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Archive for the ‘Testing’ Category

Lessons from the 2010 State Tests

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 »

Eva’s “Testing Machines”: Taking The Humanity Out Of Education

Testing machine?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 »

Spreadsheet Education: TUDA in New York City Stays Rather Flat

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 »

Closing the Harlem-Scarsdale Score Gap

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.

More »

Dog Bites Man: School Environment Influences Academic Growth

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 »

Social Promotion and High Stakes Tests

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 »

NY State Fails to Narrow Black-White Test Gap: NAEP

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 »

Accountability: A New Approach from Broader, Bolder

Broader, BolderAbout 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 »

Graduation Rates Are Up, But That Could Change

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 »

Teachers: Take this Survey on Public School Testing

[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

NAEP Assesses 8th Graders in Music and Art

For the first time since 1997, the federal education department has assessed U.S. students in the arts. There are no individual or even state results, but there are some important findings. Again, the feds tested a nationally-representative sample of 8th graders. And, while the results are depressing in some ways, the fact that the government goes to the trouble of testing for basic student literacy in music and visual art, and has ways to test for that, is encouraging enough, especially in our math- and ELA-centric world.

How do they actually test a national sample of children for musical ability? Students aren’t asked to compose symphonies, or even play an instrument. But they are asked to listed to music and answer questions, and they are asked to write some basic rhythmic annotation. More »

CFE: Education Funding Makes a Difference, Part II: Math Scores

Three weeks ago NY State released the 2009 ELA scores, and I posted the results for New York’s Big Five city districts, noting how gains seem to have followed increases in funding under CFE for the second year in a row. I also pointed out that in NYC, students made greater gains in the two well-funded years than they had in the first four years of the Chancellor’s reforms.

Now we have the 2009 Math, and the pattern holds. First, here’s NYC:
More »

Teachers: Take this Survey on Public School Testing

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.

Your knowledge and the opinions of your colleagues will have direct meaning for the testing program. Your answers may also shed light on issues that are relevant to current discussions about mayoral control of education and the reauthorization of the No Child Left Behind Act.

This independent 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

CFE: Education Funding Makes a Difference

Last June, I wrote an item on Edwize about how scores had increased in New York State’s Big Five city districts during the first year of CFE funding. After CFE funds reached our schools, scores went up in New York City, Rochester, Buffalo, Yonkers, and Syracuse. In fact the growth in these cities generally outpaced the growth for the state, and did so after years of indifferent progress. I also pointed out that though the New York City’s Children First reforms had been in place for five years, passing rates in NYC didn’t move much over the first four of them. Then, in the first year of CFE, scores went up.

At the time, I emphasized that “one year of data is hardly conclusive,” and I would say the same is true about two years of data. Still, let’s look at year two of CFE. Scores are now available for ELA.

The pattern holds. First, like last year, students in CFE’s Big Five showed terrific progress, whether we look at passing rates or scale scores. And again, these cities outpaced the state as a whole.

What is more, in NYC the gains under this single year of CFE again outpaced the gains made during Joel Klein’s first four years, before we had the cash.

Here are the details: More »

Mr. Klein and NAEP

I have not been posting on Edwize at all this year — chalk it up to laziness — but I just couldn’t resist this howler in Joel Klein’s weekly letter to principals on April 29.

First, the background: a lot of teachers are concerned that — paperworked and micromanaged to death — they are not permitted to teach reading, and instead wind up teaching to the test. The results of all that micromanagement show up in the city’s national scores (NAEP/TUDA), where our students’ proficiency levels lag behind their proficiency levels on the state exams. With increasing dissatisfaction with his tenure coming from Albany, Mr. Klein has been scrambling to justify the difference.

Says Mr. Klein:

…neither our school system nor our students are held accountable for the NAEP results.

More »