On education, the candidates once again traded barbs over whether the schools have improved with Mayor Bloomberg in charge of the vast system of more than a million students. Bloomberg again asserted that Thompson "ran" the old Board of Education, which was abolished by the state in 2002. Again, Thompson said Bloomberg had distorted his record with his free-spending campaign.
But the education debate turned more interesting when panelist Stan Brooks, of 1010 WINS Radio, asked about the huge discrepancy between soaring increases on the New York State math exams and the lack of progress by New York students on this year's national math exam (NAEP). More than 80 percent of students in New York met the state's standards for math, but only 40 percent of 4th graders and 32 percent of 8th graders met the federal standard for proficiency.
Bloomberg noted that New York City's scores on that national math exam will be released next month. And he said, "I'm optimistic we'll beat the state and show real progress."
That show of confidence was immediately questioned by Thompson, who noted that New York City's scores have closely tracked those of the rest of the state. "New York City will be flat again," he predicted, of next month's scores. "They've been flat for the last four years." He also noted that the city's SAT scores are down.
Bloomberg retorted that more students are taking SATs and Pre-SATs.
This topic hasn't gotten much attention but it is worth a closer look. The Bloomberg administration has argued that SAT scores are down because more blacks, Hispanics, and immigrants are taking the exams. These are students who have not done as well historically as whites. But the answer is much more complicated and this topic got an excellent in-depth analysis recently by Aaron Pallas, a professor of sociology and education at Teachers College, Columbia University. Check it out on the Web site Gothamschools.com.