With little fanfare, Mayor Michael Bloomberg last month released the
2007 Mayor’s Management Report, or MMR. This twice-a-year, City Charter-mandated
report, according to the mayor, serves “the goals of transparency and accountability,
which are the hallmarks of this administration.” A review of indicators
for two high-priority agencies suggests, however, that there is a disconnect
between transparency and true accountability in the MMR.
A reader can learn a lot about the city and city government in the report’s
202 pages of mayoral goals, objectives and performance statistics. Take the first
statistic: Fewer New Yorkers smoked in 2006 -- 17.5 percent, four percentage
points lower than in 2002. Or take the last one: Only 42.9 percent of instructional
hours in City University of New York senior colleges were taught by full-time
faculty in 2007, compared to 48.7 percent in 2003.
Interesting, but what happened over those four years in each case? Who is accountable?
Who gets credit for less smoking? Who gets credit (blame?) for dramatically increasing
the use of part-time faculty at CUNY? The report raises hundreds of such provocative
questions, but provides few answers.
The 2007 MMR prefers hundreds of statistics to any real analyses of management
issues, such as organizational initiatives, customer relations, cost/benefit
analyses, unintended consequences and shifting social/economic conditions.
The news release accompanying the MMR points to “continued success in the
amount, timeliness and quality of services provided to citizens during the most
recent year and over a five-year period.” The release then jumps to five
pages of 64 dense statistical bullets, under six very broad headings (Public
Safety to Economy and Business Affairs). This barrage of numbers may explain
why the press has increasingly ignored the
report or simply echoed the press release on it.
A look at how the MMR deals with education and homelessness illustrates the strengths
and weaknesses of the report as currently designed. In education, Bloomberg has
made dramatic changes in the city schools. He took control of the management
of schools from the independent Board of Education, which oversaw a partially
decentralized system, and essentially eliminated the function of 32 community
Bloomberg and schools Chancellor Joel Klein
management and set up a new regional district plan in 2003. In 2007
they made another
change. Central management has shifted from regional controls to
making individual principals much more accountable for education management.
Such management shifts cry out for discussion, but all the Mayor’s Management
Report provides are statistics. Interestingly, in light of the new emphasis on
principal accountability, the one principal indicator in the report shows that
only 53.5 percent of principals in 2007 have more than three years of experience,
down from 62.5 percent in 2003.
The “performance statistics” are meant to measure how well the new
education department, to quote its one-sentence mission statement, “prepares
students to meet grade level standards in reading, writing and math, and prepares
high school students to pass Regents exams and to meet graduation requirements.”
This rather narrow definition of education success is accompanied by 97 indicators.
But, oddly enough, there are no grade level standards for reading, writing and
math. There are a few aggregate statistics for grades three to eight in “English
Language Arts” and math (scores are up and down over the past two years,
but positive over the past year) but no results for individual grade. (A note
at the end of the education section says grade level results are “subject
to a reporting lag” and will be registered in later reports.)
Similarly, there are no results for Regents exams in the 2006-2007 school year.
There are, however, results in two general categories for the Regents exams in
school years 2002-2003 through 2005-2006: The percentage of students in graduating
classes with a 65 to 100 passing score in English in the 2005-2006 school year
was 62.9 percent, much lower than the 69.2 percent passing score in the 2003-2004
year. In math, 62.3 percent of the students passed score in 2005-2006, better
than the 56.4 percent in 2003-2004, but lower than the 65.7 percent in 2004-2005.
In other Regents exams -â€“ U.S. history and government, global history and
science (the report apparently treats all the Regents in the various sciences
together) -- results in 2005-2006 were lower than in the 2003-2004 school year.
In a second category â€“ the percentage of students in graduating classes
with a 55 to 100 passing score on the same exams scores â€“ about 80 percent
of the students met the standard, more than in the 2002-2003 school year. The
number of students in the 55 to 100 score category in math and English also increased
over the four years.
The news is better with graduation rates. The four-year graduation rate for general
education students rose from 53.4 percent in the 2002-2003 school year to 59.7
percent in 2005-2006. The percentage of students who graduated within seven years
rose slightly, from 68.6 percent to 69.5 percent.
Those few indicators â€“ by themselves -- don’t permit much of a judgment
about the success of the Department of Education’s mission. And, there’s
not much else of use among the 97 indicators. The role of parents, for instance,
is poorly documented: Five indicators address “parent involvement,” but
there are no measurements of parent satisfaction (or dissatisfaction) with the
The fact that
coordinators in the schools â€“ a Klein initiative
--fielded some 1.35 million phone calls is interesting. (There were over 14 million
calls to the city’s non-emergency 311 hotline in 2007!) But were the parent
calls complaints, requests for information or to ask for appointments? What do
coordinators do with the calls? On another measure, what does it mean that the
number of parent-teacher conferences has decreased?
Sobering Statistics for Homeless Services
The Department of Homeless Services raises different questions about management,
since the bulk of its services are privately provided. Some $536 million of the
department’s $735 million budget in 2007 was contracted out to 205 privately
run shelter facilities for single adults and families. (Only 11 facilities are
run by the city.)
According to the Mayor’s Management Report, the department “prevents
homelessness and provides temporary emergency shelter for homeless people in
a safe, supportive environment.” The link between mission and performance
indicators is easier to document than in education.
And the statistics on prevention are sobering: In 2007, 10,165 homeless families
entered the city’s shelter system, up 13 percent from 2003. The largest
increase occurred in the past two years. The number of single adults entering
the system in 2007 was 21,897, an increase of nearly 5 percent from 2003.
Further, the report acknowledges that the influx of new homeless families has
hampered the city’s plan to place them in shelters according to their youngest
child’s school address â€“ the number of such placements actually dropped
from 2006 to 2007.
The increase in homeless families has been matched in part by a rise in the number
of families placed into permanent housing -- 5,654 in 2007 compared with 5,083
in 2003. But because the supply of suitable housing lags the need, the average
length of stay for families in shelters increased from 303 days in 2003 to 325
days in 2007.
The performance results here clearly show that things have gotten worse. Despite
that, the report offers no discussion of how earlier management initiatives did
or did not affect these results. As with education, on homelessness, the administration
already is on to its next initiative, in this case, “Advantage
New York,” described very briefly as a “multi-faceted program, not
only helping families to secure permanent housing, but also offering financial
and legal counseling, savings incentives and aftercare services.”
Searching for Accountability
The graduation rates and homeless shelter statistics in the Mayor’s Management
Report are excellent indicators of social needs. Such information, especially
with the five-year data introduced by the mayor, provides a good basis to measure
But New Yorkers we cannot measure management accountability without a better
connection in the MMR between strategies and outcomes, between dollars spent
and results produced. The technical introduction to the 2007 MMR claims that
about 25 percent of the nearly 1,000 agency performance measures “reflect
final outcomes,” while “40 percent relate to timeliness, quality
That might be true. But there has to be more explanation. To take one more example
from the report -- the cost per day for each family in a city-funded shelter
is $95, up from $84 a day in 2003. Is that an “outcome” or a measure
of “quality or efficiency”? Is it a positive result?
The Independent Budget Office in its fiscal year 2006
and 2007 programmatic analyses of city budget documents showed the usefulness
of matching specific program information and specific program dollars with a
greater variety of performance indicators. The MMR, useful as it is in some ways,
continues the disconnect between dollars and management on one hand and performance
results on the other.
Glenn Pasanen, who teaches political science at Lehman College, has been in charge of Gotham Gazette's finance topic page since 2001.Â
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