To the editor:
Stern would gore New York City with charges that test scores throughout New York State are inflated, yet he fails to mention a critical point: city students have performed far better than the rest of the state on the same tests. Since Mayor Bloomberg took control of the schools, fourth-graders in New York City have become proficient in English at three times the rate of students elsewhere in the state. In math, the citys eighth-graders have cut the proficiency gap with the rest of the state in halffrom 27 to 14 points.
Similarly, Stern cannot legitimately call NAEP exams the gold standard of testing while failing to note that New York City students have made statistically significant progress on three out of four NAEP tests since 2003, while far outperforming their peers in New York State and the nation. Even Diane Ravitch, a frequent critic of Bloomberg education policy in New York City, told the New York Times earlier this year that the citys progress on math is solid, and Chancellor Joel Klein can certainly take pride in that improvement. (The improved performance of New York City students reflected in both state and federal testing can also be seen in the citys graduation rate, which has risen 29 percent since 2005compared with 3 percent for the rest of New York state.)
If Sterns treatment of the citys testing performance is tendentious, his suggestion that test scores have risen because of widespread cheating is irresponsible and totally unsupported. An audit issued by former New York City comptroller and thenBloomberg mayoral opponent William C. Thompson concluded that his offices own review of the data and documentation collected by DOE . . . did not reveal any instances of cheating. The citys test-security measures exceed state-mandated requirements, as Thompson noted.
New York City students have made clear and undeniable progress. A serious and impartial analysis of the facts would have led to that conclusion.
Sol Stern responds:
I have previously acknowledged in City Journal that the citys fourth-grade math scores on the NAEP are up, and I now gladly acknowledge that there was finally a small bump this year on fourth-grade reading. (There was also a slight increase in the NAEP reading test under the previous chancellor, Harold Levy.) But the point of my article was to show that the DOEs trumpeting of huge improvements on state tests is called into question by much smaller gains or no gains at all on the NAEP tests. As for the citys graduation rates, there has never been an independent audit determining how much of the claimed improvement is due to widely used gimmicks like credit recoverythat is, allowing students who fail courses to get the needed credits by showing up for a couple of Saturday sessions and doing makeup workor due to the discharge of some students from the rolls. I dont believe the DOEs numbers, and neither do many other knowledgeable observers, including Diane Ravitch, whom Mr. Cantor now cites as an authority.
On the issue of test security, the citys standards exceed the states. Thats because, as I showed in my article, the state has no standards at all. And the city comptrollers audit that Mr. Cantor cites wasnt about teachers or administrators cheating by tampering with student test papers, which is the only issue that I wrote about.
To the editor:
To the editor:
John H. McWhorter responds:
My aim was to show that Davis, because of his personal demons, was unable to be comfortably black, white, or anything else and, as such, was an unfortunate individual. The mimicry, virtually lost to history, neatly illustrates this essence of the man. He could certainly put over a song, but energy only goes so far in defining artistic quality.