On the same day that she spent time denying weeks-old rumors about being the future mayor, Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch was rebuked by the current one.
Speaking with reporters in the Bronx today, Mayor Michael Bloomberg took aim at Tisch’s characterization that the Department of Education had “warehoused thousands of kids” in failing schools. Tisch made the comments to the editorial board of the New York Daily News after visiting Brooklyn’s Automotive High School, which started undergoing federally funded “restart” this year.
“She’s totally wrong on the facts,” Bloomberg said. “I don’t know where she got that from. … She’s obviously been misinformed.”
But Tisch had backed up her statement not with hard facts but with anecdotal evidence about what she saw in Automotive’s classrooms and hallways. “No one’s in the class and kids are wandering around the hallway. I couldn’t tell me for the life of me what the instruction was,” Tisch told the Daily News.
Bloomberg, whose administration has relied on data to drive school improvement, said today that Tisch’s approach to identifying and solving problems in schools is misguided:
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You can’t run a school system on anecdotal evidence. We have a 1.1 million students to take care of and you can’t run it on … you have to have numbers. You have to have reality and take a look and see. You’re not going to help every kid but we have made enormous progress. I dont think there’s any school system in the country that has taken a school like the one she talked about and made as many improvements as we have have. Are they all going to be ready for Harvard, Yale or Princeton? No. And, incidentally, neither was I when I graduated school.
In a follow-up phone call, Tisch said her visit to Automotive was meant to tally how the city is using federal School Improvement Grants for struggling schools — and that she didn’t like what she saw.
“We stand by what we saw in the schools,” Tisch said of the visits. “We wanted to have a sense of what was going on with the schools that were targeted with the SIG grants. … The bottom line is we can’t spend money on creating effective schools unless the conditions are right to receive that money.”