Thompson: Grade tampering shows Bloomberg oversells success
Officials from Bill Thompson’s campaign are pointing to a story about grade tampering at a Bronx high school as evidence that the city’s education data is unsound.
Yesterday, I reported that current and former teachers at Herbert Lehman High School are accusing principal Janet Saraceno of transforming the school into a “diploma mill.” Student transcripts given to GothamSchools show that in the last year, dozens of students have been given credit for courses they failed or never took.
Mayor Bloomberg has staked his reelection on his claim that graduation rates are rising, an assertion Thompson questioned in an audit he released as comptroller.
“Today’s article about Lehman High School grading fraud is another appalling example of Mike Bloomberg’s corrupt Department of Education,” said Thompson campaign spokesman Mike Murphy. “This is the second story this month to prove that Bloomberg has greatly exaggerated the success of his Department of Education by padding, manipulating and falsifying statistics, including graduation rates and test scores.”
Christopher Cerf, an education policy adviser for the Bloomberg campaign, defended the mayor’s accountability system, which rewards or punishes principals based on their schools’ test scores and graduation rates.
“We cannot comment on any aspects of this, but we certainly do not condone the kinds of things that are alleged. But at the same time, we believe that accountability for student outcomes is a central driver of positive reform and we believe it is critical to hold everybody in the system accountable for student results.”
Rise & Shine
While you were waking up, the U.S. Senate took a big step toward confirming Betsy DeVos as education secretary
Betsy DeVos’s confirmation as education secretary is all but assured after an unusual and contentious early-morning vote by the U.S. Senate.
The Senate convened at 6:30 a.m. Friday to “invoke cloture” on DeVos’s embattled nomination, a move meant to end a debate that has grown unusually pitched both within the lawmaking body and in the wider public.
They voted 52-48 to advance her nomination, teeing up a final confirmation vote by the end of the day Monday.
Two Republican senators who said earlier this week that they would not vote to confirm DeVos joined their colleagues in voting to allow a final vote on Monday. Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska cited DeVos’s lack of experience in public education and the knowledge gaps she displayed during her confirmation hearing last month when announcing their decisions and each said feedback from constituents had informed their decisions.
Americans across the country have been flooding their senators with phone calls, faxes, and in-person visits to share opposition to DeVos, a Michigan philanthropist who has been a leading advocate for school vouchers but who has never worked in public education.
They are likely to keep up the pressure over the weekend and through the final vote, which could be decided by a tie-breaking vote by Vice President Mike Pence.
Two senators commented on the debate after the vote. Republican Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, who has been a leading cheerleader for DeVos, said he “couldn’t understand” criticism of programs that let families choose their schools.
But Democrat Patty Murray of Washington repeated the many critiques of DeVos that she has heard from constituents. She also said she was “extremely disappointed” in the confirmation process, including the early-morning debate-ending vote.
“Right from the start it was very clear that Republicans intended to jam this nomination through … Corners were cut, precedents were ignored, debate was cut off, and reasonable requests and questions were blocked,” she said. “I’ve never seen anything like it.”
It’s been a busy week for local education news with a settlement in one Detroit schools lawsuit, a combative new filing in another, a push by a lawmaker to overhaul school closings, a new ranking of state high schools, and the swearing in of the first empowered school board in Detroit has 2009.
“And with that, you are imbued with the awesome responsibility of the children of the city of Detroit.”
— Judge Cynthia Diane Stephens, after administering the oath to the seven new members of the new Detroit school board
Read on for details on these stories plus the latest on the sparring over Education Secretary nominee Betsy DeVos. Here’s the headlines:
The first meeting of the new Detroit school board had a celebratory air to it, with little of the raucous heckling that was common during school meetings in the emergency manager era. The board, which put in “significant time and effort” preparing to take office, is focused on building trust with Detroiters. But the meeting was not without controversy.
One of the board’s first acts was to settle a lawsuit that was filed by teachers last year over the conditions of school buildings. The settlement calls for the creation of a five-person board that will oversee school repairs.
The lawyers behind another Detroit schools lawsuit, meanwhile, filed a motion in federal court blasting Gov. Rick Snyder for evading responsibility for the condition of Detroit schools. That suit alleges that deplorable conditions in Detroit schools have compromised childrens’ constitutional right to literacy — a notion Snyder has rejected.
- A top Republican lawmaker is leading an effort to repeal the law that lets the state shut down persistently low-performing schools, calling it “deeply flawed.” He called for a discussion about better ways to deal with troubled schools but stopped short of urging Snyder to back off from plans to announce a slew of school closings later this month.
- Business and education leaders have launched a new effort to study school funding in Michigan, building on a study released last year that found serious inequities in school finances.
- GOP lawmakers are gunning for teacher pensions in the new legislative session.
- The state board of education is now evenly divided between Republicans and Democrats, forcing the two parties to share power.
In other news