I will protect your pensions. Nothing about your pension is going to change when I am governor. - Chris Christie, "An Open Letter to the Teachers of NJ" October, 2009

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Mayoral Control Ain't Awesome

The Star-Ledger's Tom Moran loves mayoral control of schools:
The real resolution of this conflict should come in November, when four of Caffrey’s leading critics on the board face re-election. This case perfectly illustrates the hazards presented by the toxic politics that all school reformers face. It is a screaming argument in favor of mayoral control of urban schools. [emphasis mine]
It's because, even though school boards are elected, they just can't be trusted - like in Newark:
There is more to this story than the wishes of a backward board elected in a vote with only 7 percent turnout, dominated by the political boss Steve Adubato, a make-believe school reformer, and Ras Baraka, whose team is reflexively opposed to everything Anderson does. [emphasis mine]
 So, yes, let's turn over schools to mayors. Because what could possibly go wrong?

Ask Diane Ravitch:
This is what school reform looks like in New York City after ten years of mayoral control.
In nearly 200 of the city’s 1,500 schools, at least 90 percent of the students are below the poverty line.
Four out of five of these schools have disproportionate concentrations of students who are limited English proficient or special education.
Only 31 percent of the students in these high-needs schools passed the state reading test, as compared to 47 percent citywide.
Only 45 percent of the students in these high-needs schools passed the state math tests, compared to 60 percent citywide.
Chancellor Dennis Walcott responded: ”I know schools that have a variety of percentages of students, through over-the-counter or special ed or English language learners, who are knocking the socks off the ball.”
According to the NY1 story, the chancellor is referring to 21 of the high-needs schools that beat the odds. That’s 6 percent.
Next time you hear someone from the New York City Department of Education boasting about the “miracle” of mayoral control, think about these children. [emphasis mine]
And it's not just New York. 15 years of mayoral control in Chicago has left the schools with little progress to show and a teachers union ready to strike. Michelle Rhee's underwhelming performance in Washington D.C. doesn't say much for mayoral control there. But that seems to be par for the course:
No conclusive evidence that governance changes increase achievement.
Student achievement has been the toughest nut to crack. While school leaders
tout many improvements in test scores, attendance and graduation rates, in fact,
we were unable to establish conclusively that the change in governance had any
causal relationship to improved performance, or that, using nationally-normed test
data, our cities had greater improvements than anywhere else. Nevertheless, the
statistical significance of strong mayoral involvement with achievement scores at
some levels and in some areas, suggests that mayoral involvement, if not control,
should, at the very least, be considered as part of an overall district improvement
strategy. [emphasis mine]
Mayoral involvement is great; I think we're all for mayoral involvement. But schools become campaign props when autocratic politicians take control, and we're much less likely to have honest conversations about truly fixing urban education when figures like Mike Bloomberg or Adrian Fenty or Rahm Emanuel are at the helm.

I'd change my mind if there was compelling evidence that mayoral control helps kids. Sadly, it looks as if that evidence doesn't exist. So let's put autocracy on hold and try democracy - with cleaned up campaign finance laws - for a while.

It's a miracle I can control anything!

1 comment:

Commuting Teacher said...

See, here we go again, justice for some.
Reformers: See! Look over here, some students did better!

Yet public schools can't claim any success even if they ARE better because they are still struggling with those populations that the reformers claim to help but never do.

I'll know the reformers are serious when they make whole public schools like their own elite private schools. That would be moving in the right direction.

Yes, yes, we get it, reformy types, but what we also understand is that even a broken clock can be right two times a day but crowing about it is sad.