Was I dreaming?


Woke up this morning to see the truth in bold headlines in BOTH the Trib and the Sun-Times. Checked the calendar – no, April Fools Day was three weeks ago. Pretty sure it isn’t Armageddon or the End of Days. So, what gives?

From the Trib:

Though Brizard touts improvements in graduation rates and test scores among his accomplishments in his 3 1/2 years, opinion is sharply divided on whether he has made a significant difference in the performance of the district’s largely low-income black and Latino students….

A Tribune analysis of state and district records shows that even the accomplishments Brizard has heralded in his short time in Rochester are not what they seem.

For example, the district’s passing rates on state achievement tests have increased in both math and English language arts across elementary grades, but scores plummeted in 2010 when the state raised the bar because of concerns that the test was too easy to pass.

Passing rates dropped statewide as well, according to state records, but Rochester lagged state averages and posted the lowest passing rates in English language arts of the five major urban districts, including New York City, Buffalo, Syracuse and Yonkers. In math, Rochester ranked fourth of the five major urban districts.

From the Sun-Times editorial:

In introducing Jean-Claude Brizard this week as his Chicago schools chief, Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel touted Brizard’s record of dramatically increasing graduation rates in Rochester, N.Y.

Too bad it’s not true.

Four-year graduation rates under Brizard’s tenure are basically flat, according to data from Rochester and New York State.

Brizard arrived in Rochester in January 2008. That year, 52 percent of students graduated. The 2010 rate is expected to be 51 percent. The 2011 rates come out next year.

A press release put out by the Rochester schools suggested the rate had gone up significantly. It said just 39 percent of students graduated in 2007, a number Emanuel repeated on Monday. The Rochester school system confirmed late Wednesday that the correct 2007 rate was 48 percent.

It’s also puzzling why a story posted late Tuesday night by Rosalind Rossi and Fran Spielman made this back-tracking statement:

During a news conference to announce his financial team, Emanuel flatly denied that his vetting process was flawed and that he was misled on Rochester graduation rates before choosing Brizard. Data provided by the New York State Department of Education and the Rochester School District Wednesday indicate that some discrepancies critics have pounced on were due to one agency reporting a four-year graduation rate as of June and the other reporting it as of August, as well as an increase in the passing bar for state tests.

It’s true that New York State has changed the bar on most of its accountability requirements, leading officials like  New York City’s Mayor Bloomberg to brag about great improvements under his watch, when the truth is that the state kept lowering the standards.

Then there’s Mayor-Elect Rahm’s ploy – exaggerate how bad things are so that you can show miraculous improvement as soon as you take office: in his repeated, vehement assertion that Chicago’s schools are so terrible that he simply WOULD NOT ACCEPT THE STATUS QUO, Rahm has been quoting a figure of 53% for Chicago’s graduation rate, when Chicago’s state report card shows that number to be 71.8%.

A miracle in the making, no doubt.

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About the PURE Thoughts blogger
Julie Woestehoff is PURE's executive director. Julie's work has earned her a Ford Foundation award and recognition as one of the 100 Most Powerful Women in Chicago.