Analysis: The Numbers Game and Education

It’s sad for the people of New York and it’s sad for Mayor Bloomberg.

By Gabe Pressman
|  Wednesday, Oct 26, 2011  |  Updated 4:48 PM EDT
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Analysis: The Numbers Game and Education

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It’s sad for the people of New York and it’s sad for Mayor Bloomberg.

The man who vowed to be the education mayor has fallen far short of his goal.

Since he gained control of the school system nine years ago, the mayor has cited statistics again and again showing that the students are doing better. But the more time that goes by, the more it gets clearer that the students are not doing so well. Indeed, some numbers have been deceiving.

It’s depressing for the mayor – and his constituents.

Recently the numbers on high school report cards showed that only one in four students who enter high school in New York City is ready for college after four years.

Indeed, only 21 percent of students are ready for college work after four years while 75 percent of those who go to community colleges need remedial work before they can take college level courses.

Diane Ravitch, an educational scholar and critic, told me that this latest finding is troubling, on top of conflicting test scores in recent years.

"The mayor has been misled. The data they’re giving him is suspect. And we have not received an accurate picture of what is happening," she said.

What is most perplexing is that parents have been relegated to a minor role in the educational process. And they are the people most concerned.

The rationale for mayoral control of the educational system was that it would eliminate bureaucracy and encourage efficiency. The mayor has lived his life by numbers, and education is based on more than that.

A child needs nurturing parents and nurturing teachers. Having a good batting average on a test is hardly enough. The child needs to be stimulated and excited by learning in school and at home.

Fixing New York’s long-suffering educational system has degenerated into a numbers game. And the problem is the numbers may be misleading us all.

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