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

Monday, March 25, 2013

Mayoral Control Ain't Done Squat For NYC

On the very day Chris Christie is taking over Camden's schools - a move that historically has had "mixed," at best, results - the Center for American Progress is releasing a report lauding mayoral control of schools. As Diane Ravitch points out:
Those of us who live in cities under mayoral control know that the primary result is not to improve education or to help struggling children, but to stifle the voices of parents, students, teachers, and community members. Under mayoral control, governance is transferred to the mayor and the power elite, few of whom have children in public schools or even attended one. Mayoral control snuffs out democracy.
The timing of this report comes just as the mayor of Chicago unilaterally decided to close more than 50 public schools, decimating communities and stranding thousands of children. Is this “reform” of public schools? It also comes as the third term of Mayor Bloomberg winds down, and the authoritative Quinnipiac poll shows that only 18% want more of the same. [emphasis mine]
Funny thing is that the CAP report makes the case that Bloomberg's reign in NYC has been good for the city's schools.
Mayoral control in New York City appears to have had significant positive effects on both fourth- and eighth-grade student achievement. African American and Latino students benefited academically from mayoral control in New York City. The improvement rate ranged from between 1 percent to 3 percent annually. A 1 percent annual increase in student proficiency rates among New York City’s fourth graders, for example, would increase achievement for nearly 2,000 students.
StudentsFirst and Michelle Rhee, naturally, agree:
In my opinion, New York should keep its school district just like it is, with the mayor in control. NYC schools have seen significant student gains since Mayor Bloomberg took control of the schools in 2002, and while the district still has a long way to go, the current governance model seems to be working for New York.
Perhaps before Rhee and SF and CAP line up to shower praise on Bloomberg and former NYC Schools Chancellor Joel Klein, they ought to take a few minutes and read my (still unfinished) series on Klein's actual legacy. Here's what they'll find:

- NYC's gains in national test scores, when broken down by subgroup, were mediocre at best (this chart via the great Leonie Haimson):

- NYC's overall gains on national tests were kind of lame; for example:

(CAP appears to hide this mediocre performance by averaging out the other cities compared to NYC, rather than looking at each city individually; they're also looking at proficiency rates and not actual test scores. For a report of this size and stature, I find this to be awfully weak tea...)

- Child poverty rates stayed relatively stable in NYC compared to the rest of the state:

- There were demographic changes in NYC that undoubtedly account for many of the changes in test scores. Some examples:

Granted, I analyzed NYC against the other cities in the state, and not the large cities participating in the NAEP. It may well be that demographic changes in other cities favored them and made it more difficult for NYC to keep up...

But that would make my point, wouldn't it?

I can't speak to the rest of CAP's report right now. But the notion that NYC made big progress under the autocratic rule of Bloomberg and Klein is not borne out by the facts.

You're really killing my buzz, Jazzman...


Cris said...

It's a complicated concept. Today, David Kirp gave a talk at the Bloustein School of Public Policy, where he repeated one of the points in his new book "Improbable Scholars," which is:
"In Union City mayoral control has been a blessing, at least to date, because it has secured the stability essential to an effective school system." (page 118)
Only recently, did Union City vote to go from an elected board to an appointed one.
Coincidentally, in the very city Kirp gave that talk, New Brunswick, residents (actually a heavy number of college students, turning out heavily to a presidential election)voted this November to switch from an appointed to an elected school board. It now appears that those who fought for an elected board and are now supporting a challenger slate are big E3 leaders. So, it remains to be seen where this change will take New Brunswick.
While I understand the importance of an elected board, it appears that the outcome in each community largely differs by local and State politics.

Mrs. King's music students said...

In Trenton, the appointed BOE has pillaged the coffers for years. Outpaced only by local politicians. But in many of the tiny districts, elected BOEs have balanced their budgets on the backs of teachers, falsified evaluations to protect salaries of extraneous admins, and bargained with union reps to keep their actions out of the public eye. While I love the idea of a local board representing the best interests of their own community, I don't think that's happening in either case. It seems like everytime the state puts money on the table, everyone at the table finds a way to co-opt for his/her own advantage.

Bill Cala said...

I am studying Union City and will be visiting in May. I have had several e-mail conversations with Kirp as well. So far, I think it a stretch to think that mayoral control has anything to do with Union City's success or will it improve their lot in the future. Their success lies in the investments they made years ago in early childhood education, a rich curriculum and teacher training: all which preceded mayoral control. Giving my knowledge of what mayoral control did to destroy NYC and Chicago, Union City should brace itself for a tumultuous future

Cris said...

Mrs. King and William,
All good points. I agree wholeheartedly that every district should have a true say in local education decisions. The point I was trying to make is that having a vote on school board members does not necessarily equate to good outcomes, nor does it always mean you have more local control than you would have with an appointed board.

Especially, now that most elections are taking place in November, it's possible that ballot position has far more impact on BOE election outcomes. (See: http://www.mycentraljersey.com/article/20130319/NJNEWS1002/303190016/Ballot-positionBallot-position)
Given the choice between the draw of a ticket in a box deciding who my school board members are vs. appointments being made by a mayor I actually get to vote on... I'm thinking atleast I can vote the mayor out.

I want locally controlled BOE's. I'm just not certain that under the circumstances that what we are really getting more local control with an elcted vs. appointed board.

Remember that in Union City it was the voters who decided to switch to an appointed Board. Also, in New Brunswick the vote to move to an elected Board barely squeaked by a win. Had it not been for the heavy turnout of college students during a presidential election year, it may not have passed. The city had voted numerous times to keep an appointed Board several times prior to it.