New York's Educational Progress -- Or Lack of It

There’s bad news and good news on New York’s educational front.

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    NEWSLETTERS

    There’s bad news and good news on New York’s educational front.

    Although math scores went up all over the country on a national federal test, New York was the only city in which fourth-grade math scores fell by three points.

    The good news is that Mayor Bloomberg is making significant progress in his campaign to attract a major university to New York to build a school of engineering and applied sciences. Seven schools are in the running, including Cornell and Stanford.

    The mayor has an advisory panel of business people and scientists, the Economic Development Corporation and the City Council to advise him but, basically, he’s making the call. And, as his aides say, this is a project dear to his heart. The city has received seven proposals from institutions around the globe. City Hall believes that a major school of applied sciences could bring enough high tech companies to New York to compete with Silicon Valley. It would be important to the legacy Bloomberg hopes to leave the city.

    As for the bad news about math scores falling for fourth graders, Kim Sweet of Advocates for Children, sees irony in the situation. “We’ve got a long way to go,” she told me, “before the children in our elementary and high schools will be able to benefit from having a major university like Stanford or Cornell offer them such an opportunity. There needs to be a lot of work done before many New York City school children can qualify for the challenging environment of an Ivy League school.”

    In another area, The New York Times reports there’s been a big increase in complaints of tampering with state Regents exams since Mayor Bloomberg took control of the city’s schools a decade ago. The state has recorded complaints of cheating by educators in more than 100 city high schools, about one fifth of the total. Principals have accused teachers of cheating, teachers have accused principals, and teachers have accused other teachers. Quite a spectacle!

    The incentives for cheating involve: scoring high enough to merit promotion or safeguard your job.

    Clearly, basing evaluation of schools or educators on test scores has its drawbacks. Kim Sweet says: “The cheating scandal shows that the system is under heavy pressure to get better results. The idea of teachers grading their own students’ Regents exams is obviously a poor one. There needs to be a lot of work done if New York is going to have a system free of cheating.”

    As for the competition for building a high tech college in New York, Bloomberg says he wants to establish a technology industry partnership between City Hall and a major university, something like what Stanford has with Silicon Valley and MIT with Boston and the surrounding area. His dream: to make New York a high tech magnet. One site Stanford and Cornell like is the south end of Roosevelt Island.

    There seems to be a sad disconnect between ethical behavior and the conduct of some educators. Can we achieve honest test scores and ultimately create a higher educational institution that can serve the interests of graduates of our elementary and secondary schools? It’s Mayor Bloomberg’s dream -- and it should be pursued.