Chapter 44: How to Close a School 101
Honest people are constrained by truth and ethics. Dishonest people feel no such constraints. Honest people don’t close schools and call it “reform”. Dishonest people do. If you have any doubt that the insistence on “data” in the evaluation of teachers and schools is anything more than a ploy to fire teachers and close schools, read on.
In June 2012 Jonathan Levin H. S. (JLHS) in the Bronx was reeling from a second low graduation rate. The school desperately needed to show improvement. On March 11, 2013 the Bloomberg-fixed Panel for Educational Policy or PEP, known among real educators as Pillaging Educational Practice, voted to phase out JLHS along with 21 other schools. I guess the data showing improvement was not forthcoming.
This was no surprise to the teachers at JLHS. On June 27, 2012 at the last faculty meeting of the school year, Principal Hoxha presented us with a document purporting to show Regents data for the performance of our students in the Regents exams given that month, the last month Regents tests were scored in house. Far from showing improvement, this document showed dismal pass rates in every subject. The problem was - it was all lies - lies, damned lies and more damned lies. Not even statistics could conceal these gross and flagrant lies.
This document stated that 93 students had taken the ELA Regents that June. This was a LIE. I attach the document in question here:
Bogus Academic Data (BAD)
[The hand-written notes apparent on the paper were made by me on the day this bogus document was distributed to the faculty. I have no doubt, as I wrote at the time, that the letterhead was deliberately left off so that in case someone brought this to the attention of the authorities, the administration could plausibly deny distributing it although I can name 30 people who were there, most of whom would not lie about receiving this document.]
According this document 93 students took the June 2012 ELA Regents and 19 passed, which if true would yield a pass rate of about 20%. In fact, however, only 72 students showed up for that exam and took it. 93 were scheduled. 21 of those 93 DID NOT SHOW UP and did not take the test. Nevertheless, Principal Hoxha calculated his ELA pass rate based on the number 93, a fictional number.
But it gets better - worse I mean. Of those 21 that didn’t show up, 8 had already passed the test. The most egregious example of this is a student who had passed the ELA exam in January with an 88. She had no intention of taking that test again and yet she was scheduled for the June test. Principal Hoxha counted this student as failing in his statistical analysis of the “data”. Why this student was programmed to take the June test is a question that should be answered by the principal. Were those 8 students who had already passed programmed in order to increase the failure rate when they didn’t show up? I for one would like an answer to that question but would not expect to get an honest one from this principal.
It was not just the English results that were skewered - skewed, I mean. Principal Hoxha deliberately used fictional numbers of students taking the exams for every department in order to show the lowest pass rate possible.
Why would the principal of a school in jeopardy deliberately falsify data in order to lower the percentages of Regents pass rates for every department in his school?
I can speak for the English department. We had seen these sorts of lies and distortions before so we were ready for it. We calculated the real statistics in every possible way. A realistic analysis of the data would show that 72 students showed up for the test; 28 either passed or had passed earlier. That is a 38.8% pass rate, almost 19 points higher than the figure officially distributed by the administration.
It is impossible to tell the intentions of a dishonest man. Did he lie? Yes. Was he deliberately sabotaging the school? I don’t know. I can only present the facts and let the reader / authorities make that determination.
I don’t know what became of this “official” data. The school is being phased out in part because of low Regents Exam pass rates. If this "data" played a role in the decision to close the school, then the decision to close the school itself becomes suspect. Statistics may not lie but the people manipulating them certainly do.
NOTE: This blog contains an excerpt of the first draft of this book.