Long live the cliches : A word about the new NYC Dept of Ed "Learning Environment Survey"
So you already have heard about the new survey, haven't you? Mayor Bloomberg and Joseph Klein, surrounded by a cornucopia of Department of Education status quoers, unveiled the City's first-ever Learning Environment Survey, a tool (as in not another instance of paper-pushing) that is meant to gather the opinions of principals, teachers, parents and students about how wonderful or terrible it is to be in a NYC middle and high school. Which is why they will ask about whether schools are:
- setting high expectations
- creating effective environments for learning
The whole press release sounds like an unprecedented exercise in open government :
"Today, we are giving parents, students, and teachers an unprecedented opportunity: the chance to tell us if our schools are set up to help students learn and the chance to help us grade our schools," said Chancellor Klein. "Our ads say, 'When one parent speaks, schools listen; when one million parents speak, schools change,' and it's true. I'm looking forward to learning from our parents, teachers, and students."
Oh my blog! Klein and Bloomberg sooooooo want to know what I have to say. I am, like, so impressed!
Then, I got to the bottom of the page :
Survey responses are being collected by an external vendor, assuring the confidentiality of answers.
And there is nary a peep about who this vendor is.
Don't you think that anybody espousing platitudes about transparency and open government would at least have the clarity of mind to say who is the external vendor we are to hold accountable for such work?
Don't you want to know how much are these "external vendors" are being paid? Because, you know, accountability and accounting have the same latin root.
Well, I do.
When you go to the Children's First website, there is no detailed accounting whatsoever of who is involved in the project, even though the site touts that the Bloomberg administration has brought more equity, coherence, and transparency to school budgeting.
This is how we know Bloomberg and Klein are not in the business of effecting change --and neither the so eager to keep the status quo UFT. They can't even publish on the website who is accountable for the publishing of the information.
How can I expect them then to be held accountable for not misspending millions of my hard earned taxes on consultants' fees?
Transparency has become one of the official cliches of this millenium right up there with people-powered and conversation.
Hiring vendors to talley the survey with no auditing system in place, buying closed-source software, not putting in the names of the people in charge of even a website like Children's First --those are all markers of how these projects are just another excuse to spend money to make it look like change is actually happening.