McKinsey Drops NYC from World’s Best School Systems
by Norm Fruchter
A comparison of two reports released by McKinsey & Company, an influential global management consulting firm, suggest that the New York City educational reforms under Mayor Bloomberg have not produced the impressive outcomes that have been claimed.
McKinsey & Company began an intensive involvement in education issues more than a decade ago. Their consultants played critical roles in planning the restructuring of the New York City school system under Mayor Bloomberg and Chancellor Klein, and several McKinsey “graduates” were key members of the Chancellor’s brains trust in the early years of Children First. In 2007, McKinsey & Company published a report on the commonalities of what the firm considered excellent school systems, How the World’s Best Performing School Systems Come Out on Top. That report featured the New York City’s school system, described its reforms and lauded their outcomes.
Earlier this school year, McKinsey released How the World’s Most Improved School Systems Keep Getting Better, a comprehensive analysis of how twenty school systems achieved significant improvement across a multi-year time-span. The twenty systems included 12 countries, 5 states or provinces, 2 cities, and one school network. Although Boston, Long Beach, California and the Aspire Public Schools, a charter school network in California, were included, New York City was not. What happened across the three years between McKinsey’s first and second reports to demote New York City from the ranks of the world’s most improving school systems?
To identify the world’s best school systems to be included, McKinsey constructed two categories, “sustained improvers” in developed countries and “promising starts” in developing countries. Systems could be graded as moving from poor to fair, fair to good, and good to great. The report assessed system progress on a uniform scale, constructed by converting the wide variety of results from international, national and state/provincial assessments into a single, universal measure. For cities in the U.S., McKinsey used the results of NAEP and state testing. To be included as one of the world’s most improved, school systems “had to demonstrate significant, sustained and widespread improvement.” Clearly, McKinsey’s analysis of New York City’s performance on NAEP and state testing concluded that the city school system had not demonstrated the scale of improvement necessary.
A variety of critics of the city’s once-celebrated education miracle will have their own views about whether New York State’s recalibration of test score results, or the Bloomberg-Klein regime’s persistent distortion of testing results, contributed most to McKinsey’s deflation of the city’s achievement claims. At any rate, in this new (and very useful) report, McKinsey and Company have joined the increasing ranks of those who understand that Mayor Bloomberg’s claims about the success of his education reforms have little substance.