety over income inequality; we desperately need a similar reminder of the relationship between economic advantage and student performance.

    The correlation has been abundantly documented, notably by the famous Coleman Report in 1966. New research by Sean F. Reardon of Stanford University traces the achievement gap between children from high- and low-income families over the last 50 years and finds that it now far exceeds the gap between white and black students.

    Data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress show that more than 40 percent of the variation in average reading scores and 46 percent of the variation in average math scores across states is associated with variation in child poverty rates.

    International research tells the same story. Results of the 2009 reading tests conducted by the Program for International Student Assessment show that, among 15-year-olds in the United States and the 13 countries whose students outperformed ours, students with lower economic and social status had far lower test scores than their more advantaged counterparts within every country. Can anyone credibly believe that the mediocre overall performance of American students on international tests is unrelated to the fact that one-fifth of American children live in poverty?

    Yet federal education policy seems blind to all this. No Child Left Behind required all schools to bring all students to high levels of achievement but took no note of the challenges that disadvantaged students face. The legislation did, to be sure, specify that subgroups — defined by income, minority status and proficiency in English — must meet the same achievement standard. But it did so only to make sure that schools did not ignore their disadvantaged students — not to help them address the challenges they carry with them into the classroom.

    So why do presumably well-intentioned policy makers ignore, or deny, the correlations of family background and student achievement?

    Some honestly believe that schools are capable of offsetting the effects of poverty. Others want to avoid the impression that they set lower expectations for some groups of students for fear that those expectations will be self-fulfilling. In both cases, simply wanting something to be true does not make it so.

    Another rationale for denial is to note that some schools, like the Knowledge Is Power Program charter schools, have managed to “beat the odds.” If some schools can succeed, the argument goes, then it is reasonable to expect all schools to. But close scrutiny of charter school performance has shown that many of the success stories have been limited to particular grades or subjects and may be attributable to substantial outside financing or extraordinarily long working hours on the part of teachers. The evidence does not support the view that the few success stories can be scaled up to address the needs of large populations of disadvantaged students.

    A final rationale for denying the correlation is more nefarious. As we are now seeing, requiring all schools to meet the same high standards for all students, regardless of family background, will inevitably lead either to large numbers of failing schools or to a dramatic lowering of state standards. Both serve to discredit the public education system and lend support to arguments that the system is failing and needs fundamental change, like privatization.

  10. It is far worse than this. Listen to the oral arguments from the US Supreme Court on CSPAN. Six of those Justices hail from NYC- Scalia, Ginsburg, Alito, Sotomayor, Kagan and Breyer. Listen to their speech. 33rd Street and Third Avenue is pronounced “Turdy turd and a turd”. You cant fix a place like that! If you own a business somewhere in the world and you get an applicant who speaks like that and hails from NYC, think twice unless the job is shoveling coal. You certainly do not want them in a job where th public hears them speak or where they must read, write, add or subtract. Take Jay Leno for example. Why that guy is on national television is left to the imagination. Even late at night it is is disgracefull to America. And that Congressman King. Can anyone understand him? They are so snobby and look down their noses at anything West or South of Jersey. Strange beasts.

  11. Having spent years visiting poverty stricken family’s at home in NYC, the truth is that children of poverty enter the school system far behind those with higher incomes. They are generally segregated into school districts where their peers come from the same income level. The difference in equipment between the economically distressed and economically privileged school districts is huge. Finally, the NYC Mayoralty has been held for almost 20 years by two men who have serviced the wealthy plutocrats and disdained the less affluent. The current one Bloomberg, is an advocate of privatizing schools and has gratuitously kept attacking the teacher’s union there.

    Finally, my years with NYC taught me the valuable lesson that whenever “shocking” reports/studies are publicized, they are usually being used to promote an agenda and one should be very suspicious of the statistical validity of what is being presented.

  12. NY principals: A ‘wrecking ball’ of reform aimed at schools
    By Valerie Strauss
    Posted 04/25/2012

    This is an open letter that a group of New York principals sent this week to the New York State Board of Regents about school reform and the standardized testing regime. More than 1,400 New York State principals have signed a petition asking state education officials to rethink their reform agenda. You can read about that effort at and @nyprincipals on Twitter.

    An Open Letter of Concern Regarding High-Stakes Testing and the School Reform Agenda of New York State

    The past week has been a nightmare for New York students in Grades 3 through 8, their teachers and their principals. Not only were the New York State ELA [English Language Arts] exams too long and exhausting for young students, (three exams of 90 minutes each), they contained ambiguous questions that cannot be answered with assurance, problems with test booklet instructions, inadequate space for students to write essays, and reading comprehension passages that defy commonsense. In addition, the press reported a passage that relied on knowledge of sounds and music which hearing-impaired students could not answer and Newsday reported that students were mechanically ‘filling in bubbles’ due to exhaustion. Certainly the most egregious example of problems with the tests is the now infamous passage about the Hare and the Pineapple.

    On Friday, Commissioner King offered no apologies in what appeared to be a hastily written press release regarding the Hare and the Pineapple passage. In that release, Commissioner King faults the media for not printing the complete passage (many did), and passes the buck by noting that a committee of teachers reviewed the passage. In short, he distances the State Education Department from its responsibility to get the tests right. Considering the rigor and length of the exams, as well as their use in the evaluation of educators and schools, one might have hoped that the State Education Department and Pearson would have reviewed the tests with more care.

    For many of us, however, this is but the latest bungle in the so-called school reform movement in New York State. More than 1,400 New York State principals have repeatedly begged the department to slow down, pilot thoughtful change and avoid using student test scores as high-stakes measures. The recent ELA test debacle was foreseeable to those of us who lead schools and know from experience that you cannot make so many drastic changes to curriculum, assessment and educator evaluation in a short period of time, especially without listening to those who lead schools. The literature on leadership is clear. Effective leadership is about the development of followership. If truth be told, however, there are fewer and fewer followers of this State Education Department every day. The Pineapple, like the ‘plane being built in the air’, is now a symbol of the careless implementation of a reform agenda that will cost billions of dollars, without yielding the promised school improvement.

    There are many who disparage our public schools in New York State. Although we acknowledge that improvements are needed, there is also much of which we are proud. We are proud of our tradition of New York State Regents examinations. We are proud that New York State students are second in the nation in taking Advanced Placement exams. We are proud of our Intel winners and the number of New York high schools on national lists of excellence. We are proud that our schools are second in the nation according to a comprehensive analysis of policy and performance conducted by the research group, Quality Counts.

    We also know that too many of our schools are racially and socio-economically isolated with overwhelming numbers of students who receive little opportunity and support in their communities as well as in their schools. We cannot ignore deep-seated social problems while blindly believing that new tests, data warehousing systems and unproven evaluation systems are the answer. That view, in our opinion, is irresponsible and unethical.

    This ill-conceived Race to the Top, recently critiqued by the National School Boards Association, is no more sensible than the race of the Hare and the Pineapple. Yet the New York State Education Department continues to enthusiastically push its agenda. Our schools are faced with contradictory and incomplete directives regarding high-stakes testing and evaluation, our teachers are humiliated by the thought of publicized evaluation numbers and our students are stressed by the unnecessary testing that has consumed precious learning time.

  13. The Shame of “School Reform” in New York City
    By Diane Ravitch
    April 27, 2012

    Once again, a large group of New York City public schools will close their doors, their staffs will be fired and replaced, and new schools will open. Among the schools that will be closed are Flushing High School, reputed to be the oldest school in the city, and John Dewey High School, once highly regarded for its progressivism but now burdened by a steady influx of low-performing students. (

    Some schools were saved by last-minute expressions of interest by the Borough President of Queens, Helen Marshall, and the chair of the State Assembly Education Committee, Cathy Nolan, which apparently sufficed to save Grover Cleveland High School in their borough.

    As the closing of “failing” schools becomes an annual ritual, along with the opening of brand-new schools (some of which will eventually join the ranks of “failing” schools), it is time to ask about where accountability truly lies.

    I wonder if it ever occurs to anyone in the New York City Department of Education that their own policies of closing schools and shuffling low-performing students around like checker pieces on a checker board have actually created “failing” schools. Every time they close a large high school with large numbers of low-performing students, those students are then pushed off into another large high school (like Dewey) that is doomed to “fail.”

    Why doesn’t the leadership of the DOE ever take responsibility for helping schools that have disproportionate numbers of students who enter ninth grade with low test scores, including students with disabilities, homeless students, and students who are English language learners? Their methods of “reform” look like 52-pickup: Just throw the cards in the air and hope that somehow you come up with a winning hand.

    Instead of providing resources, technical support, extra staff, or whatever the school needs to help students, the DOE declares that the school is “failing.”

    Mayor Bloomberg took control of the schools in 2002. His reforms were put in place in September 2003. We are now in the ninth year of mayoral control with no checks or balances. The students in the “failing” schools started school when the Mayor was in charge. At what point can we say that the Mayor’s reforms have worked? Every time a school fails, the responsibility and accountability belong to the New York City Department of Education, which proves each time that it has no idea how to help schools improve.

    No wonder that New York City voters (and public school parents) expressed their dissatisfaction with the Mayor’s policies in the latest poll. New Yorkers are tired of the parade of school closings and openings. (

    Accountability starts at the top. If school officials don’t know how to help schools, they should get out of the way and stop wrecking what is left of the public school system.

  14. Well Roves education reform works wonders…. Keep em dumb and they vote republican…..

    You sure that this is not a national edema…

  15. AY i think it’s demicratic most large city mayors are democrats as are members of the city school boards.

  16. Joel Klein’s job with Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. a sellout of everything he supposedly stood for
    Thursday, November 11, 2010

    Say it ain’t so, Joel!

    Tell me you’re not really stepping down as schools chancellor in the middle of the academic year to become a token Democrat in what truly is a vast right-wing conspiracy.

    Tell me you are not signing on with a corporation that contributed $1.25 million to Republicans who consider school-funding cuts only necessary and tax cuts for the rich vital.

    In taking the job with News Corp., Klein actually said, “I’ve long admired News Corporation’s entrepreneurial spirit and Rupert Murdoch’s fearless commitment to innovation.”

    What is Klein talking about, entrepreneurial spirit such as peddling the conservative agenda, at times with willful ignorance? Fearless commitment such as giving that $1.25 million to the Republican Governors Association? The association’s poster boy is New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, the Jason of school-budget slashing.

    Klein also went on to say, “I am excited for the opportunity to be part of this team.”

    The team including Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity and Bill O’Reilly. Oh, yeah, and Karl Rove, who helped guide the nation into disaster while at the Bush White House and uses a faux grass-roots movement funded by billionaires to blame President Obama.

    Klein added, “And to have the chance to bring the same spirit of innovation to the burgeoning education marketplace.”

    Not education. The educational marketplace. That means making money off school kids in times of budget cuts.

    In the meantime, the chancellor’s job goes to Cathie Black, who is said by the mayor to be a world-class manager, but has no experience as an educator.

    Think of the public reaction if Bloomberg appointed a police commissioner who had no law enforcement background. Think of what it means to real educators when you say that running the schools is just a question of management, only with the widgets being kids instead of magazines

  17. “In taking the job with News Corp., Klein actually said, “I’ve long admired News Corporation’s entrepreneurial spirit and Rupert Murdoch’s fearless commitment to innovation.”

    We know what Joel Klein, the only question is his price.

  18. Dear Jonathan,

    Have you ever read this? I think this is the most enlightening article I’m ever read on public education.

    ** 09/2003 Harper’s Magazine.
    * John Taylor Gatto is a former New York State and New York City Teacher of the Year and the author, most recently, of The Underground History of American Education. He was a participant in the Harper’s Magazine forum “School on a Hill,” which appeared in the September 2001 issue. You can find his web site here.

    Then you might like to reconsider home schooling using the Internet. Also…Ron Paul’s ideas.

    Richard Trinko

  19. Bruce,

    When using titleIX funds….. It does not matter who is mayor, governor or whatever else…. School deform started with W….

  20. AY You mean when W instituted no child left behind? Trying to make the schools edcuate children. W’s wife was a school teacher. It seems all the school boards want is more money. The schools are becoming a baby sitting organization, In L.A. they recently laid off a teacher but kept funding an after school program so the kids wouldn’t be running the streets unsupervised.

  21. Bruce,

    You mean the unfunded mandate…. Yeah see how that works….. Then why is Texas trying to opt out if its such a good thing?

  22. Left….right….. People are wasting precious time arguing partisan nonsense while we are ALL being stripped of our rights, by both the Left AND Right

  23. “Finally, my years with NYC taught me the valuable lesson that whenever “shocking” reports/studies are publicized, they are usually being used to promote an agenda and one should be very suspicious of the statistical validity of what is being presented.” (Mike S.)

    Requiring students to take remedial courses is also a great moneymaker. I have heard many legitimate complaints from students about this practice.

  24. Blouise,

    The “shocking” reports/test results are published–but no one ever investigates to find out the real reasons underlying the problems. The new corporate-led school reform suggest we treat the symptoms of and not the actual disease. That’s because folks like Murdoch hope to make lots of money in education reform with their costly “fixes.”

  25. NYC School Reform, Bloomberg-Style: Taking Care of Business?
    by Michelle Chen
    Published on Saturday, November 13, 2010 by In These Times

    The New York City school system may be short on textbooks and qualified teachers, but it does feature a big, shiny revolving door. Through this entryway, education moguls flow freely between the city’s gilded corporate enclaves and its pauperized classrooms.

    To continue this tradition, Mayor Michael Bloomberg has tapped Cathleen Black, chair of Hearst Magazines, to succeed the outgoing Joel Klein as schools chancellor. The three boast similar corporate-media pedigrees. Bloomberg was a media magnate before his wealth catapulted him into a (legally precarious) three-term reign at Gracie Mansion. Klein was a business lawyer with no background in education when picked for the post.

    The Klein-Bloomberg team (along with D.C. counterpart Michelle Rhee and Obama’s education chief Arne Duncan) garnered national headlines with its scorched-earth brand of reform, which dovetails neatly with the liberal elite save-our-schools crusade, fueled by free-market ideology and philanthropic dollars. Bloomberg and Klein pummeled schools with a slew of “entrepreneurial” top-down shake-ups that sought to shutter “failing” schools, seek “accountability” through testing, and inject new ideological blood into powerful principal positions.

    Embattled union teachers bristled at these changes, seeing Bloomberg and Klein as out of touch with their day-to-day challenges. Moreover, advocates attacked the administration’s coddling of controversial, often overhyped charter schools as an effort to undermine and privatize public schools and constrain unions. But there was little recourse, as the system had few checks aside from a stacked panel that critics saw as little more than a rubber stamp for the Mayor.

    Klein’s approach privileged corporate managerial prowess and downgrades the thankless work of teaching long division and iambic pantameter. Did it pay off? Today, the yawning racial gap in academic performance remains massive. Test scores Bloomberg once touted have been revised downward under a new assessment by the state, which has jolted many schools with a drop from previously distorted grades.

    Now the city has hired a media executive to heal the school’s political, economic and ethnic fissures. Activists have already derided Black’s private-school background and what appears to be her unabashed cluelessness. She recently pleaded for “patience as I get up to speed on all of the issues facing K-through-12 education today.” Unfortunately, patience is one virtue New Yorkers do not possess in abundance when dealing with opaque school officials.

    Yet in the wake of Klein’s reform blitzkrieg, students, teachers and parents are wary not to endorse rash change just for change’s sake. What’s missing from the reform equation isn’t momentum, it’s a community-wide deliberation on how to create an environment for meaningful learning and developing intellectual confidence.

    Black will step into a battleground of school reform fraught with competing union and mayoral agendas, litigation over school closures, slashed budgets and brain-choking standardized tests. The actual experience of learning may well get lost once again in the din of partisan bickering.

    To progressive-minded teachers, there’s no magic reform bullet, and that’s the delusion that got so many public schools into trouble. The solution starts with following the wisdom of responsible, and responsive, educators who know how a school functions: how to keep a kid’s attention for 45 minutes straight, how to defuse a playground fight, how to speak to parents about a boy’s lackluster report card, or fight for more resources when the supply cabinet goes empty again.

  26. The Limits of School Reform
    Published: April 25, 2011

    I find myself haunted by a 13-year-old boy named Saquan Townsend. It’s been more than two weeks since he was featured in The New York Times Magazine, yet I can’t get him out of my mind.

    The article, by Jonathan Mahler, was about the heroic efforts of Ramón González, the principal of M.S. 223, a public middle school in the South Bronx, to make his school a place where his young charges can get a decent education and thus, perhaps, a better life. Surprisingly, though, González is not aligned with the public school reform movement, even though one of the movement’s leading lights, Joel Klein, was until fairly recently his boss as the head of the New York City school system.

    Instead, González comes across as a skeptic, wary of the enthusiasm for, as the article puts it, “all of the educational experimentation” that took place on Klein’s watch. At its core, the reform movement believes that great teachers and improved teaching methods are all that’s required to improve student performance, so that’s all the reformers focus on. But it takes a lot more than that. Which is where Saquan comes in. His part of the story represents difficult truths that the reform movement has yet to face squarely — and needs to.

    Saquan lands at M.S. 223 because his family has been placed in a nearby homeless shelter. (His mother fled Brooklyn out of fear that another son was in danger of being killed.) At first, he is so disruptive that a teacher, Emily Dodd, thinks he might have a mental disability. But working with him one on one, Dodd discovers that Saquan is, to the contrary, unusually intelligent — “brilliant” even.

    From that point on, Dodd does everything a school reformer could hope for. She sends him text messages in the mornings, urging him to come to school. She gives him special help. She encourages him at every turn. For awhile, it seems to take.

    Meanwhile, other forces are pushing him in another direction. His mother, who works nights and barely has time to see her son, comes across as indifferent to his schooling. Though she manages to move the family back to Brooklyn, the move means that Saquan has an hour-and-a-half commute to M.S. 223. As his grades and attendance slip, Dodd offers to tutor him. To no avail: He finally decides it isn’t worth the effort, and transfers to a school in Brooklyn.

    The point is obvious, or at least it should be: Good teaching alone can’t overcome the many obstacles Saquan faces when he is not in school. Nor is he unusual. Mahler recounts how M.S. 223 gives away goodie bags to lure parents to parent association meetings, yet barely a dozen show up. He reports that during the summer, some students fall back a full year in reading comprehension — because they don’t read at home.

    Going back to the famous Coleman report in the 1960s, social scientists have contended — and unquestionably proved — that students’ socioeconomic backgrounds vastly outweigh what goes on in the school as factors in determining how much they learn. Richard Rothstein of the Economic Policy Institute lists dozens of reasons why this is so, from the more frequent illness and stress poor students suffer, to the fact that they don’t hear the large vocabularies that middle-class children hear at home.

  27. Ravitch on New York’s failed experiment in school turnaround model. Lessons for all of us.
    July 22, 2012, by Maureen Downey

    Many of you follow the blog of noted education historian Diane Ravitch. She sent me a link today to her most recent blog, which I thought was worth sharing. You can read the original here.

    Here is her blog on the failed reform efforts of New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg:

    From The New York Daily News (owned by billionaire Mort Zuckerman, who also owns U.S. News & World Report) often runs editorials applauding the “reforms” of the Bloomberg administration. Its editorials are anti-union, anti-teacher, and consistently supportive of the policy of closing schools that have low test scores.

    But the New York Daily News has excellent reporters who don’t follow the editorial line. They just report the news. And the story today is stunning.

    The headline summarizes the story: “Bloomberg’s New Schools Have Failed Thousands of City Students: Did More Poorly on State Reading Tests than Older Schools with Similar Poverty Rates.”

    This analysis shows the abject failure of the policy that has been the centerpiece of the Bloomberg reforms for the past decade.

    Closing schools and replacing them with new schools is also the centerpiece of the Obama-Duncan “turnaround” strategy.

    Here is an excerpt from the news story. Note that the grandmother of a student in Brooklyn makes more sense than the six-figure bureaucrats who run the New York City Department of Education. Tanya King of Brooklyn for Chancellor!

    …When The News examined 2012 state reading test scores for 154 public elementary and middle schools that have opened since Mayor Bloomberg took office, nearly 60% had passing rates that were lower than older schools with similar poverty rates.

    The new schools also showed poor results in the city’s letter-grade rating system, which uses a complicated formula to compare schools with those that have similar demographics.

    Of 133 new elementary and middle schools that got letter grades last year, 15% received D’s and F’s — far more than the city average, where just 10% of schools got the rock-bottom grades.

    “It’s crazy,” said Tanya King, who helped wage a losing battle to save Brooklyn’s Academy of Business and Community Development, where her grandson was a student.

    The school opened in 2005, then closed in 2012.

    Instead of closing struggling schools and replacing them with something else that doesn’t work, King says, the city should help with extra resources to save the existing schools.

    “You have the same children in the school,” she said. “What’s going to be the difference? Put in the services that are going to make the school better.”

    Her grandson Donnovan Hicks, 11, will be transferred next fall for the seventh-grade into another Bloomberg-created school, Brooklyn’s Peace Academy, where just 13% passed the state reading exams this spring.

    –From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

  28. Educational Rot
    American education is in a sorry state of affairs, and there’s enough blame for all participants to have their fair share. They include students who are hostile and alien to the education process, uninterested parents, teachers and administrators who either are incompetent or have been beaten down by the system, and politicians who’ve become handmaidens for teachers unions. There’s another education issue that’s neither flattering nor comfortable to confront and talk about. That’s the low academic preparation of many teachers. That’s an issue that must be confronted and dealt with if we’re to improve the quality of education. Let’s look at it.
    Schools of education, whether graduate or undergraduate, tend to represent the academic slums of most college campuses. They tend to be home to students who have the lowest academic achievement test scores when they enter college, such as SAT scores. They have the lowest scores when they graduate and choose to take postgraduate admissions tests — such as the GRE, the MCAT and the LSAT.
    The California Basic Educational Skills Test, or CBEST, is mandatory for teacher certification in California. It’s a joke. Here’s a multiple-choice question on its practice math test: “Rob uses 1 box of cat food every 5 days to feed his cats. Approximately how many boxes of cat food does he use per month? A. 2 boxes, B. 4 boxes, C. 5 boxes, D. 6 boxes, E. 7 boxes.” Here’s another: “Which of the following is the most appropriate unit for expressing the weight of a pencil? A. pounds, B. ounces, C. quarts, D. pints, E. tons.” I’d venture to predict that the average reader’s sixth-grader could answer each question. Here’s a question that is a bit more challenging; call your eighth-grader: “Solve for y: y – 2 + 3y = 10, A. 2, B. 3, C. 4, D. 5, E. 6.”
    Some years ago, the Association of Mexican American Educators, the California Association for Asian-Pacific Bilingual Education and the Oakland Alliance of Black Educators brought suit against the state of California and the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing, charging that the CBEST was racially discriminatory. Plaintiff “evidence” was the fact that the first-time passing rate for whites was 80 percent, about 50 percent for Mexican-Americans, Filipinos and Southeast Asians, and 46 percent for blacks. In 2000, in a stroke of rare common sense, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit found CBEST not to be racial discriminatory.
    Poor teacher preparation is not a problem restricted to California. In Massachusetts, only 27 percent of new teachers could pass the math test needed to be certified as a teacher. A 2011 investigation by Atlanta’s Channel 2 Action News found that more than 700 Georgia teachers repeatedly failed at least one portion of the certification test they are required to pass before receiving a teaching certificate. Nearly 60 teachers failed the test more than 10 times, and one teacher failed the test 18 times. They also found that there were 297 teachers on the Atlanta school system’s payroll even though they had failed the state certification test five times or more.
    Textbooks used in schools of education might explain some teacher ineptitude. A passage in Marilyn Burns’ text “About Teaching Mathematics” reads, “There is no place for requiring students to practice tedious calculations that are more efficiently and accurately done by using calculators.” “New Designs for Teaching and Learning,” by Dennis Adams and Mary Hamm, says, “Content knowledge is not seen to be as important as possessing teaching skills and knowledge about the students being taught.” Harvey Daniels and Marilyn Bizar’s text “Methods that Matter” reads, “Students can no longer be viewed as cognitive living rooms into which the furniture of knowledge is moved in and arranged by teachers, and teachers cannot invariably act as subject-matter experts.” The authors explain, “The main use of standardized tests in America is to justify the distribution of certain goodies to certain people.”
    With but a few exceptions, schools of education represent the academic slums of most any college. American education could benefit from slum removal, eliminating schools of education.

    Walter Williams

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