Media Release: New York Is Not Working

A research paper released today by Save Our Schools (SOS) refutes claims by the Federal Education Minister that reforms to the New York City school system have produced “remarkable outcomes”.

Trevor Cobbold, spokesman for the Canberra-based public education advocacy group, said that Julia Gillard’s claims are “just plain wrong”.

“National tests in reading and mathematics show that student achievement in New York City schools has mostly stagnated under the reign of the City’s Schools Chancellor, Joel Klein. The less reliable state tests show a mixture of small increases and declines, a pattern which is similar to the four years preceding Klein.

“The Federal Education Minister is bringing Klein to Australia this month to tout education reforms which she wants in Australia, such as reporting individual school results, but which are clearly not working.

“Average scores have not improved and the large achievement gaps between different groups of students have not reduced.

“Average scores in reading and mathematics in Grades 4 and 8 in New York City have mostly stagnated since 2003, with virtually no improvements for Black, Hispanic and low income students.

“There has been little or no change in the difference in average scores between Black and White students, Hispanic and White students and low income and other students in New York City since 2003. The achievement gaps remain as large as they were when Klein took charge.”

Mr Cobbold said that the poor results achieved by the Klein reforms expose the fallacy of the Federal Government’s policy of reporting school results, promoting competition between schools and encouraging parents to ‘vote with their feet’ as a way to improve school performance.

“New York is clearly not working. These reforms are also not working in England – the other country from which Julia Gillard draws inspiration for education change. In England, reporting school results has led to increasing social segregation in schools and inequity in student outcomes.

“Recent studies done at the London School of Economics show that more traditional resource-based policies have been more successful for raising educational standards in English primary schools than those directed at increasing competition between schools.”

Mr Cobbold said that the Federal Education Minister and her advisors have been much too uncritical of Klein’s claims of success.

“The SOS research reveals that the NYC Schools Chancellor resorts to several artifices to claim success for his reforms.

“For example, he often uses the 2002 results as the comparison benchmark instead of 2003. The 2003 tests were conducted 6 months prior to the implementation of his reforms, so this is the appropriate comparison point. Using 2002 exaggerates the impact of the reforms because there were significant increases in student achievement from 2002 to 2003, but this was well before Klein’s changes were made.

“He refuses to report the margins of statistical error on test results, which is vital information for interpreting changes in test results. He generally uses the less reliable state test data instead of the independent national results.”

Mr. Cobbold called on the Education Minister to reject reporting individual school results.

“The major challenge remains to reduce the large achievement gaps in Australia, such as those revealed in a recent report by the NSW Auditor-General. These gaps will only be exacerbated by reporting school results. Instead, the focus must be on increased funding for disadvantaged and Indigenous students, increased quality teaching for these students as well as quality education and student welfare programs.”

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