New York may have fast fallen off the playoff charts. But the drumbeat of school reform is incessant these days, as incessant as the creaking rails and sounds of truck deliveries in Times Square. The Times, again this morning, brings glad tidings from a Mayor who is, as far as I am concerned, pitching fast balls as Mayor Menino and all of our mayors stand there with bat still firmly stuck on their shoulders.
There are dozens of new charters, there is a Deval-style merit pay system, a focus on AP… And so it is this morning, where the Times reports on the Mayor’s new accountability system which gives an easy to digest grade to each school. The idea is to get folks to focus on what works and share that. It is also to tell those folks who aren’t getting it done that there will be consequences.
With the whopping title, 50 New York Schools Fail Under Rating System, the Times article opens:
Under a blunt new A through F rating system that judges schools not just on performance but also on progress, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg designated 50 New York City public schools as failures yesterday, saying they were so dismal that their 29,000 students would be allowed to transfer elsewhere.
A “not insignificant number” of those F schools, and even some of the 99 schools that received D’s, could be closed or have their principals removed as soon as this school year, Mr. Bloomberg said at a news conference announcing the grades. He added: “Is this a wake-up call for the people who work there? You betcha.”
And hats off to Whitney Tilson for highlighting the pro-accountability message coming from the principals. Ernest Logan, head of the principals union, sent this email to his members on the Mayor’s new report card:
We all support accountability. CSA members make tough decisions every day, knowing full well that their choices profoundly affect students and teachers alike. We also understand that as a result of this latest reorganization, more and more emphasis is being placed on bottom-line results. From the Mayor and the Chancellor on down, we are all being held accountable for the success or failure of schools.
The letter grades released today by the Department of Education represent the next step in the DoE’s efforts to hold schools accountable for improving student achievement. I am supportive of the concept because we need an accountability tool that accurately evaluates our schools. However, in the last month, we have been troubled by reports from the field about inaccuracies with student and demographic data, and inappropriate school groupings that led to unfair comparisons. To their credit, DoE officials worked with us to fix some of the problems and they also withheld grades for schools where the data is still being reviewed. Still, we cannot endorse this initiative until we properly analyze the progress report results and determine that they are accurate, equitable, transparent and understandable. The ramifications are too great, especially for students in schools that may be mislabeled and the people whose jobs may be on the line. To that end, we want to hear from you. If there are issues that we need to be looking into, please let us know by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Controversy aside, these progress reports and the enormous amount of data now being collected open new doors for the CSA, UFT and DoE. We have a unique opportunity to develop solid, specific and meaningful solutions for each individual school. A big part of that will mean flooding struggling schools with additional resources and support. We look forward to playing our part and working together to bring about positive change.
Our sports-mad city may be pleased with itself, rightfully so, with the Sox, Pats and Celts. (Sorry, but hockey is not a sport; it is a form of padded madness on ice.) But, folks, NY is kicking our butts over and over again in education reform. Why is it we are so content to rest on our laurels? Is it because we are still so old money?