Tuesday, December 11, 2007
Run, Run, Run: But You Just Can't Hide
The school report card system is under fire again, inside and outside City Hall. As Education Reporter Michael Meenan explains, some council members and opponents of wide-scale testing graded the system itself and handed out an F.
"We are sick and tired of you lying and not telling the truth about these report cards!” yelled a school advocate confronting the architect of the Department of Education’s school report card system, who tried to leave through a side door after testifying before the City Council.
Indeed, Jim Liebman already had a rough time inside City Hall.
"Mr. Liebman, you familiar with the game of rotisserie baseball or fantasy football? Well, it strikes me that the person who designed this is a fellow fantasy football fan,” said City Councilmember Lewis Fidler.
The councilman said the number crunching that led to some schools getting As, and 150 getting Ds and Fs is too confusing. But Liebman insisted the crunching was fair and easy to understand.
"Every single measure in the progress reports is entirely transparent,” said Liebman.
The biggest measure is, of course, how kids do on high-stakes standardized reading and math tests in grade school and on Regents tests in high school. It's that emphasis on testing that sparked the confrontation outside City Hall.
"We want to put an end to using test scores to determine grades of city schools,” said Jane Hirschmann of the advocacy group Time Out from Testing.
Members of Hirschmann's group held up Fs to show their disapproval of the report cards. Councilman Simcha Felder joined in. The showdown was all part of the fallout after 13 schools were ordered closed and reorganized last week.
City lawmakers wanted to know did the closed schools get singled out to send a political message from City Hall or did they really deserve this big shake up?
"Kids are in those schools that are failing year in and year out and they can't wait, we can't wait to close those schools,” said Liebman.
Councilman Robert Jackson accused the DOE of being heavy-handed by not consulting with district parent councils before closing schools.
"That’s the direction the chancellor's going – he's in big trouble – and that's why these parents here are given him an F – for that lack of consultation with them," said City Councilmember Robert Jackson.
The DOE pointed to a recent poll showing parents overwhelmingly back the report card system, although Hirschmann says she has 7,000 petitions from parents who are opposed.
– Michael Meenan