We expect office-holders who are challenging other office-holders to use the powers at their disposal to politick. Comptroller Bill Thompson has laid a fat shot across Mayor Bloomberg’s bow by auditing the city school graduation rates which are among the Mayor’s proudest achievements. He
hired Ernst & Young to assist interviewed Ernst & Young, which helped DOE validate the accuracy of its graduation rate report. (Full Thompson report pdf here.)
The city had calculated its rate from a “cohort” of 88,963 students in the system between 2003 and 2007, and found a four-year graduation rate growth from 58 to 62 percent. Thompson’s office proceeded cautiously: they sampled 197 graduates’ records, and found that nearly 10 percent of them didn’t have adequate proof of meeting standards for graduation. This gave them cause to obtain internal documents from the Department of Education.
The docs justified most of the audited graduates’ status, but the comptroller’s office said it was “unable to determine with reasonable assurance that the documentation provided to us was actually reviewed by the schools at the time the decisions to graduate the students were made” — that is, some of the transcripts didn’t enough proof that students passed the regents, completed and/or the required course loads, etc. The comptroller’s office ran these results by the DOE for comment, and publishes their responses and their own counter-responses in the report.
This suggests that the city is a little sloppy, maybe purposely so, in passing through students, though it’s hard to tell from the audit how willful or widespread the problem is. In a press conference, however, Thompson amplified his findings for maximum political effect: “The New York City DOE has become the Enron of American education,” he said this afternoon, “showing the gains and hiding the losses.” Bloomberg’s campaign spokesman said that graduation rates under this mayor are still better than Thompson’s were when he was president of the Board of Education.