test scores

New York

After a DOE official tries to rebut her, Diane Ravitch responds

The Department of Education and Diane Ravitch, a former supporter who has emerged as one of the department's most vocal critics, have for years sparred over how to interpret DOE data. In their latest skirmish, the department and the historian have each issued memos refuting the other's claims about how well the city schools are performing. The DOE's memo went out by e-mail to all principals; Ravitch's appears for the first time in this post. The newest dustup stems from an op/ed Ravitch wrote for the New York Times earlier this month, in which she argued that data show the DOE is incorrect to say schools have improved significantly since Mayor Bloomberg took control of them. Schools Chancellor Joel Klein immediately fired back against Ravitch in a letter to the editor. But apparently some principals needed more convincing, because Klein wrote in a recent Principals Weekly newsletter that he had heard from "a number" of them with questions about whether Ravitch's op/ed was accurate. To answer the principals' questions, Klein said he asked Jennifer Bell-Ellwanger, a senior DOE official who oversees testing, to fact-check Ravitch's claims. Bell-Ellwanger produced an 8-page memo, dated April 28, rebutting Ravitch point by point. Klein linked to the memo in his most recent e-mail newsletter to principals; I've also posted it in full below the jump. After I shared Bell-Ellwanger's memo with her, Ravitch composed a long response of her own, noting that her Times op/ed was thoroughly vetted before publication. "The editor at the Times required documentation for every single fact in the article, and I supplied it," she writes in her response, which I've posted just after Bell-Ellwanger's memo below.
New York

Report: Test score gains predate Bloomberg and mayoral control

A graph from Assemblyman James Brennan's report shows that test score increases began before 2002, when mayoral control was enacted and Mayor Bloomberg took office. A Brooklyn lawmaker is throwing doubt on two key arguments in both Mayor Bloomberg's re-election campaign and his effort to keep the mayor in charge of the public school system: The idea that Bloomberg's leadership is responsible for city students' rising scores on standardized tests — and the extent to which achievement actually improved under Bloomberg. In a paper released earlier this year, Assemblyman James Brennan points out that city students' test scores were rising steadily for four years before Bloomberg took office, and, in some cases, at a faster pace than they have under Bloomberg. He also argues that a list of changes in the schools that are unrelated to the Blooomberg administration or mayoral control (a near quadrupling of early childhood programs, for instance, and a dramatic increase in state funding that dates back to 1998) are the real reason for the gains the system has made. "I generally don’t view their success to be credible," Brennan, who could play a significant role in the mayoral control discussions this spring, said in a recent interview. "I do not believe that some of the recent improvements in the school system are directly related to policies of Klein." Brennan's stance directly challenges the mayor and Schools Chancellor Joel Klein, who declare in speeches, billboards, television advertisements, and interviews that their changes to the school system are responsible for a battery of improvements, including higher test scores. A Department of Education spokesman, Andrew Jacob, defended this point of view in a short memo disputing Brennan's conclusions. The memo argues that the city's test scores are rising more steadily than scores across New York State, and accuses Brennan of ignoring several Bloomberg administration policies, including the opening of hundreds of new schools and transfers of funds to schools from the bureaucracy. It also points out an indisputable rise in the graduation rate, which soared by 10 percentage points under Bloomberg, compared to a change of just one-tenth of a percentage point in the entire decade before he took control of the schools. Below the fold, I'll walk through each part of the dispute.
New York

New charter schools on the way…

A $16.6 million federal grant will fund the development and support of new charter schools in New York State, the US Department of Education announced in July. The grant, from the Department's Charter School Program, will be used primarily to create and support secondary-level charter schools. Today is the postmark deadline for the current round of applications for the planning and implementation of new charter schools. Mayor Bloomberg and Chancellor Klein have long pushed for the creation of more charter schools, successfully convincing the state legislature to increase the number of charters granted from 100 to 200 in April, 2007.  Half of the new charters are reserved for New York City. Even that limit may be short-lived; Governor Paterson reportedly told members of the Alliance for School Choice advocacy group that he supports lifting the cap on charters altogether. Approximately 18,000 students attend New York City's 60 charter schools, with thousands more students on waiting lists, according to the DOE. In response to this demand, eighteen new charter schools will open across the city this fall, with seven in the Bronx, five in Brooklyn, five in Manhattan, and one in Queens. The schools have a wide variety of institutional partners, including Victory Schools, adding two new charters to their six existing schools throughout the city, and the Success Charter Network, expanding from one to four schools in Harlem. The new charters, once they reach full capacity, will include six elementary schools, seven combined elementary-middle schools, one combined middle-high school, two high schools, and two K-12 schools.  Most existing New York City charter schools serve elementary and middle school students.