Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Fraud in Mayor Bloomberg's Test Results?

The current issue of City Journal features a Sol Stern article in the "Soundings" section entitled "Gotham's Telltale Reading Tests". In it, Stern describes a press conference in 2005 in which Mayor Michael Bloomberg claimed that PS 33 in the south Bronx, among the poorest districts in the state, had increased its pass rate from 35.8 percent in 2004 to 85.3 percent in 2005. Mayor Bloomberg claimed that this was evidence of his (laughable) claim that education achievement has improved during his tenure. The principal, Elba Lopez, retired that year with a $15,000 productivity bonus which increased her pension by $12,000 for life (a present value of roughly $120,000). However, in 2006, according to Stern's article, the school's fourth grade pass rate plummeted back to 41 percent, probably not statistically different from the 2004 pass rate. Mayor Bloomberg did not hold a press conference to reveal this information, according to Mr. Stern.

My mother was an elementary school teacher in P.S. 7 in Manhattan during the 1970s and 1980s. She retired early because of frustration with the corrupt system in those days. Needless to say, gaming and fraud were commonplace in reporting official test results. Mayor Bloomberg claims expertise in management because he has built one of the most successful companies in New York City. However, his management expertise does not seem to have spared him from being duped. Much as Ken Lay was held accountable for breaches of fiduciary duty, Mayor Bloomberg ought to be held accountable if there was fraud in PS 33's test results.

There neeeds to be an investigation of corruption in the reporting of test results. If Mayor Bloomberg is running for president on his record as an "education mayor" (as a college professor in New York, this sounds to me a ridiculous claim), he needs to account for potential fraud in the test results that he has touted, and needs to explain why he was so easily duped.*

*Perhaps it's his Harvard MBA. He should have gone to NYU!

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