Advocate: achievement gap widened under Bloomberg


While Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott spent the weekend touting educational improvements under Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Leonie Haimson traveled to Kingsbridge to challenge statistics espoused by Tweed officials.

Ms. Haimson, executive director of the educational advocacy organization Class Size Matters, addressed Northwest Bronx For Change in the Benjamin Franklin Reform Democratic clubhouse Saturday. 

Ms. Haimson said examining National Achievement of Educational Progress test scores from 2003 on, shows that New York City has made less progress on narrowing achievement gaps than any other major American city except for Cleveland. 

New York City is the only city in the country where students who aren’t classified as low-income scored lower on the NAEPs than a decade ago, she said.

Mr. Walcott said graduation rates have risen 40 percent and that the achievement gaps between minority and white students and low-income students and their peers have shrunk.

Despite a 2007 settlement with the state in which the city pledged to reduce class sizes in exchange for billions in state aid, Ms. Haimson flipped through charts showing how average class sizes spiked to a 14-year high. 

Ms. Haimson then criticized Mr. Bloomberg for closing about 150 schools across the city, which she said left administrators with limited budgets and students with fewer course offerings and extracurricular activities. Ms. Haimson partially blamed tighter budgets on charter schools, which she said now, on average, receive more per-student funding than traditional public schools.

A few gasps came from the crowd when Ms. Haimson explained that the city and state have agreed to store student data — including grades, test scores, discipline and attendance records, race, ethnicity, special education status and contact information — with InBloom Inc. InBloom would store the information in a database, which would be shared with educational companies to improve their products. Ms. Haimson emphasized that companies involved with InBloom have not guaranteed that student data wouldn’t be leaked. 

She pushed for a state bill that would prevent student information from being released without parental consent, something supported by Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz. State Sens. Adriano Espaillat, Jeff Klein and Gustavo Rivera have not moved to support the measure, according to the Senate’s online bill tracking tool.

Though the event didn’t attract any mayoral candidates, City Council candidates Andrew Cohen and Cliff Stanton attended.

Louise Warren, the Northwest Bronx For Change’s education committee chair, said the concept behind InBloom shocked her. 

“When I used to write IEPs they told us IEPs were legal documents; we shouldn’t taken them home to work on them, or share them with anyone … Now they’re selling them. I’m appalled,” said Ms. Warren, a retired special-education teacher and Van Cortlandt Village resident.

Dennis Walcott,