Archive for the ‘Testing’ Category
[Editor's note: This post was authored jointly by Maisie McAdoo and Rhonda Rosenberg.]
Mayor Bloomberg turned the announcement of the 2012 state test results into a promotional event for his “reforms” on Tuesday, despite the fact that an honest appraisal of the scores showed that city students as a group made only modest progress in both math and ELA. The mayor’s presentation ignored or downplayed results that didn’t fit in with his triumphal narrative, including the fact that the racial achievement gap widened last year in a number of categories.
State officials, by contrast, didn’t even hold a press conference, and said publicly only that the statewide results (which mirrored the city’s) showed “some positive momentum” but left too many students unprepared.
The mayor, however, orchestrated a big press function and handed out a shameless PowerPoint that reported highly selective numbers and featured a comparison of charters and new schools founded during his tenure with “traditional” city schools — i.e. the vast majority of schools in the city system.
But the numbers are there for all to see. “His” charters and new schools combined underperform the average school, in fact (see especially slide 6), and they gained only one to two points more than the “traditional” schools in percentages of students meeting standards in math and less than a percentage point in students meeting standards in English. That, according to the mayor, was conclusive evidence for the success of his reforms.
Please. If these test scores — and remember this was the testing round where 30 questions had to be disqualified, the same round that included the “pineapple” passage — if these scores are evidence of Bloomberg’s triumph as steward of the city school system, then pineapples can speak.
Here are some tables and charts on the 2012 tests that may sober up Hizzoner: More »
Click on the graphs for larger versions.
It’s standard fare to question the effects of high-stakes testing on education. Mention tests and people will tell you about the narrowing of the curriculum, the lowering of the standards, and the changed understanding of what it means to be educated, which used to have something to do with pleasure and imagination and now has mostly to do with isolated, testable skills. But in New York City, testing is not the only thing that is high stakes, and as it turns out, there are more ways to dumb down an education than to add another high-stakes test to it. Consider, for example, New York City’s high stakes credit accumulation scheme.
In this city, the number of credits awarded to students in high schools truly is high stakes. It counts as nearly one third of each high school’s Progress Report grade, and the Progress Report counts for just about everything, including the removal of principals and the closing of schools. Since the Progress Reports were introduced in 2006-2007, the percent of students earning 10 or more credits each year has leapt a (truly) incredible 16 percentage points citywide. For schools with the highest concentration of high need students (the schools most likely to be threatened with closure) the jump is 18 points. Most schools accrued those gains between the first and second years of the Reports. More »
In today’s New York Times is a letter from Diane Ravitch in which she responds to David Brooks’s recent column about testing and charters. She begins:
Mr. Brooks has misrepresented my views. While I have criticized charter schools, I am always careful to point out that they vary widely. The overwhelming majority of high-quality research studies on charters shows that some are excellent, some are abysmal and most are no better than regular public schools.
Some charters succeed because they have additional resources, supplied by their philanthropic sponsors; some get better results by adding extra instructional time. We can learn from these lessons to help regular public schools.
The Times adds this note below the letter:
We invite readers to respond to this letter, as part of our new Sunday Dialogue feature. We plan to publish a sampling of responses in the Sunday Review, and Diane Ravitch will be given an opportunity to reply. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
As NY and other states gear up to spend their Race to the Top funds on developing more and more standardized tests and curriculums focused on passing them, here’s a powerful cautionary tale from Detroit about where that money may (vs. should) be going.
What did those of us staying in the same downtown hotel as Hollywood stars like Samuel L. Jackson think we could do to help fix the Detroit Public Schools?
I asked myself that question at the time, and I ask it especially now, when I’m amazed to read about the “draconian” measures being taken by DPS Emergency Financial Manager Robert Bobb. While he concedes his plan makes neither financial nor academic sense, Bobb is nonetheless attempting to solve DPS’s $327 million budget shortfall by closing nearly half of Detroit’s schools and increasing class sizes in the remaining ones to as high as sixty. It seems an insane idea to me, especially since I feel responsible for a big chunk of that deficit.
The company I worked for, you see, is owned by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt just completed a 15-month contract with the Detroit Public Schools worth $39,859,925.00. That’s right, almost forty million dollars, or more than 12 percent of DPS’s entire budget shortfall, for HMH’s “managed instruction” in reading and math. While I don’t know exactly what forty million dollars of “managed instruction” looks like (who does?), I know some of those millions were used to pay for the tests I helped slap together (mostly recycling passages and questions from our item bank that had been used many times before) and to sponsor my travels to Detroit.
Incoming kindergarten students have already been pushed into cutthroat competition against their peers. The coveted trophy is a spot in one of Chicago’s 500 allocated slots for classes for the “gifted.” There are more than 3,330 entries so far, and parents are fighting with all their resources and ingenuity to give their own kid an advantage in this Darwinian survival challenge.
They are coaching their kids themselves and those who can afford it have engaged professional tutors to plant test-acing strategies in their kids’ minds. They are racing to figure out how to crack the secrets of the test so that their kid beats the next guy’s kid to the fast track.
The training centers are commonly referred to as “boot camps.”
This story, reported recently in the Chicago Tribune, provides a perfect example of the pathological role that testing is playing these days. Not only does it substitute for curriculum, it also spoils and supplants the beautiful innocence of childhood. More »
It’s true, in a sense, that all that happened Wednesday was the state reported test scores using a higher cut-score. It was just like they’d moved the goalpost further down the field, one Buffalo educator (and apparent football fan) explained. More kids failed because they graded the tests harder.
But a lot more happened than that.
As State Education Commissioner David Steiner explained at the state’s press conference, the state tests have not simply become too easy. They have become bad tests. More »
In a recent profile in New York Magazine, charter school CEO Eva Moskowitz proclaims herself the savior of public education. However, the article makes clear that Moskowitz does not truly offer any solutions to the thorny problems of urban schools; instead, the culture she has implemented as CEO of Harlem Success has actually magnified problems. The gap between rhetoric and reality calls into question what Moskowitz’s real “mission” really is — and at $400K a year, that’s an important question to ask.
Though she makes the absurd claim in the article that her mission to change public education started as early as first grade (while most of us were concerned about which cartoon lunchbox we would get), Moskowitz’s real mission is to increase her own political power. During her early 2000’s tenure on City Council, Moskowitz conducted a series of education oversight hearings. (Which, according to the article, satisfied her childhood “Watergate” fetish.) In many respects, she intended these hearings to be a launching pad to higher office — but the plan backfired, as her coarse personality turned off voters and resulted in a nine point loss in the race for Manhattan borough president. Her current resurgence of interest in educational issues is intended as a pathway back into the public light, and perhaps higher office.
Moskowitz’s contradictory views on standardized testing are one hint that her interest in public schooling is more about playing to political rhetoric than thinking about what urban students really need to succeed. More »
Though local newspapers did not bother to ask them, any teacher could have named a key reason why state math scores are soaring while the federal TUDA for NYC is largely flat. In spite of their own best professional judgment, their complaints, and their protests, teachers in New York City have been compelled to teach narrowly to a narrow state test, and to use test results to determine what to teach. Teach to a test — and worse, teach to a bad test — and you can’t expect kids to know very much. In fact, you can’t expect them to get much of an education at all, beyond the education that is politically convenient for some and gratifies the ideological enthusiasm of others. NAEP asks for more of education, and that’s the more we are denied from giving them in NYC.
The ideology to which I am referring of course is the penchant everywhere to replace real learning with a spreadsheet education: education by the numbers sliced and diced and then sliced and diced again. More »
Caroline Hoxby’s updated report on New York City’s charter schools uses a provocative construct: she finds that Harlem’s charter students are making standardized test score gains that put them on track to substantially close their achievement gap with Scarsdale.
Hoxby, a Hoover Institution fellow and Stanford professor who has published extensively on charter schools (favorably) and teacher unions (unfavorably), looked at students who won admittance by lottery to certain New York City charters and compared their performance to students who applied but were not admitted.
How much do collaboration, mutual respect, and other aspects of the school environment matter for improving outcomes for middle school kids?
Quite a lot, apparently, and it shows in New York City’s data. Every year, the DOE surveys teachers, secondary students, and parents to find out what the school looks like to the people who actually spend time there. Basically, the survey asks whether the school community is a welcoming one that holds high standards, inspires kids to learn, and cultivates collaborative culture. The city tabulates the results, combines them with attendance data and then converts that to a letter grade. In addition, the DOE gives schools a separate letter grade that is based on student progress on state exams from one year to the next.*
Compare those two letter grades — for environment and progress — and what you will find is that environment matters. More »
The mayor has announced that he is expanding his plan for ending social promotion. The problem with that plan isn’t the goal, but rather the means by which to reach it: by relying (can you guess?) on how well the student does on state exams. Over-reliance on test scores for high stakes decisions is never a good idea, but relying on them for decisions about social promotion seems especially ill-advised. Students must attain a Level 2 to be promoted, but as the Daily News pointed out students can reach that standard just by guessing. And, on Thursday, Diane Ravitch had this to say: More »
Both white and black students raised their math and reading achievement levels from 1992 to 2007, according to a new federal report, but New York was not among the states that narrowed the achievement gap between the races. In fact, few states narrowed their black-white test gaps in either grade or subject, despite the long years of No Child Left Behind.
“Scores have been increasing for both black and white students for the most part, but we do not see a lot of progress in closing the achievement gap,” Stuart Kerachsky, Acting Commissioner of the National Center for Education Statistics, told reporters at the National Press Club on July 14.
In fourth-grade math, 15 states narrowed the gap, including many of the largest — California, Florida, New Jersey, Massachusetts and and Texas. But that was the highpoint. In eighth-grade math only four states closed that gap from 1990 to 2007; just three states narrowed the gap in fourth-grade reading; and no states at all showed any statistically significant improvement in the eighth-grade reading gap over the last two decades. More »
About a year ago, a task force released a report calling for a Broader, Bolder Approach to education. Broader Bolder’s approach was exactly what its name implied, a fuller and more audacious look at what it would take to raise truly educated children all across America. Among its recommendations were a richer curriculum, investments in pre-kindergarten and health services, and more attention to the time kids spend outside of school.
The signers and co-chairs of the report included the current Secretary of Education (Arne Duncan), and two Assistant Secretaries of Education from the Clinton and George W. Bush administrations (Tom Payzant and Susan Neuman). Just as important were the major national figures in education who are more familiar to New York teachers, including Diane Ravitch, Pedro Noguera, and Rudy Crew.
At the time, the report generated quite a bit of press and more than a little controversy, especially since BBA was calling for a look at all the outcomes we want for children, as opposed to the politically simple focus on math and reading scores that has fetishized our classrooms – the test question dissections, the introduction of test prep as a “genre study,” and the promotions, graduations, and cash rewards for children based on tests, tests, tests. Since BBA was asking for something more inspiring than that, some people saw the report as a repudiation of testing, a backing away from accountability. More »
On Monday the city learned that its on-time graduation rate rose to 66 percent, its highest level in at least 20 years. By the more stringent state counting method. the city graduated 56.4 percent of its Class of 2008 on time, a 10-year high at least. Either way, it’s pretty significant.
By now, the good news bandwagon has actually gotten a little repetitive. (And the Mayor’s use of test score and graduation rate gains to flay opponents of mayoral control has gotten a little much.) But the graduation rates are based on four years of coursework as well as five exit exams, so those gains should truly be celebrated. More »
[Editor's note: This is the same survey we linked to on May 29.]
New York City teachers of grades 3 to 8, who have had experience with the ELA and math tests, are invited to take an independent survey about the city’s testing program. The topics covered include test preparation, testing and scoring procedures, and the significance of the results. It takes about 20 minutes to complete.
If you choose to participate, be sure to answer all of the questions before you click the “Done” button.
This survey is trying to reach as representative a sample of teachers as possible. Please urge other teachers in your school to participate. To take the survey, click this link:
» Teacher Survey on New York City Public School Testing