Saturday, July 24, 2010

Harsh Lessons for the Editors of the Daily News and NY Times by Leonie Haimson - NYC Public School Parents

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The Daily News editorial board finally gave up today, and admitted that the city’s big gains in state test scores over the Bloomberg era have been a vast mirage, in an editorial called Harsh lesson for N.Y.

They were apparently briefed by NY Commissioner Steiner on the findings of Harvard's Daniel Koretz, which, according to this editorial and numerous news reports, has found that almost half of NYC 8th graders who score as proficient on the state exams will never graduate from high school; and three-quarters of those who do graduate need remedial courses before entering CUNY community colleges.

Yet the editors of the News have up to now been very willing victims of this deception – and a lapdog of every single false or exaggerated claim from the Bloomberg/Klein administration.

This, despite the warnings of many testing experts like Bob Tobias, Diane Ravitch, Jennifer Jennings, and Fred Smith that the standards had been lowered, and their own terrific reporting staff of Erin Einhorn, Meredith Kolodner, Rachel Monahan, and Juan Gonzalez, who, for at least three years, have revealed the numerous ways in which the state test scores have been systematically inflated over time.

Those of us at the NYC parent blog have also written about this extensively; see this entry from Steve Koss, analyzing an Erin Einhorn story from Sept. 4, 2007. Einhorn did an ingenious experiment with middle school students, showing how the math exams had gotten easier, and how SED and the DOE should have and probably were aware of this fact (I can’t find the original article online anymore.)

Let’s hope that the News editors will finally learn something from this “harsh lesson” and start showing some independence.

The NY Times also bears some of the blame. I have never seen an editorial in the Times that even mentioned the possibility of state test score inflation; and the paper hasn't yet reported on the Koretz' findings.

In August 2009, when Bloomberg was pressing for extension of mayoral control of the schools and his own re-election, the Times published a credulous story that recounted the steep increase in state test scores without directly quoting any of the skeptics; and also incorrectly used the DOE’s preferred date of 2002 instead of 2003 to claim improvements on the national exams called the NAEPs.

The article omitted any of the abundant evidence that the state exams and their scoring had become easier over time. (See my critique of their August 2009 article, NY Times falls in line with the Bloomberg PR spin control; and the response from Times editor, Ian Trontz: The NY Times response, and my reply. See also Wayne Barrett's take on our critique of the Times.)

What are the chances that now that Bloomberg has successfully won his battle to retain nearly unlimited control over our schools, and is in the midst of his third term, the editors of the News and the Times will apologize to their readers, and admit that the smell they’ve told us was roses was really an artificial chemical, successfully concocted to fool them? Don't hold your breath.