Dear Deborah, I note with pleasure that The New York Times endorsed (again) the principle of national testing. My guess is that the latest NAEP results for New York City prompted them to do so. As you know, New York City has been trumpeting its "historic gains" in test scores without let-up over the past few years, since Mayor Bloomberg gained control of the school system and persuaded the Legislature to turn it into the Department of Education. As part of what may be a nascent Bloomberg-for-President campaign, the Department's very large public relations staff works hard to persuade the ...

Dear Diane, The intellectual and informational inaccuracy, sloppiness and thoughtlessness of so much of education reporting still shocks me—I know I ought to have gotten over it. The story you told me about the reporter who bought NYC's claims that the latest NAEP results are a sign of the DOE's success is such a perfect example. Investigative reporting is a lost art. They too often see themselves as conduits for press releases, with perhaps one quote from someone "on the other side" to show that it's impartial. It's their style even when I'm delighted with it! E.g.: I loved...

Dear Deborah, It was interesting that you used the analogy to Consumer Reports to discuss the value of grading schools. As a longtime subscriber to CR, I understand that it is useful to have a disinterested voice evaluating the products in the marketplace. To make sure that there is never a conflict of interest, CR does not accept advertising; no one can ever say that their judgments were tainted by commercial interests. The CR example shows, I think, the problems with assigning a letter grade (only one letter grade, not a report card) to each school. To begin with, schools ...

Dear Diane, Amen. We agree, although it will be interesting to see where this takes us—re. alternatives. (For next week?) Bard College President Leon Botstein's outraged voice last week helped me sort out the issues raised by NYC's new school grading system. (Disclosure: my granddaughter is a very happy student at Bard's public high school.) He's right that it is a unique school engaged in a unique project. He is wrong that this makes him different than most other schools—each of which is also "unique". He claims the Regents exams are not good measures of their work. He's...

Dear Deb, I must add two points to my blog about the letter grades handed out to New York City public schools last week. As I said in my original post, the formula was complex but heavily dependent on how students did on the state tests. Eighty-five percent of the letter grade (and remember that each school was given only a single letter grade, not a report card with a variety of grades) was based on these test scores, a combination of "performance" and "progress." Some very reputable, high-performing schools got a low mark because the proportion of students who ...

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