Thursday, August 14, 2008

NY Sun Criticizes NY Times

Editorial of The New York Sun | August 14, 2008

Forgive us, but what was the New York Times thinking when they wrote that editorial this week about No Child Left Behind? They wrote about every way states are making a mockery of the law's high standards — from watering down tests to quietly lowering the pass-rate — without once mentioning their home state of New York, which just happens to be Exhibit A in this entire debate.

It was New York that gave special accommodations to more fourth-graders taking the National Assessment of Educational Progress than any other state in the union — so many that some experts told our Elizabeth Green the state's results should be thrown out entirely. It was New York where a top adviser to the state Education Department argued the state should scour its test results for evidence of what the psychometricians call "score inflation," in which test scores rise regardless of whether true learning has occurred.

On top of that, it was New York where officials this year lowered the passing score on an Algebra exam required for graduation to just 30 points on an 87-point score. And it was also New York that high schools looking to varnish their statistical profiles were found to be quietly bidding farewell to teenagers who appeared likely to fail, without reporting their departures to the state. One potential outcome is that graduation rates could skyrocket and the dropout rate could disappear.

How these local developments could have escaped the attention of the Times is beyond us, especially considering that the newspaper from which we drew our final example in was theirs. Perhaps in their coverage of the No Child Left Behind law the mandarins of Eighth Avenue have fallen victim to the law of Not In My Backyard. They'd certainly be in good company. Announcing the latest graduation rate results, Mayor Bloomberg could not for his life fathom why our reporter Elizabeth Green might inquire as to his opinion on the charge that graduation rates are inflated by schools trying to put on a good face.

"I'm sort of speechless," the mayor said. "Is there anything good enough to just write the story?" Well, it's the mayor who has traveled the country decrying lower academic standards for poor and minority children as a shameful practice we should immediately end. So the point is not to embarrass him or his chancellor or the Times. But the mayoral control of the schools is up for renewal in Albany, and one would think that both the mayor and the Times would want to be seizing the lead on the standards issue by setting an example here at home.

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