Thursday, September 24, 2009

Mayoral takeover of New York City schools-costly and ineffective

In 2002 New York City's public schools were placed under the control of the city's Mayor, Michael Bloomberg .

Since Milwaukee's Mayor Tom Barrett, Wisconsin Governor Jim Doyle and the Metropolitan Milwaukee Chamber of Commerce (MMAC) have proposed that Milwaukee's school board be dissolved and governed by the mayor it's worth examining New York's results.

Diane Ravitch, a professor of education at New York University and a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and the Hoover Institution, has documented that in New York City mayoral control has not led to increased test scores or a reduction in the racial achievement gap.

She writes:

...New York City students made no statistically significant gains between 2003 and 2007 in fourth-grade reading, eighth-grade reading, or eighth-grade math. There were no significant gains for black students, white students, Hispanic students, Asian students, or lower-income students. New York City was the only city (of eleven tested) where eighth-grade reading scores declined for black, Hispanic, and lower-income students, and the achievement gap grew. Only in fourth-grade math did city students make statistically significant gains.

Ravitch concludes:

The school system needs checks and balances. It needs a regular, independent audit of graduation rates and test scores. It needs a leadership in which education decisions are made by educators. Such changes won't solve all of our schools' problems, but they will end the pointless turmoil of the past five years (of mayoral control) , provide honest information about academic progress, and reestablish the role of the public in public education.

The entire Ravitch letter is linked here.


Chuck Gobel said...

The results of the mayoral take over in New York, as provided by Dr. Ravitch, are not really surprising. You can't get a good result from a bad premise.
However, even more discouraging in Milwaukee, as it should have been in New York, is the lack of significant outcry about taking the ballot our of the hands of the people. This in the United States of America!

The liberal/progressive community - no, the entire populace - should be aghast. Debating the question as if it were an educational issue about who can make students learn better misses the essential point. The basic issue is, will our students go to school in a democratic society.

Chuck Gobel

Alan Cook said...

National math test scores continue to be disappointing. This poor trend persists in spite of new texts, standardized tests with attached implied threats, or laptops in the class. At some point, maybe we should admit that math, as it is taught currently and in the recent past, seems irrelevant to a large percentage of grade school kids.

Why blame a sixth grade student or teacher trapped by meaningless lessons? Teachers are frustrated. Students check out.

The missing element is reality. Instead of insisting that students learn another sixteen formulae, we need to involve them in tangible life projects. And the task must be interesting.

A Trip To The Number Yard is a math book focusing on the building of a bungalow. Odd numbered chapters cover the phases of the project: lot layout, foundation, framing, all the way through until the trim out. The even numbered chapters introduce the math needed for the next stage of building and/or reviews the previous lessons.

This type of project-oriented math engages kids. It is fun. They have a reason to learn the math they may have ignored in the standard lecture format of a class room.

If we really want kids to learn math and to have the lessons be valuable, we need to change the mode of teaching. Our kids can master the math that most adults need. We can’t continue to have class rooms full of math drudges. Instead, we need to clandestinely teach them math via real life projects.

Alan Cook