An Education Dissenter

One of the striking features of the current Bloomberg administration — showing only cracks amid the current ACS horror — is the lack of an institutional critic. Newspaper editorial boards are, to varying degrees, fans of Mike’s, and invested in his success. He just helped make a City Council speaker, who opened her term by pledging cooperation. And his philanthropy has many in the social service and cultural worlds wary of criticizing him.

Sol Stern bemoans these facts in a must-read (even if you disagree) dissection of Mike’s education success story in City Journal. His conclusion: Mayoral control may well have “made things worse, not better.”

Stern is on the opposite side of the educational-philosophy wars from Bloomberg, but the piece isn’t about phonics vs. whole language. It opens with criticism of Mike and Joel’s spin, and some disheartening quotes about the new regime’s openness: “I think the department officials are afraid of what you will see if you go into the schools,” says the Times education reporter, Elissa Gootman.

But the heart of the argument is about statistics; here’s a typical, disturbing (though I’m sure there’s a response to come) example.

“Klein … celebrated a much more impressive-sounding ten-percentage-point shrinking of the reading achievement gap between white and black fourth-graders. It became somewhat less impressive, however, after a closer look showed that half the ‘improvement’ resulted from a still-unexplained five-percentage-point drop for white students (perhaps brought about by abandoning phonics).”