If Jamie Dimon ran his banks as fraudulently as Richard Carranza runs New York City’s schools, the feds would be on him like pigeons on a pretzel. But all Carranza gets is the occasional wet kiss from City Hall. Where’s the justice?
Carranza’s not into go-to-jail fraud, of course. That’s reserved for folks who bamboozle bank customers, and it’s no felony to swipe a kid’s future. Which, basically, is what Carranza and his $40 billion bureaucracy get away with every day.
Here’s how it works.
- The Department of Education lacquers up a school with an absurdly aspirational name to gull kids and their parents into thinking they might have a chance someday.
- Then the educrats pretend to teach important stuff, but actually they don’t teach much of anything at all.
- Along the way the books get cooked: Hard performance benchmarks are softened to the point where they lose all meaning; progress is measured without regard for the world outside DOE; class standing reveals little about knowledge accumulation — and the credentials issued at the end of the process have no objective value.
Thus do so many of the students leave the assembly line functionally illiterate, innumerate and unprepared to function in post-industrial New York.
Take, for example, the Science School for Exploration and Discovery, aka Bronx Middle School 224, which is doing very, very well indeed — according to the school itself. The Post’s Susan Edelman reported over the weekend that 94% of MS 224’s sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders passed their math classes in the 2017-18 school year. Pretty good, huh?
Except, as Edelman notes, only 2% passed the state-sponsored math tests that year.
These differences beggar belief, and there’s no reasonable explanation for MS 224’s disparities — apart, that is, from purposeful book-cooking.
Unfortunately, MS 224 is no outlier, not as far as ridiculously disparate performance numbers are concerned, anyway.
For example, the independent watchdog group StudentsFirst several years ago began comparing graduation rates of given city high schools with the performance capabilities of their grads as compiled by City University remediation specialists.
In their own way, the results were every bit as alarming as the MS 224 numbers. While there were exceptions, trends were obvious. The more splendid a school’s name, it seems, the more likely it was to have graduation rates far exceeding the share of grads capable of college-level work.
The High School for Environmental Sustainability, for example, claimed a 54% graduation rate in 2016, but only 2.2% of its grads met CUNY standards. The Gateway School for Environmental Research and Technology graduated 37% of students — but only 1.9% of that cohort could do college work.
Whether those numbers would stand up today is an open question, but not because of any improvements in DOE practices or performance. Rather, CUNY began baking its remediation numbers a couple of years ago. Given that Albany has been diluting its own standards since then-state Education Commissioner Richard Mills started the process in 1998, reliable outside benchmarks are increasingly hard to find.
Nevertheless, it’s significant that the city’s charter schools, which DOE can’t abide and Albany won’t expand, not only dramatically outperform New York’s standard public schools on city tests; they simply blow them away on state tests, too. All 53 eighth-graders at the Bronx Success Academy, for instance, aced the state algebra exam this year.
It’s an oranges on oranges comparison — and it speaks directly to the confidence game Carranza is running.
To be sure, all this can’t be hung on the chancellor; he’s only been here 14 months. Still, he has shown no interest in the hard work necessary to crack fossilized institutional interests. Nor is he willing to address the cultural and social realities that make urban education such a challenge everywhere.
Carranza’s shtick, as has become obvious, is to racialize the reform debate; he finds white racism, implicit and otherwise, to be the issue — and no surprise there. The racism dodge fits the zeitgeist, and Mayor Bill de Blasio — who uses it all the time himself — approves.
But racism isn’t the problem — because standard public education in New York isn’t an honest enterprise anyway. It’s a swindle, and one need look no further than the performance contrasts between the Science School for Exploration and Discovery and Bronx Success Academy to understand that.
Quick, somebody. Call a cop.
This piece originally appeared at New York Post
Bob McManus is a contributing editor of City Journal. He retired as editorial page editor of the New York Post in 2013 and has since worked as a freelance editor, columnist, and writer.
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