Perdido 03

Perdido 03

Saturday, January 24, 2015

NY Times: Cuomo Is Wrong To Say New York Schools Are In Crisis, Teachers Are To Blame

Great piece in the Times that exposes Cuomo's argument that New York's schools are in "crisis" and New York's teachers are to blame as hyperbolic and hollow:

The best yardstick by which to compare achievement of elementary school students in different states is the National Assessment of Educational Progress, or NAEP, which tests samples of public and private school students in a number of subjects, including fourth- and eighth-grade math and English. In those subjects, New York students are consistently right in the middle, scoring perhaps a few points above or below the national average. (This is true both for students who qualify for the federal free or reduced-price lunch program, and for students who do not.)

On graduation rates, New York looks a little worse, with only 77 percent of students graduating from high school, compared with a national average of 81 percent, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

But New York requires students to pass Regents exams to graduate from high school; some states offer no similar hurdle. And New York does better than the national average on the percentage of high school graduates attending college: 68.9 percent compared with a national average of 62.8 percent.

Of course, demographics play a role in shaping each state’s educational performance. According to the center, New York is very close to the average in terms of school-age children living in poverty, 22 percent compared with 21 percent.

Looking at another test taken by students around the country, the SAT, New York lags slightly behind the national average in the number of students who reach the College Board’s college and career readiness benchmark. However, the group of students taking the SAT in New York appears to be somewhat poorer than the national pool, with 32 percent using a fee waiver, compared with only 24 percent nationally.

American students as a whole generally receive middling scores on international assessments compared with students in other countries. A 2011 Harvard study that compared proficiency levels on the National Assessment of Educational Progress tests with performance on the Program for International Student Assessment showed New York falling somewhere between Spain and Latvia, and behind roughly 30 other countries, on the percentage of students who were proficient in math. In reading, the state compared more favorably, between France and Switzerland and behind about 10 countries in the percentage of students who were proficient.

In any case, experts said it would be hard to justify describing the situation in New York as a crisis, unless persistent mediocrity itself were a crisis. “Since the early ’90s, New York scored about average, and nothing’s changed,” said Tom Loveless, an education researcher and a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, of the NAEP scores. “If New York schools are in a state of crisis, they’ve been in a state of crisis for 20 years. Most people like their state to score near the top, not the middle,” he added. “Maybe that’s the dire situation.”

As for the part about teachers to blame, Aaron Pallas takes that argument apart in the Times article:

Aaron M. Pallas, a professor of sociology and education at Columbia, said he objected to the governor’s use of the student test scores, noting that they came on new, tougher tests aligned with the Common Core curriculum standards.
“Numbers like these are a bit shocking,” Professor Pallas said. “But, of course, they’re also the result of a political process. Three or four years ago those numbers were 80 percent. And teachers have not gotten worse.”


 Asked how he would characterize New York’s overall performance, Mr. Pallas said: “I think that everyone would likely agree that we want students to leave high school being able to do a lot more than they can right now. But the characterization of this as a crisis is a political argument.”

Indeed, this is a political argument Cuomo is making - and it's an absurd one.

This week he called New York's public schools "the single greatest failure of the state."

Sure, there is work to be done in education to help students succeed both in school and after graduation, but to call the system the "single greatest failure of the state"?

A commenter at Perdido Street School says the governor is wrong about that:

I thought that the Cuomo interference and bullying of the Moreland commission was the "single greatest failure of the state", namely the failure to clean up the widespread corruption in Albany. By the way, Cuomo, why did your campaign pay $ 100,000 to your criminal defense lawyer?

With Assembly Speaker Silver carted out in handcuffs on corruption charges this week, a direct result of the Moreland investigation that Cuomo shut down in order to get a budget deal last year, it would seem the governor ought to be turning his hyperbolic words toward himself.

Instead, making another political argument, he claimed that shutting down the Moreland investigation and forcing US Attorney Preet Bharara to pick up the investigations actually vindicates his handling of the matter.

That's the kind of political argument Governor Cuomo likes to engage in - NY schools are in crisis and "need dramatic reform."

The Moreland Commission criminal investigations of politicians that he closed down in order to get a budget deal, thus saving the bacon of who knows how many corruption pols in Albany?

Great victory.

And I haven't even got to the part about how the governor made sure the Moreland Commission did not investigate his own donors, had at least one subpoena readied for his donors "pulled back" to keep them from being investigated or tampered with the Commission both during it's operation and afterward so that the US attorney had to warn him publicly to stop doing it.

If anything is in crisis in New York State, it's Albany politics.

That, however, Cuomo doesn't want to do anything about because he's at the center of that crisis, helping it along, making it worse, day by day by day.


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  2. NY state’s high school graduates"... ability-to-function-in-a-modern-economy rate among graduates hovers at a dismal 37 percent.
    That is, according to the state Department of Education, only 37 of every 100 students who entered high school in 2009, and stayed long enough to graduate, learned enough by last June to do college-level academic work — or to enter the workforce in any meaningful way.
    And in New York City, the ratio was one in four.
    So let’s cut to the chase: If 75 percent of New York high-school seniors get diplomas, but only 37 percent are academically or economically functional, just what’s required to earn that diploma in the first place?
    Bipedalism and a pulse, it would appear. But where’s the outrage?"