Columbia University professor Pedro Noguera issued a press release announcing his outfit's study debunking claims as to various mayors' educational successes. The bold-italices are mine. This is a very important report, for it contains information on three "reform"-spotlighted school systems that debunks many tenets of education "reform".
Pedro Noguera, Top Expert: Report on Failure of Education "Reform" a Wake-up Call for Mayoral Candidates
NY, NY— In response to a new report called “Market-Oriented Reforms’ Rhetoric Trumps Reality,” Pedro Noguera, a leading education expert and co-chair of the Broader, Bolder Approach to Education (BBA), released the following statement:
“This report is a wake up call for the public and New York City mayoral candidates. Mayor Bloomberg’s focus on high-stakes testing, school closings, and an expansion of charter schools has failed to produce gains that were promised and needed for the district’s students or schools. In some cases, the approach taken has actually weakened the quality of public education in our poorest neighborhoods. The implementation of the common core assessments without adequately preparing teachers and schools to deliver the standards is just the most recent example of the flawed approach under the current administration.
Policies like mass school closures create a vicious cycle: transferring low-income and minority students from schools deemed “failing” destabilizes other schools that often end up targeted for closure as well. In NY City, the poorest students of color have disproportionately been affected by this policy. The evidence shows that instead of receiving adequate support, many schools have been set up for failure. . . . .
The next mayor must move in a different direction in order to transcend the failures of Mayor Bloomberg's agenda. Real reform requires that we provide high quality support to the neediest students and the public schools that educate them. That takes a greater investment and emphasis on the supports that are necessary to insure equal opportunities. It also requires a focus on staffing high need schools with highly skilled teachers, targeted professional development, and the resources needed (e.g. social workers, counselors, etc.) to help schools provide an excellent education to all students.”
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The BBA report was written by Elaine Weiss and Don Long. It section on New York City opens:
New York City: Nine years of market-based reforms failed to improve test scores or narrow achievement gapsThe report continues:
In March, 2012, Mayor Bloomberg repeated his claim that the achievement gap between white/Asian students and black/Latino students in New York City public schools had been halved between 2003 and 2011 (American University 2012). Actually, averaged across state reading and math test scores in the fourth and eighth grades, the achievement gap had stagnated; it was virtually identical in 2011 (25.8 percentage points or 0.73 of standard deviation) to its 2003 level (26.2 percentage points or 0.74 of standard deviation), and not statistically significantly different. 50 Indeed, Columbia University professor Aaron Pallas, who calculated the actual size of the reduction in the gap (of 1 percent), pointed out, “The careful reader will note that the mayor has thus overstated the cut in the achievement gap by a factor of 50” (Pallas 2012b).51 Another study that compared NAEP test score gains from 2003 to 2011 averaged across reading and math in fourth and eighth grades found New York City to be second to last, ahead only of Cleveland, among the 10 TUDA districts, as illustrated in Figure L, with a gain of only 4.3 points (Haimson 2012). The average large district gained 8.8 points over this period, with Atlanta gaining the most—15.3 points.
The author explains why and how he converted what had begun as Standard Deviation differences into percentile change differences: “Given the mayor’s penchant for reducing complex phenomena to a single number … I have summarized the shrinkage in the achievement gap on the NAEP and New York State assessments as the percentage reduction in the gap. (For the technically-minded, this involved calculating group differences in citywide standard-deviation units, weighted by the size of the four racial/ethnic groups, for each grade and subject area, and then averaging those group differences, in both 2011 and 2003. The ratio of the 2011 group difference to the 2003 group difference indicates the extent of the change in the achievement gap over that eight-year period.)
“So here it is: Looking across ELA and math scores on state exams for New York City students in grades three through eight in 2003, the achievement gap separating black and Latino students from white and Asian students was .74 of a standard deviation. In 2011, the achievement gap was .73 of a standard deviation. This represents a 1 percent reduction in the magnitude of the achievement gap. The careful reader will note that the mayor has thus overstated the cut in the achievement gap by a factor of 50.” (Pallas 2012b)
Pallas also noted that, when NAEP scores were used to assess the validity of the same claim, the gap grew by 3 percent.
Assessments of gains (or losses) in test scores could also take into account the starting point for a city or district as, of course, those with higher starting scores have less room to grow. It is not possible, in this context, to compare starting NAEP scores of every large city, or even a smaller subset of them, and such an analysis also requires more than simple comparison to be valid, since many other factors should be taken into account. For the purposes of this report, the goal is to compare promised, and asserted, gains, against those actually realized, so only these basic comparisons are employed.]
The gap failed to shrink partly because white fourth-graders gained three times as much ground as their black peers between 2005 and 2011, as shown in Figure M. Indeed, this gap grew by 6 percentage points during those years, versus a slight decrease in the same gap in large, urban districts overall. The income-based gap for that age grew by even more, also bucking both national and urban trends during the period.The report says that New York City's "gains" were dependent upon unsustainable spending increases:
Bloomberg made similarly exaggerated claims regarding the city’s public school students’ “proficiency” on state test scores. When the New York State Department of Education recalibrated the scores, however, the gains vanished, and the proportion of students passing the state reading test fell from 68.8 percent to 42.4 percent, and from “an astonishing 81.8 percent to a disappointing 54 percent in mathematics” (Ravitch 2010). Again, NAEP scores confirm unimpressive gains. Between 2003 and 2011, average NAEP math scores in New York City public schools rose 8 points in fourth grade and 6 points in eighth grade between 2003 and 2011, gains similar to those in the nation as a whole, and half the size, at the eighth-grade level, of gains in other large, urban districts that did not engage in similar reforms (NCES 2011a).53
As Figure N illustrates, New York’s eighth-grade students improved at rates similar to those of their urban counterparts in reading; between 2005 and 2011, the city’s white students gained just two points (versus three in large, urban districts on average), while the city’s black students gained seven points (versus five in large, urban districts on average). These gains slightly narrowed the black-white gap in the city, but not enough to counter growing gaps in other subjects and grades.
One definite bright spot in the New York City data come from graduation rates, which increased sharply under Bloomberg and Klein’s leadership, according to data tracked by the city. While just under half (46.5 percent) of the cohort of 2001 (class of 2005) graduated in four years, that share rose to just over 60 percent for the cohort of 2007 (class of 2011) (NYC DOE 2012). The most recent nationally collected data for New York City found similar gains, though the different method of calculating national data produced a lower overall percentage: 56.9 percent of the class of 2008 graduated, an increase of 11 percentage points from 46 percent for the class of 2005 (NCES 2005a and 2010a). It is unclear, however, what impact, if any, the Bloomberg/Klein reforms had on graduation rates. The National Center for Education Statistics tracks graduation rates for the 100 largest urban districts (some of which, such as Montgomery County, Md., are not cities). The 11 percentage-point average increase in New York City’s high school graduation rate from the classes of 2005 to 2008 is consistent with the 12 percentage-point increase in graduation rates for the 100 largest urban districts in the same period, and it still left New York City well below the 65 percent average class of 2008 graduation rate for those districts (NCES 2010b). It is also important to be aware of critical caveats pertinent generally to claims regarding high school graduation rates. Due to differences in definitions, graduation requirements, and data collection and calculation methods, such data are problematic, especially when used to make comparisons over time or across states and districts. For example, New York includes GED completers in its definition of a high school graduate, whereas the U.S. Department of Education does not, which is likely one factor in the difference between city and federal recorded rates. Researchers have also found that administrative data are often “jumpy” across the years for reasons that they do not fully understand (Roy and Mishel 2008). Other issues include disproportionate “discharges” by race that may inflate graduation rates by “pushing at risk students out of school” and not counting them as dropouts (Jennings and Haimson 2009).
New York City: Reforms hinged on likely unsustainable spending increasesFor the complete report, including the illustrations, inline references and end notes please go to the report Market-oriented education reforms’ rhetoric trumps reality: The impacts of test-based teacher evaluations, school closures, and increased charter school access on student outcomes in Chicago, New York City, and Washington, D.C. itself.
New York City has long been among the U.S. school districts with the highest per-pupil spending; it spent $19,597 per pupil in 2010, the most recent year for which data are available (U.S. Census Bureau 2012, 104). During Bloomberg and Klein’s control of the schools, spending increased at a far greater rate in New York City than it did, on average, across the 100 largest U.S. school districts tracked by the National Center for Education Statistics. In real dollar terms, New York City’s per-pupil education spending nearly doubled between the start of Bloomberg and Klein’s control of the district (2002–2003) and the 2008–2009 school year. The city spent $11,361 per-child in real dollars in 2002–2003 and over $22,000 by 2008–2009. As Figure S illustrates, this increase far surpassed that of the other reform cities and the 100 largest U.S. school districts overall (NCES 2010a).68 On average, including New York City (and the other two reform cities studied here), per-pupil spending in large school districts rose from $7,923 in 2001 to $12,572, a 59 percent increase. As demonstrated earlier, the added spending has not translated into improved student outcomes. New York City has, on average, achieved less than other large, urban districts whose students’ outcomes are reported, while outspending and out-reforming them. Nonetheless, in April, 2012, Klein and Rhee announced that their StudentsFirst New York chapter would spend $10 million a year for the next five years to sustain the reform model put in place by Mayor Bloomberg after he leaves office following the 2013 mayoral election (Fleisher 2012b).
New York City has also benefited far more in absolute dollars than any other urban district from private donations to its schools and education programs (Saltman 2010, 9).69 Under Mayor Bloomberg, the city created a Fund for Public Schools, which is described as “dedicated to improving NYC’s public schools by attracting private investment in school reform and encouraging greater involvement by all New Yorkers in the education of our children” (Fund for Public Schools 2012). Four foundations, including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and two corporations have each given $1 million or more, The Broad Foundation donated between half a million and a million dollars, another 19 forprofit and nonprofit groups have given between $100,000 and $499,999 each, and dozens more have provided smaller sums (Fund for Public Schools 2010). While reforms hew closely to the policy priorities of the larger donors, such as the Gates and Broad foundations, the Independent Budget Office’s analysis illustrates how little total outside donations account for in the system’s overall budget (IBO 2012a). Donors’ impact is thus hugely disproportionate, relative to that of the taxpaying public.