At the last Assembly Governance Task Force meeting, Marsha Lyles, Deputy Chancellor for Teaching and Learning testified for the Department. She went on, and on, and on, spouting data after data, all self-adulatory, recounting the glittering successes of the Klein years. Assembly members questioned the data, especially pointing to contradictory NAEP results, only to have the NAEP data trashed by Ms. Bell-Ellwinger, self-described as a Senior Advisor to the Chancellor.
The Communication Tsar, David Cantor, is quick to respond to any questions about Department data … see the recent back and forth on Gotham Schools here.
Who has more credibility as a researcher: Cantor or Diane Ravitch? Should your public relations staff be the “experts” in the analysis of complex data?
It is accepted in the scientific community that published research must be “peer reviewed,” respected authorities, not involved in the research, comment on the research techniques and analysis of the data.
In a question about the effectiveness of the graduates of the DOE Leadership Academy Deputy Chancellor Chris Cerf mumbled about the complexity of the issue, i.e., most take over brand new schools, and talked about the necessity to use regression analysis. Chris, you’re absolutely right … why not ask some outside research institution with experience to do such a per reviewed study?
While the endgame is a few months away the one outcome of the mayoral control/school governance imbroglio must be the establishment of an independent authority to report on city/district/school/student progress.
David R. Jones, the President and Chief Executive Officer of the Community Service Society strongly supported the concept of external review. Mr. Jones serves as Vice-Chair of the Independent Budget Office .
Whether the Independent Budget Office should expand it’s responsibilities or another organization based on the IBO model must become a matter of public discussion. The Research Alliance for NYC Schools should NOT be the outside, independent body, it is ill-suited. Both Joel Klein and Randi Weingarten serve on the Board, and, the alliance was created three years ago under another name and has only produced three reports of low interest in this time.
The IBO was created by the City Charter and has a clear mission:
IBO publishes three annual reports required by the City Charter. Our Fiscal Outlook, issued prior to the upcoming fiscal year, provides an independent forecast of revenue and spending for the year ahead. IBO’s Analysis of the Preliminary Budget offers a comprehensive review of the Mayor’s proposals, and we follow up with an Analysis of the Executive Budget that highlights changes from the preliminary plan.
The IBO is constantly analyzing issues of public interest and maintains a weblog:
IBO regularly produces “fiscal briefs” on critical issues confronting the city. These informative publications have covered important topics such as city spending on schools, progress and prospects for completing the Mayor’s housing plan, the tax burden on city residents, financing sports stadiums, and the cost of recycling. Our “background papers” are generally geared to narrower interests and technical readers and include methodological details or provide overviews of specific city programs. IBO’s Weblog provides short explanations and timely information on current fiscal issues.
Sol Stern, a Senior Scholar at the Manhattan Institute , was right on target when he wrote
… his Department of Education routinely undermines accountability with a public-relations juggernaut that deflects legitimate criticism of his education policies, dominates the mainstream press, uses the schools as campaign props, and, most ominously, distorts student test-score data. Without transparency, real accountability doesn’t exist.
We live in the world of data, from the baseball sabermetricians who use data analysis to draft and trade ballplayers. In the world of education, from President Obama down to the classroom teacher the use of data is the “idea of the moment.” The bits of data must be accurate, the analysis sophisticated and the resultant actions carefully reviewed. This cannot happen when the data is politically determined. The Orwellian DOE communication department, aka the “spinners” are not expert in data analysis, they are expert in the use of data to support their employers, the use of data to drive ideology. Perhaps Cantor is a closet Winston Smith.
Whatever happens in Albany, an independent data office must be created, after all, Dvaid Cantor has a hard enough job burnishing Chancellor Klein’s image.