New York's Education “Miracle” That Didn't Happen

The “miracle” in education that City Hall had boasted about is just a dud: Sadly, it hasn’t happened -- and the parents and children of New York City have been misled.

What Mayor Bloomberg and Schools Chancellor Joel Klein told Congress two years ago about the city closing the gap between minority and white children turns out to be highly inaccurate, The New York Times reports.

Bloomberg had testified in July 2008 before the U.S. House Committee on Education and Labor, saying: “Over the past six years we’ve done everything possible to narrow the achievement gap -- and we have. In some cases, we’ve reduced it by half.”

And in 2009 the Mayor declared: “We are closing the shameful achievement gap faster than ever.”

But the results of the 2010 tests, which state officials say are more accurate, come as “a blow to the legacy of the mayor and the chancellor,” the Times writes.

Passing rates dropped by more than 25 percentage points. And the racial achievement gap, it’s noted, has evaporated.

In the city’s third through eighth grades, just 40 percent of black students met state standards in math compared with 46 percent of Hispanic children, 75 percent of white students and 82 percent of Asians. In English, 33 percent of black students are now proficient compared with 64 percent among whites and Asians.

Michael Petrilli of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, says: “On achievement, the story in New York City is of some modest progress, but not the miracle that the mayor and the chancellor would like to claim.”

Diane Ravitch, New York University historian and author, told me: “The achievement didn’t happen. They were so invested in boasting about what happened that they began to believe it. They created a myth.”

She believes it’s dangerous to entrust the school system to a mayor or a governor who use the position to gain political advantage and noted that it is “very disturbing” that, under mayoral control, 100 schools have been closed for poor performance.

Closing schools and creating more charter schools won’t improve education, Ravitch said: “What’s needed is substantive improvements in the educational process. Teaching to the test leads to misleading results.”

Mayor Bloomberg made mayoral control of education a central theme of his last re-election campaign. Now it appears we were misled. Says Ravitch: “It was an exciting and wonderful ride while it lasted. But, with the release of the state test results for 2010, New York City’s claims came crashing to the ground.”

Now we have to pick ourselves up. We can’t expect the mayor to turn over the school system to educators who might know more about teaching kids than he does.

We can only hope that Bloomberg sees the error of his ways and tries to reform the system and the zany underpinning he has installed: Exams that don’t truly test, and teachers and principals who are motivated primarily by the need to score higher and higher test scores in a crazy race for false achievement.

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