Thursday, April 9, 2009

Fordham Flippantly Fumbles Facts?

A couple days ago the Fordham Institute's blog ran a piece on the DOE's letter to states requesting information before releasing the rest of the stimulus funds.

In the piece, Mike Petrilli writes that "The number of schools in restructuring status that have demonstrated substantial gains in student achievement, closed, or consolidated within last three years" is "zero."

I know for a fact that at least one schools has been closed after going through restructuring. The school where I taught in the Bronx was in restructuring while I was there and a few months before I left they announced that the school would be phased out. It was closed as of June, 2008. So to say that the number is "zero" is verifiably and definitively false.

And my school was hardly the only school in NYC to close -- a number of high schools and middle schools (I'm guessing >20 offhand) have been closed since 2001. I have no idea how many districts outside of NYC have closed schools -- nor how many schools have been closed -- but this page claims that Chicago has shuttered 12 schools in recent years, so I'm willing to bet it's also not zero.

All of this leaves me quite puzzled. I've read a lot of what Mike Petrilli has written over the past year or so, and I have no doubt that he's a knowledgeable guy. So it strikes me as odd that he would so flippantly toss out a figure that is unquestionably and verifiably false. Did he misread what he wrote? Was it a typo? I read the page at least ten times, because I figured I must be missing something. I left a comment, but Flypaper almost never responds to comments. So, pending the results of an e-mail asking for clarification, I can see no possible conclusion other than that what he wrote is simply wrong. States have closed x schools that were in restructuring over the past three years, and x does not equal 0.

update: As Mike Petrilli notes in the comments below, he didn't say what I thought he said. He said that "in the vast majority" of state that number would be zero. I'm not sure whether or not he's correct about that (nor exactly how many would constitute a "vast majority"), and it was still a flippant remark, but regardless of whether or not he's right I'm definitely wrong. Mea Culpa.


skoolboy said...

I saw that and was surprised as well. Am guessing that it was just careless editing.

Mike Petrilli said...

Hi Corey. I'm sorry for missing this earlier. I said (with a certain amount of rhetorical flourish, I'll admit) that this was the case for the "vast majority of states." Which is almost surely right, though I'll admit that I don't have the data to back it up. But do you think there are more than a handful of states where "failing schools" have been shut down or, conversely, shown dramatic improvements?

Corey Bunje Bower said...