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Mayoral control of schools has harmed city students

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The position taken in your March 12 editorial “Our Kids in Albany’s Hands” is falsely premised. You write, “In many ways, the public schools have improved under [city School Chancellor Joel] Klein .... And there is no question standardized test scores have improved and more students are graduating.”

That is what the city Department of Education Public Relations Department would like us to believe.

In her recent testimony before the state Assembly Education Committee, Dr. Diane Ravitch put the lie to these “facts.” Ravitch, who wrote the definitive history of education in New York, is a former assistant secretary of education and was instrumental in the formulation and administration of the National Assessment of Educational Progress.

That body is the gold standard of testing in the United States and New York is a participating state. From 2003 on, the period corresponding to mayoral control, the NAEP scores for the city have been flat. This has been true for every segment: white, African American, Hispanic, disadvantaged. There has been no lowering of the achievement gap. The ups and downs of scores as reported by the DOE seem to depend more on political needs that upon learning.

Ravitch also questioned whether we have adequate data to assess our high school graduation rates. This is due to the Bloomberg administra­tion’s promotion of “credit recovery” in high schools, sometimes called its “dirty little secret.”

Under credit recovery, a student who fails a course can later receive credit for it by turning in an unmonitored report. This inflates the graduation rate. The graduation rate is also inflated because the DOE does not count, as dropouts, students who are discharged. The number of discharged students has been rising each year.

Presently, two−thirds of our graduates entering CUNY community colleges have to take remediation in math, reading or writing. So what does the graduation rate mean? They have substituted social graduation for social promotion.

In spite of all the money spent, reorganizations, loss of many distinguished educators we have lost to retirement because of this, turmoil inflicted on parents and children and overemphasis on test preparation that has cost children dearly, little has been accomplished.

As a parent and the founding chairman of the Community Board 11 Education Committee, I can make the case that school districts have been hit hard by the policies of the last seven years. The need is for change that would insulate our children’s education from politics. Slight modifications to mayoral control will not do.

Melvyn Meer

Bayside

Posted 6:35 pm, October 10, 2011
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