The State Ed Department released embargoed State ELA and Math scores to individual schools many weeks ago … and after a seemingly endless wait released the scores publicly.
Commissioner Mills and Chancellor Klein lauded the scores and everyone else was bemused.
How is it possible for so many school to have double digit gains?
Sol Stern, in the City Journal calls the results the Lake Wobegon Effect, where all students are above average, and points to some school districts where, in effect, every kid is “above average,” aka proficient.
Eduwonkette, the perceptive blogger at Education Week, crafts a careful analysis and points out the dramatic drop in numbers of kids at Level 4, and Andy Wolf, at The New York Sun speculates on the reasons.
Over at Eduwonk Andy Rotterdam likes Eduwonkette’s analysis and chides Sol Stern, maybe, he asks, kids just did better? however, he agrees the lack of transparency makes it difficult to properly assess the meaning of the results.
Rumors flitted about that Commissioner Mills has been expected to leave his post, and changed his mind. And, it’s really difficult to fire a commissioner with spectacular increases in test scores.
For five years Klein has confused, massaged, manipulated, dissembled, obscured and obfuscated test scores to make his administration, his policies, appear “successful.”
Aside from his acolytes, the Mayor, the NY Daily News and the New York Post editorial boards, experts have looked askance at his interpretation of the results.
Last fall the Department paid for every high school 10th and 11th grader to take the PSAT exam. A few months later schools received the results, and, they were appalling. No press conference, no comment at all. Anecdotally Tweeders bumbled, ” … the kids knew the test wasn’t important, there was no test prep …”
How is it possible for NAEP scores to be “flat,” PSAT scores to be abysmal, SED ELA/Math scores to leap?
The simplest way to resolve the contradictions would be a longitudinal study … tracking kids cohort by cohort throughout the Klein years … any takers?
There are no magic bullets. No programs, no tricks. If test scores in a particular school increase year after year we should ask: What are they doing right? If they are not: Why not?
If we are serious about improving student achievement we have to concentrate on the only place in which achievement can be improved: the classroom. As Dylan Wiliam shows us
Learning is driven by what teachers and pupils do in classrooms. Teachers have to manage complicated and demanding situations, channeling the personal, emotional, and social pressures of a group of 30 or more youngsters in order to help them learn immediately and become better learners in the future. Standards can be raised only if teachers can tackle this task more effectively. What is missing from the efforts alluded to above is any direct help with this task. This fact was recognized in the TIMSS video study: “A focus on standards and accountability that ignores the processes of teaching and learning in classrooms will not provide the direction that teachers need in their quest to improve.”1
The pastiche of Klein initiatives/programs/dreams/threats/progress reports and press releases all boils down to “empowering” principals, with a carrot and a stick, and hoping against hope that principals know what to do.
We will not make real progress until we realize that the only way to improve learning is to improve teaching, and, you can only do it the “hard way,” classroom by classroom.