|Mayor Bloomberg and Schools Chancellor Joel Klein touted big jumps in math and reading scores. Appleton for News|
So all those glowing school test results were a fraud, after all.
For years, Mayor Bloomberg, Schools Chancellor Joel Klein and top education officials in Albany touted big jumps in math and reading scores statewide - and skyrocketing results among New York City's pupils.
The scores, they said, were proof that mayoral control and Klein's data-driven version of school reform had succeeded.
Schools were winning the "civil rights battle of our time," the chancellor claimed, by closing the racial "achievement gap."
To promote his reforms nationwide, Klein even founded a nonprofit group last year with the Rev. Al Sharpton. They called it the Education Equality Project.
Now, state officials have revealed a startling nosedive in test scores. Admitting that results from previous years had been inflated, the state announced tougher standards this year - resulting in the lower scores. Thousands of parents who had been told their children were at grade level are suddenly learning they aren't.
Even worse, the new scores show the racial "achievement gap" has increased.
Back in 2003, 73.3% of white fourth-grade students met state standards, compared with only 46.3% of black pupils. The gap between the two groups was 26.9 points. This year, the gap between black and white fourth-graders increased to 31.7 points.
For Hispanic fourth-graders, there was a smaller rise, from 29.7 points in 2003 to 30.3 this year - but a rise nonetheless.
Comparisons aren't possible for all grades because the state only tested fourth- and eighth-graders until 2006.
More than 15% of the 400,000 students who took this year's reading test registered at Level 1 - the lowest possible level - while only 2.8% did last year.
An astonishing 85% of those lowest achievers were African-American and Hispanic.
The new scores are so bad Sharpton has begun to distance himself from Klein.
"I'm very disturbed and concerned by these scores," Sharpton said.
"We were told students were improving, but it seems our kids were victims of dumbed-down tests to make the administration look good."
"We've been warning for years that passing levels had been lowered," said Victoria Bousquet, a member of the Coalition for Educational Justice.
The mother of two children at Medgar Evers Preparatory School in Brooklyn, Bousquet was stunned when she read the new test scores for their school.
"We went from 95% of the children meeting standards last year to 67% this year," she said.
Klein and Bloomberg dared to claim this week that the sky had not really fallen on their reforms. Test scores have continued to climb under their watch, they claimed. It's just that standards are getting tougher.
Well, ask any baseball fan about all those balls rocketing out of stadiums in the Mark McGwire-Sammy Sosa era. At first the numbers looked amazing, and everyone was happy. Then the investigations started, and McGwire is no longer anyone's hero.
The era of school scores on steroids is coming to an end. Let's see who survives this scandal.