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[Susan notes: The writer of this provocative letter is the head of the educational leadership program at the Brooklyn College campus of the City University of New York. He is the author of American Public Education Law (Peter Lang, 2007) with a Foreword by Ramon Cortines. Diane Ravitch called it, "a user-friendly guide to education law that will prove extremely helpful to parents, teachers, and all others concerned about public education."

You should follow the hot link to his commentary, which faults the Gates Foundation for "its failure to engage in any semblance of public accountability, its history of secret evaluations, and its disowning of responsibility for the harm it has caused."


Published in Education Week

To the editor

Regarding your coverage of a study of the New Century High Schools in New York City ( Report Roundup, Oct. 24, 2007; New Small Schools in N.Y.C. Post Higher Graduation Rate Oct. 31, 2007):

The report by Policy Studies Associates Inc. claims that a sample of small schools had increased graduation rates, compared with large schools with comparable student populations. At least as important, however, is the fact that most of these small-school graduates earned diplomas that are so deficient that New York state will eliminate them next year because they fail to meet accepted standards of college readiness.

Larger schools performed significantly better in producing Regents-level graduates, the only level that will be available next year. So it appears that, counter to their stated mission, the small schools are putting graduation over education, without the academic rigor that advocates claim.

But there is no way to check the accuracy of even this conclusion, since the parties involved refuse to make the underlying data publicly available (as I describe in my Jan. 25, 2006, Commentary Come Clean on Small Schools). And this is the final of four Policy Studies Associates reports. Subsequent data under the new graduation rules apparently will never be studied.

The PSA researchers, in defining success as “credit accumulation,” rather than subject mastery, do a disservice to the movement by gaming their data in this manner, informing small schools of these rules and then comparing them with students in large schools ignorant of PSA’s bottom line. Further, nowhere in the report or the Education Week coverage is there mention of the small schools’ exclusion of students with disabilities and English-language learners requiring self-contained classrooms, a matter of likely significance and the subject of a federal civil rights investigation.

Similarly, nowhere is there mention of class size or other characteristics of successful small schools to make their results replicable, so unique is the sample and the attention that has been heaped on it from the program’s inception.

The fact that your newspaper receives grant support from two foundations that also fund the organization that was instrumental in producing both the research and the program it evaluated leads me to question the way you presented this story.

David C. Bloomfield

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