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O Rolley?

June 23, 2011
By

Source image: facebook.com/otisformayor

Otis Rolley’s mayoral campaign e-mailed out an excited press release about the time he was staging a press conference in front of City Hall. The Sun’s Julie Scharper blogged that here.  The catalyst to this–a story about yet another standardized-test-cheating scandal in the city’s school system–is worth a look as well, if you’d not seen the Sun’s front page.

I thought Rolley’s e-mail could do with some fact-checking. Here’s the text:

Dear friends:

This morning’s revelation in the Baltimore Sun that there was “widespread cheating on state assessment tests” at two of the City’s highest performing schools is extremely troubling. It is especially disturbing given that a pillar of the Mayor’s opposition to reforming our schools is that she believes we “have to stick with what works.”

Even before this morning’s news, I disagreed that the system is working. That’s why I am calling for the immediate release of all test and attendance records. We deserve to know the full truth about how our schools are performing.

There could not be a clearer difference between what I would do as Mayor and what the incumbent would do. I don’t think just 40% of our schools meeting state requirements or just 39% of our graduates being ready for college or job training is enough. Despite these numbers, the Mayor thinks the current system is working.

The City of Baltimore is the only city in the northeast corridor to lose population over the last decade, and it is undeniable that it is at least partly due to our poor schools.  Parents don’t make decisions about where to send their children based on whether the schools are “improving,” but rather whether they are “good” (if not “excellent”).

Even before these new revelations, I believed we needed to reform our schools and increase accountability for performance.  Last week, I announced four concrete steps I would take as Mayor to improve our schools:

  • Return control of the schools to the city to increase accountability for performance;
  • Help students escape the worst performing middle schools;
  • Build 50 new schools in a decade; and
  • Expand the number and variety of charter schools.

As I find out more about this new scandal, I will let you know.  I don’t know all the answers about what has happened, but today’s report makes me more convinced than ever that there has to be real reform to our schools.  The future of our City depends on it.

FACT CHECK:

Rolley (or a trusted underling) writes: “I don’t think just 40% of our schools meeting state requirements or just 39% of our graduates being ready for college or job training is enough. Despite these numbers, the Mayor thinks the current system is working.”

In other words, Rawlings-Blake does “think just 40% of our schools meeting state requirements or just 39% of our graduates being ready for college or job training is enough.” At least, according to Otis Rolley.

Does the mayor really think this? That is impossible to say; only she knows what she really thinks. But we do know what she says about the issue—it’s on her campaign web site, complete with a sappy video:

“Our schools continue to improve year after year.  But there is still much work to be done, and together we will continue our successful fight to help our children by improving Baltimore’s schools.”

So Rawlings-Blake openly admits to supporting School Superintendent Andres Alonso and touts his “nation-leading progress.” And she does suggest that the reforms are working.

She does not say that she thinks the job is done

Verdict: Overstatement, with an attempt at misdirection. By their own words, both candidates think there has been progress, but there needs to be more. They differ on how to achieve that. Rawlings-Blake proposes to continue on the present course, concentrating money on the school system where possible to improve it incrementally. She’s in favor of charter schools and pledges to look for money to rebuild some of the old ones. Rolley favors vouchers and more charter schools, and promises (somehow) to get 50 additional schools built during his first term and the six years that would follow it.

In his press release, Rolley goes on to assert that “The City of Baltimore is the only city in the northeast corridor to lose population over the last decade. . .”.

The candidate, a native of Jersey City, seems to have overlooked Bridgeport and New Haven, Conn.; Providence, R.I., and Camden, N.J.,  all of which appear to have lost population in the past decade.

Verdict: false. This is a minor point, but it suggests Rolley is too fond of superlatives. Baltimore can be a crappy city with a failing school system without being “the only” one in a 300-mile radius.