From The Times:
The new statistics, part of a push to realign state standards with college performance, show that only 23 percent of students in New York City graduated ready for college or careers in 2009, not counting special-education students. That is well under half the current graduation rate of 64 percent, a number often promoted by Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg as evidence that his education policies are working.
But New York City is still doing better than the state’s other large urban districts. In Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse and Yonkers, less than 17 percent of students met the proposed standards, including just 5 percent in Rochester.
This is yet another punch to the gut in a series of blows to the future prospects of New York’s kids. Frankly, I’m a bit dazed at this point.
How can things be this terrible? Is our educational system itself to blame? Or are these the inevitable results of rapidly rising income inequality and the well-documented social ills that accompany it?
A friend of mine teaches middle schoolers in the South Bronx. I suspect that he’s superb at what he does, and that New York would be a better place if we had more teachers like him. But when I hear about the huge range of problems that his kids face, it’s clear that society is asking him to be a teacher, parent, big brother, neighbor, cop, and social worker to over 100 (arguably hormonally psychotic) teenagers. It’s an impossible task.
President Obama’s recognition of teachers as “nation builders” in his State of the Union address was welcome and uplifting rhetoric. (My friend was a “nation builder” on his Facebook profile for several days.) But does the President — does anyone — really know how we can recover from this educational disaster without addressing the social and economic ills at its core?
Sadly, the latest reform ideas that intuitively appeal to some of us — charter schools, teacher accountability — are showing mixed results. True, there have been phenomenally successful cases like charter school operator KIPP, which currently serves about 1,600 kids in NYC, 97% of whom are African-American or Latino and 87% of whom go on to college. But the broader evidence on charter school effectiveness is unclear at best. Moreover, it seems almost impossible to hold public school teachers accountable for results when the very metrics used to judge success are so unreliable. Even some of the original advocates of choice and accountability like NYU’s Diane Ravitch are recanting in the face of a host of unintended consequences.
If teachers in urban America are our “nation builders,” are we engaged in the Marshall Plan or the Iraq War?
I honestly don’t know.