Joel Klein, mayoral control of the New York City public schools didn't help improvement
CLAYTON SNOW | 9/21/2012, 1:04 p.m.
Former New York City Schools Chancellor Joel Klein, in an article in the Monday, Sept. 10 edition of the Daily News, argues that the schools are improving and critics ignore the facts. Using an array of statistics that allegedly measure student performance, he goes on and on about how everything from graduation rates to performance on state and federal tests went up, especially compared to other cities in New York State.
The former chancellor curiously did not mention the facts concerning the paltry number of New York City high school graduates getting Regents-endorsed diplomas, which demonstrate an ability to do college-level work, and that only about 12 percent of graduates who enter the City University's community colleges do not need remedial classes. With these facts, an increase in high school graduation rates is nothing more than a false sense of success.
When mayoral control of New York City schools began, most teachers and education-savvy parents agreed that the middle schools were the weakest link in the educational system. So what did then-Chancellor Klein do? He began closing dozens of large high schools and replacing them with smaller schools in the same buildings. The notion was that smaller schools would be able to give more attention to the educational needs of the students. Lost in this idea was the fact that the feeder middle schools were sending a majority of their graduates to these new smaller high schools unprepared to do high school-level work. So the end result was a high school building that now has three or four smaller schools. One of the new schools would perform well, one of the schools would be average and the third and or fourth school would be mediocre or, worse, a dumping ground for failing students.
Lost completely in this Klein-Bloomberg logic for school improvement is that good middle school graduates make good high school students. Smaller high schools by themselves do not increase academic achievement.
Many of these new, smaller high schools have names that are an insult to the subjects they are alleged to specialize in because few students graduate with any advanced skills in these subjects. How many students who graduate from these schools with business or finance in their name go to Baruch College, the premier CUNY business college? How many students from these schools with math or science in their name actually pass a state Regents exam in math or science? Most of these new high schools deliver a mediocre education to the majority of their students in regards to the subjects they are alleged to specialize in. To most people, that would be called fraud.
Real achievement comes with real results. To say that New York City public schools are improving, a non-fraudulent measurement would be a significant increase in Board of Regents-endorsed high school diplomas--a diploma highly regarded in all 50 states, not just a few cities in upstate New York. Another non-fraudulent measurement would be a significant decline in the percentage of students who need remedial classes at City University's community colleges. Comparisons to the performances on state or federal tests as compared to other cities in New York State are nothing more than a three-card monte trick of how to lie using statistics to make it appear as though progress is being made in the delivery of a quality education.
Sadly, the former chancellor's rhetoric reminds me of the words of an old James Brown song that goes like this: "Like a dull knife that ain't cuttin', he just talking loud and sayin' nothin'." If mayoral control of New York City public schools was supposed to improve the quality of education of the majority of students, then the most logical first step would have been strengthening the middle schools. Apparently, Klein and the mayor either did not know where to begin or they had another agenda.