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Thompson audits Bloomberg’s graduation numbers

July 21, 2009 pm31 11:35 pm

It’s a preview of the race for Mayor? My caucus (New Action/UFT) already endorsed Thompson, so I guess I’m rooting for the auditor, not the auditee…

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Who reads 73 pages of this crap? Me.

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As programmer at a small school, I do tranupdates. I also do multiple credit checks for seniors (in August at programming time, again in January, and finally in June), sometimes on my own, sometimes in conjunction with the principal (or less often, a counselor). All of this stuff is familiar.

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Bloomberg wins lots of individual battles. The paper records are believable. The nonsense with odd summer school codes is real; sometimes a repeated code really does represent different course. The college course missing shouldn’t have happened, but it could…

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Bloomberg gets some details wrong. Looks like he redefined “middle school” to get some accelerated credits counted (though hard to tell without seeing the records). He quotes Part 100 of the State education law freely, counting on no one else being able to read it. Ha ha, someone did. Next time Mikey, tell your staff to be more careful about making up section numbers. (What did they mean by 100.5.7.iv ?)

For those of you brave enough to try here’s Part 100. Section 5 is what you are looking for, graduation requirements. Take notes.

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Thompson and Bloomberg jointly get one broad stroke wrong. Standardizing codes answers no problems, but causes many. Schools with special programs will have special codes. Neither side was sure of what some codes meant until they asked the schools. Schools should be required to keep accurate code decks. But one size fits all? Egads, disaster. There is no way they can meet the needs of literally hundreds of high schools, many with special programs that require special codes.

Speaking of codes, it is unkind but clearly not unfair to ask why Gotham Schools doesn’t know what New York City codes look like. English 101? Maybe someone who’s been to a high school in NYC can give them a hand.

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Thompson gets many broad strokes right.

There is no oversight; principals can certify graduation with little thought of anyone ever looking over their shoulder.

It is troubling that individual schools set individual annualization policies (effectively annualization is socially acceptable credit recovery). It is troubling that there are no citywide standards for independent study. “Demonstrates mastery of the course material” sounds more than a little vague. And no, the State regs do not anticipate annualization.

Record-keeping is likely shoddy in many schools. Thompson’s wrong that they should all be on HSST, but Bloomberg’s wronger, with a don’t ask, don’t tell policy about school records.

Thompson points out, news to me, that the City has a 90% attendance requirement for graduation. Better drop that…

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Bloomberg wins where Thompson flinched: there’s no direct mention of credit recovery.

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The best part is not the audit. It is the Bloomberg’s reaction to learning what got audited. He expected Thompson to check his math.

Bloomberg said 80,482 kids were ninth graders in 2003, he claims to have legally subtracted 18,624, he claims to have legally added 8,481, giving a grand total of 70,439. Of those,   43,651 graduated, or  62%.

Bloomberg expected Thompson to check those four numbers. Thompson instead looked at whether or not individual kids had earned the credits to graduate. Outrageous! says Bloomberg. Man, did I laugh.

Look, I’m going to audit the working cars on your used-car lot. Do you think that means I am going to just count them? Or maybe I’m going to look under a hood or two?

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A millionaire used-car salesman throwing a fit. That’s who we need to toss out this fall…

5 Comments leave one →
  1. KMTMB permalink
    July 22, 2009 am31 12:32 am 12:32 am

    I used to (in another life before NYCTF) do the work and write that crap. BTW you do know that crap in audit terms means “Creatively Rigged Accounting Ploys”. Apropos, no?

  2. anon permalink
    July 22, 2009 am31 7:07 am 7:07 am

    Thank you for reading the report and providing such insight. This whole situation is disturbing. I know for a fact that there seems to be no oversight over certifying graduation and all of this stems from the principal. It seems to me that some of the principals need to revisit the issues of requirements for graduation for I do know of a case where the principal is unaware of the requirements. The situation frequently arises when the person has had no experience supervising and spent their entire career as a teacher in a middle school. There are more of these cases than one would think. I hope Mr. Thompson audits middle school promotion to high school. I think he should demand that the pool of transcripts be larger- he may even learn that some schools do not even have transcipts- students are given spreadsheets with a bunch of numbers. I wonder what a college would say to receiving such a document.

  3. canwetalk permalink
    July 22, 2009 pm31 12:45 pm 12:45 pm

    It is time for a complete, comprehensive audit of ALL the high school transcripts starting from 2004 and then provide the public with the auditors’ findings. Many teachers have complained to the union, the newspapers, and to their politicians about the ongoing problems of credit accumulation in the high schools. In the NEW YORK TIMES,April 11, 2008,”A Graduation Shortcut for Student Short Credits”,By ELISSA GOOTMAN and SHARONA COUTTS, the following was stated: One Manhattan principal who has worked in the school system for more than a decade and, like many educators, requested anonymity for fear of retribution by the department, said: “I think that credit recovery and the related topic independent study is in lots of ways the dirty little secret of high schools. There’s very little oversight and there are very few standards.” In the same article, Klein stated, “If credit recovery is not conducted properly, just as with any other required course, we will take appropriate action,” he added. “We do students no favors by giving them credit they haven’t earned.” If Thompson does a thorough investigation and audit of ALL the transcripts and the improprieties of grade changes and credit accumulation are legit, then Klein must follow through on his words. Otherwise, fire Klein for deceiving the public with inflated graduation rate. If incompetent teachers are discontinued, then it must done across the board at Tweed.
    Principals are being pressured to do the unthinkable, short change the students with these grade changes because the Damoclean tactics of making the BloomKlein happy because of the Progress Report. Principals are not the only one under a lot of pressure. I know of one high school programmer who gave up the position because of the questionable changes that the principal wanted her to make on HSST. A new “accountability” procedure should be in place regarding any changes made to student transcripts where it is linked to the comptroller’s office and audtors are assigned to an oversight committee of students records. This is where transparency and accountability will have teeth.

  4. QueensParent permalink
    July 22, 2009 pm31 11:16 pm 11:16 pm

    But isn’t that just the point? If you are going to just check out under a few car hoods, why would it take you a year and a half to do that, as the Comptroller claims? The fact is they did an exhaustive look at this issue and, not finding any smoking gun, ginned this stupid audit up into a bunch of nothing. What other school official could be singularly responsible for certifying graduates than the school principal? There is no one else at the school level. This has been common school practice for decades, so why is it that the Comptroller suddenly “discovered” it, other than it is political silly season. And if it was such a problem to have principals performing this duty, why didn’t he do something about it when he led the Board of Ed. The answer? “Well, I wasn’t running for Mayor then. I was running for Comptroller.”


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