If you want to bury a news story you issue the press release on a Friday afternoon, if you want as much mileage as possible you issue the release on a Tuesday morning, followed by a press conference, in person and online, followed by laudatory speeches across the state and try to maximize the time the story garners headlines and clicks.
The State Education Department released the 2016 grades 3-8 ELA and Math scores on Friday afternoon with an odd presser. The test scores up, way up; why is the SED ashamed?
You can take a deep dive into the New York City Scores here: http://schools.nyc.gov/Accountability/data/TestResults/ELAandMathTestResults
The Commissioner was careful not to publicly laud the increase in the scores,
But rather than celebrate the largest bump since New York adopted new tests tied to the Common Core Learning Standards, education officials reported the increases with caution. They suggested that changes in how the tests were given – not actual improvement by schools and students – may have accounted for the gains.
State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia also warned against making comparisons with previous years, which is typically done to evaluate schools and teachers.
“It’s not an apples to apples comparison and should be viewed in that context,” Elia said during a news conference when the results were released Friday.
The SED states, “… changes in how the tests were given – not actual improvement by schools and students – may have accounted for the gains;” however, a deeper analysis is necessary.
If the increases are due to fewer questions and untimed tests, we should know, if both teachers and kids have been exposed to the more effective Common Core instruction and better professional development, we should know, or, if the SED, as some suspect, manipulated the process, we should know. All of the kids in New York State getting smarter just doesn’t seem creditable.
Under Commissioner Mills test scores increased year after year, when Chancellor Tisch and new Commissioner Steiner took over they asked a Harvard professor, Daniel Koretz to take a look – sure enough – the SED had been using many of the same questions year after year. Whether incompetence, or, more likely a method of increasing scores, we’ll never know. Scandals in Atlanta and accusations elsewhere have cast doubt on the entire testing regimen. Jumps in test scores are treated with skepticism.
But given all the flaws of the test, said Prof. Howard T. Everson of the City University of New York’s Center for Advanced Study in Education, it is hard to tell what those rising scores really meant.
“Teachers began to know what was going to be on the tests,” said Professor Everson, who was a member of a state testing advisory panel and who warned the state in 2008 that it might have a problem with score inflation. “Then you have to wonder, and folks like me wonder, is that real learning or not?”
Each year after the release of the state tests scores the TAC issued a lengthy analysis of the quality of the test. Recently the TAC process has changed, as I understand the current process the TAC report goes to the test creator, Pearson, (now replaced by Questar) who vets the report, over the last few years the report was released a year after the test and was so heavily “massaged” it was meaningless.
The SED/Regents should, in the footsteps of Tisch and Steiner, immediately ask Everson or Koretz or a colleague with equally impeccable credentials to examine the current state test results.
If, in fact, the Commissioner doesn’t know why scores jumped we have to ask: why not? If untimed tests resulted in higher test scores shouldn’t Regents Exams be untimed? If the increased exposure to better Common Core instruction resulted in higher scores why are the Algebra 1 and Geometry scores not increasing?
Shrugging and simply saying we’re happy with increased scores but we’re clueless as to why is simply not acceptable. Data should influence policy at all levels, and, we have to be confident that the testing regimen is creditable.