Sol Stern's Advice to the Next Mayor of NYC
Sol Stern with some mostly good advice for the next mayor:
Dear Mr. or Ms. Mayor-Elect:
Allow me to offer a few modest suggestions as you plan your administration’s education policies.
First, a little humility might be in order. In the exuberance of electoral victory, you’ll feel tempted to proclaim a new era of progress for New York City’s schools, just as your predecessor did. But reflect on the consequences of Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s overselling of his education reforms. When Bloomberg won mayoral control of the schools in 2002, he promised gains in student achievement that were impossible to deliver. He then tried to reach those lofty goals by putting incredible pressure on principals and teachers to boost students’ test scores. Testifying at a congressional hearing in 2008, Bloomberg contended that his administration had narrowed the racial achievement gap by half—in just five years! It didn’t actually happen, nor has it ever happened in any school district in the United States. Overall achievement also didn’t improve much. For example, eighth-grade reading scores on the
National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP)—the single best predictor that we have of kids’ readiness for college—barely budged between 2003 and 2011.
The Bloomberg administration deserves credit for bringing more efficient management practices to a dysfunctional bureaucracy and for offering parents and children greater choices by expanding charter schools and creating new, smaller high schools. But the overwhelming emphasis on higher test scores has caused real damage, including test-score inflation, cheating by educators, and demoralization of classroom teachers.