Log in  |  Search

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. The enthusiasm is understandable; data has its appeals. It isn’t hard (I say this from experience) to get hooked into spending too much time clicking through Excel spreadsheets, looking for patterns, seeking the grail. Data appeals because it allows us to believe in — and even impose — a kind of order on the chaotic world in which we wake up everyday.

In the case of schools, the chaos we try to codify is education. “Well, look at that!” says the principal. “In your class, 25% of students got question #7 wrong, which tests their ability to know the meaning of words in context. Teach them that skill, and then…? Test them again.”

It is comforting, but it is wrong.

You can’t teach by the numbers. The tests are not reliable, and even if they were, you can no more translate an isolated skill into real knowledge than you can transfer attendance at a lecture about unicycles into riding down a Manhattan street on a unicycle, in the rain.

Teachers know that, but teachers have been forced.

And still, after eight years of this kind of failure, when TUDA shows — again — flat scores for NYC, and that the achievement gap has not narrowed one iota, the papers don’t even bother to ask a teacher what is wrong.

Print

5 Comments:

  • 1 David Cantor
    · Dec 10, 2009 at 6:06 pm

    Jackie Bennett’s claim that New York City made no gains on the 2009 NAEP math exam is mistaken.

    The 2009 results released this week showed that NYC students have made statistically significant gains since 2003 at both fourth and eighth grades, reaching higher levels of proficiency than ever before and making greater gains than both the rest of the state and the nation.

    As to differences between the state tests and NAEP: the gains made by NYC compared to the rest of NY state on state tests are very similar to the gains made by NYC compared to the rest of NY state on NAEP. The proficiency bar on state tests is too low, but the state tests are NOT misleading or inflated with regard to the extent that NYC under the mayor has outperformed the rest of the state; NAEP results “verify” the state test results in this sense. Given that students in NY state are all held to the same standards, the fact that NAEP results showed NYC students to have closed the performance gap with the much whiter and more affluent rest of state by 2/3rds in 4th grade and almost 1/3 in 8rd grade is pretty amazing.

    David Cantor
    DOE Press Secretary

  • 2 Diane Ravitch
    · Dec 10, 2009 at 11:39 pm

    Jackie’s right and so is David, sort of.
    New York City students made no gains from 2007 to 2009 in math. The gains since 2003 have been significant, but there were no gains these past two years. We know that Tweed puts lots of emphasis on year-to-year gains, so the failure to make any gains for two years matters. It was also notable that the 2009 NAEP report showed that NYC has made no progress since 2003 in closing achievement gaps between white and black students and between white and Hispanic students.
    Also, as I showed in an article in today’s NY Post, the difference between the state tests and the NAEP tests is startling. The two tests do not show the same trend lines. The state tests are misleading and inflated. On NY state tests, 85% of our fourth grade students are proficient, but only 35% on NAEP. On the state tests, only 5% of our eighth grade students are level 1, but on NAEP, 40% of the same grade is “below basic,” which is equivalent to level 1.
    The state tests are so inflated that they lack credibility. Even Merryl Tisch and David Steiner have said that the state testing system is broken. The DOE should not refer to them at all.

    Diane Ravitch

  • 3 Jackie Bennett
    · Dec 11, 2009 at 12:03 am

    Mr. Cantor, based on NAEP, if the DoE were a school, you would be closing it.

    You may be the last person in NY taking the state tests very seriously Mr. Cantor, live and die by them though we must. In any case, you folks were spinning this two years ago, and you are spinning it now. Here is my response from that last NAEP debacle, when Joel Klein was claiming that NAEP showed a closing of the achievement gap. It’s two years later and the gap still isn’t closing – and teachers are forced to teach to these tests.

  • 4 John Powers
    · Feb 17, 2010 at 3:17 pm

    Spreadsheet Fascism is probably a better term Jackie. :)

  • 5 Extended Stay webs » New York City Stays
    · Mar 19, 2011 at 11:49 am

    […] 11.Edwize » Spreadsheet Education: TUDA in New York City Stays Rather New York City students made no gains from 2007 to 2009 in math. The gains since 2003 have been significant, but there were no gains these past two years. We know that Tweed puts lots of emphasis on year-to-year gains, so the failure to make any gains for two years matters. http://www.edwize.org/spreadsheet-education-tuda-in-new-york-city-stays-rather-flat […]