Saturday, September 21, 2013

DOE whistle-blower tells how data and funding have been manipulated

As the UFT's president Michael Mulgrew intimated, a truth commission on the NYC DOE is indeed in order!

I know a mole inside the New York City Department of Education. He/she knows how the DOE manipulates data to burnish the mayor’s image. This is a good reason to oppose mayoral control of the schools. He/she says the mayor’s small schools close with regularity; that the data cannot be trusted; that the Department has shown preference to charter schools but they got lower scores on the Common Core tests than the public schools.
Most shocking: the DOE intends to delete all the emails on its computers. 
Quick, someone file a FOIL before it’s too late.

The mole writes:
“A Bad Business: The Bankruptcy of Education Policy”
Mike Bloomberg, in his recent interview with the magazine New York, admitted to following the companies run by his friends as economic barometers of New York City’s conditions. According to his website, “Mike has made education reform the focal point of his agenda,” an agenda dominated by applying business ideas to New York City’s schools. 
Are the profit margins of huge corporations truly “indicators,” as Bloomberg claims, of how the citizens of New York City are doing? Does his application of business ideas actually improve schools for children? Let’s examine the evidence to see how the next mayor can do better.
Day trader versus business owner. Under Bloomberg, the bureaucrats at Tweed see themselves as “portfolio managers.” Just like day traders, they take no responsibility for the success or failure of the shares in their portfolio. They close and open schools, just like a day trader flips stocks. They refuse to take ownership of the schools under their charge and decline to commit to ensuring their success. Of course, in this case, the stock shares are schools with roots in a community and tens of thousands of children. What do the numbers say is the end result all this? The schools opened under Bloomberg are shuttered at the same rate as older schools, leading to an overall profit of zero. What should the next mayor do? Like a small-business owner who works as hard as possible to ensure her business succeeds, he must put children first and hold the education bureaucrats accountable for the success of each and every school in New York City.

Enron-like accounting practices versus independent auditor. Under Bloomberg, the Department of Education fudges and manipulates numbers to serve their political ends. They refuse to open up their complete data sets to independent researchers at universities who publish results in peer-reviewed journals. Someti mes they release limited data to friendly “think” tanks or to organizations that need to maintain their good will. These paid advertisers publish favorable “reports” in order to continue to have access to the seemingly top secret data.

Now they plan on deleting all emails from the Department of Education right before Bloomberg leaves office, just like Arthur Anderson and Enron.

What is the end result of all this? Bloomberg touts false numbers as “evidence” of “success” while the voices of independent researchers are silenced. For example, Aaron Pallas, a professor at Columbia University’s Teachers College, was refused access to data after finding that the achievement gap did not close under Bloomberg.

What should the next mayor do? Just like an honest business has its results audited by an independent accounting firm, he must put children first and create an independent panel of researchers who are guaranteed full access to all DOE data. The reports of the panel should be made public and should inform education policy decisions in the city.

Crony capitalism versus fair business practices. Under Bloomberg, select schools are favored and granted unfair financial advantages over other schools. New schools that opened under Bloomberg are given more money per student than other schools. Charter schools are given more money per student, including free-of-charge public school space, than other schools. Favored schools are granted extra money through mysterious appeals and special grants.
This is similar to business practices in corrupt countries where relatives and friends of the ruling family are granted monopolies and other unfair advantages in business.

What should the next mayor do? He should put children first and institute a set of fair business practices under which all schools receive the full share of funding they are entitled to based on the students they serve.
Buyer beware versus fiduciary duty. For years credit card companies and other financial firms used small print and legalese to rip-off customers. Companies are now required to abide by consumer rights laws. Under Bloomberg, a complicated and frustrating high school application process has been deceptively advertised as choice for students. While some parents and students have the time and patience to navigate the process others do not.

What is the end result? Vast differences in student enrollment patterns between schools. The 10% of schools with the highest special education enrollment rates average 27.4% students with special needs. The 10% of schools with the lowest special education enrollment rates average 4.5% students with special needs. The 10% of schools with the highest English Language Learner enrollment rates average 40.8% (not including specialized schools for new immigrants). The 10% of schools with the lowest English Language Learner enrollment rates average 1%. Screened and specialized schools have a student body that is extremely unrepresentative of New York City’s children.

What should the next mayor do? He must put children first and ensure that every student has the opportunity to attend a quality school with a diverse student body that allows students to build the skills needed to function in our global economy and international city.

False advertising versus truth in advertising. Under Bloomberg, schools were supposedly being run along the lines of a business. It is now clear that this was false advertising and the “business” practices employed have bankrupted many a corporation. Ideology has determined policy rather than data and evidence.

Charter schools were touted as putting public schools to shame while the data showing that charters do not serve similar student populations and get rid of under-performing students was ignored. Then the test scores of the new common core exams were released and charter schools performed significantly worse than public schools. This data was ignored.

If Coca Cola had followed a similar “business” approach they would have continued to market “New Coke” and bankrupted the entire company. What should the next mayor do? He must put children first and ensure that all children have access to a quality early childhood education program. The economic data shows such programs have very high returns on investment and more than pay for themselves over time. We need a mayor who is willing to employ honest business practices such as ownership, honest accounting, fairness, and responsibility to the consumer in improving our schools
Whistleblower Francesco Portelos wrote on the comments how the DOE has targeted him. This is probably representative: that there are many damning details in the emails. The media's ignoring of the DOE governmental shenanigans that Portelos and the DOE mole point to is a crime against the profession of journalism of the highest order.

Absolutely, there must be an injunction against the deletions. Not only should good government groups, but NYC public advocate Bill de Blasio or comptroller John Liu must seek an injunction against the deletion of the emails. Let them show their Moxie. Portelos wrote:
I’m still only 80% through 3,000 pages that just have my name in it. I’m dumbfounded on the conversations between my principal, Supt, Tweeds, including three Deputy Chancellors, investigators and CEC members. 3,000 Pages of Secret DOE Emails. [Deputy Chancellor Kathleen Grimm Enters Stage Left]
We cannot allow destruction and I believe and Robert Freeman need to be involved.