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March 26, 2005

More fun in the NYC public schools

What could be better than a report of math preparation materials released by New York City education officials with numerous obvious mistakes? We'll see in a moment.

The New York Times explains:

City education officials were forced to recall test preparation materials for math exams late Wednesday after discovering that they were rife with errors, including basic arithmetic mistakes.

The materials were intended for math students in grades 3 through 7, but the faulty information - at least 18 errors - was found before it reached classrooms. The testing guides were e-mailed late Wednesday to regional instructional specialists, math coaches and local instructional superintendents and recalled a few hours later.
A piece in the New York Post adds:
A flabbergasted Mayor Bloomberg yesterday said he could hardly believe it when he learned that city educrats produced math test-prep manuals that were rife with errors.

"Every day you wake up in my job and you say, 'They did what?' " Bloomberg said on his weekly radio show on WABC-AM, which he conducted by phone from his Bermuda vacation home.
What kind of errors? According to the NY Post:
Perhaps the most embarrassing error is on the cover of the booklet for the fourth grade — it says "forth grade."

An algebraic equation in the booklet for seventh-grade teachers also uses variables to ask, in essence, what 15+10 equals — but gives the correct answer as 24. In fact, 25 is not even among the four multiple-choice answers.
And, of course, the excuses were rolling out fast and furious:
School officials blamed the mistakes on an ineffective fact-checker.

"We have a clear protocol for review of all materials," Carmen Farina, deputy chancellor for teaching and learning, said in a statement. "In this case, a member of my staff inexcusably failed to follow our protocol, and I have written a letter of reprimand to the person’s file. We recalled the materials within hours, corrections to the guide will be made, and it again will be distributed digitally."
So, now, let's return to my opening question: What could be better than math preparation materials released by New York City education officials with numerous mistakes?

The answer is a City teacher who, having flunked the state certification exam, hired a former homeless man to take the test for him. (Via Best of the Web Today.) The New York Daily News has a good summary:
A Bronx teacher who repeatedly flunked his state certification exam paid a formerly homeless man with a developmental disorder $2 to take the test for him, authorities said yesterday.

The illegal stand-in - who looks nothing like teacher Wayne Brightly - not only passed the high-stakes test, he scored so much better than the teacher had previously that the state knew something was wrong, officials said.
In fact, the Daily News article has photos of the two men, which have to be seen to appreciate the humor in this situation.

The New York Times adds a few salient details:
Investigators said the two men met in 1989 through Brooklyn College, when Mr. Brightly, a student, enlisted tutoring help from Mr. Leitner, an alumnus. In 2001, Mr. Leitner started tutoring Mr. Brightly for his certification exam, which he failed at least twice, officials said.

Last summer, Mr. Brightly gave up, the authorities said, and paid Mr. Leitner to get a fake state identification card. Flashing that and Mr. Brightly's Social Security card, Mr. Leitner took the test.

But Mr. Leitner, who has degrees in American and Asian history, did so well on the test that state education officials took note. They also noticed that Mr. Brightly's handwriting had changed.

After the state started looking into the matter, Mr. Brightly ordered Mr. Leitner to get a City Department of Education identification card, the report said. Using the fake state ID and a school letter, Mr. Leitner got the card "within minutes."
Joel Klein, the "chancellor" of the City's schools, says he's "outraged," but he has announced that he will not require changes in the way ID cards are issued.

Footnote: If the name Joel Klein sounds familiar to you, it's because he was Deputy White House Counsel and Assistant Attorney General of the Antitrust Division of the Justice Department during the Clinton presidency.