Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Seung and Steve Slap Goliath David (Cantor)

People on the NYCEd News listserve actually get hot when DOE press chief David Cantor decides to respond to a posting,which is what he did on GEM's Seung OK's comment on credit recovery. Seung has enormous credibility because he is on the front lines and daily sees the results of the disastrous policies of Cantor's boss.

Seung made a mark recently with his calling out during Randi's farewell address and the Unity Caucus hack machine is trying to lift his delegate position. (See
UFT Delegate Assembly, Democracy NOT Unity Hack Attack Part 2, Seung Sings with lots more to come I haven't reported on yet)

Seung has been a teacher for 11 years and just recently became involved with GEM due to his outrage.And what an involvement as he has thrown both feet into the fray with gusto. If there were even 50 more like him out there we'd have BloomWeinKlein on the run.

Will Seung be getting visits at his school from the both the UFT and the DOE over his outspokeness? Frankly, I would be more sorry for the goons than I am for Seung.

For the record, I personally like David Cantor, as do most people who have met him. No matter how much the people opposed to BloomKlein disagree, he has always been a gentleman. His willingness to throw himself into the debate, even though he is always wrong, is something to be admired. I always encourage him to do so. It gives us so much material.

Seung Ok says in response to the NY Times article on credit recovery:

The only issues I have about this article - is it doesn't question the improvement showing that less city college students need remediation courses. The reason for that is the high prices of state colleges. Many higher level students who would have previously attended state colleges are now attending the cheaper city colleges. This is not due to mayoral control.

The other problem is that it should have mentioned that the state education department were recently looking to make recovery courses even more lax. They proposed to get rid of seat time requirements for students, to allow the school to determine what is and is not credit recovery, and to hide the source of credits on students transcripts so no outside observer could discern a regular credit from recovery.

Plus, they did not mention that regents standards are so low, that it is not a measure of anything anymore. Only 33% and 46% respectively on the Algebra and Biology regents is needed for a scaled score of 65.

Otherwise, I think this article is very good at exposing all the loopholes Klein and Bloomberg are allowing to happen for their own stats. I'm not hopeful that they will reign this practice however, because improvement in statistics is the bedrock of their argument to voters to keep in control of DOE.

DOE Press Secretary David Cantor responds:
This is bogus. Not only has the enrollment rate of NYC high school graduates gone up 50% at CUNY schools since 2002, it has gone up modestly at SUNY colleges as well.
Also, the reference to Regents test scoring is completely bollixed. Students do not need to score "33%" on the Algebra test in order to pass. They need a raw score this year of 30 out of a possible 87, but the test isn't divided into equal intervals. For example, a raw score of 19 yields a scale score of 49, while a raw score of 20 yields a scale score of 51; looked at another way, raw scores of 63, 64, 65, and 66 all yield a scale score of 84.
Additionally, the raw score needed to pass changes each year depending on the difficulty of the test's questions; while a student in 2009 needed a raw score of 30, next year a student may need a raw score of 40. Using the mistaken calculation below, and assuming 87 were to remain the high raw score, students would need to score "46%" to pass. By the logic here the State would deserve praise for raising standards.
David Cantor
Press Secretary

Seung slaps back - brilliantly, I might add
To Mr. Cantor,
Fine, if you don't want see the obvious - that there is a recession, and higher level students are in fact opting for CUNY rather than SUNY - then lets look at a report released by CUNY itself:

"In difficult economic times, students and their families especially appreciate the high value of an education at a CUNY college," said Chancellor Matthew Goldstein. "We are investing in CUNY by attracting world class faculty, building modern facilities and creating innovative academic programs in the most exciting city in the world. The University today is among the best values in higher education."

That same report by CUNY goes on to say:
Five elite New York City public high schools – Bronx High School of Science, Brooklyn Technical High School, Staten Island Technical High School, Stuyvesant High School and Townsend Harris High School – sent 505 freshmen to CUNY colleges this fall, a 27 percent increase compared with the number enrolled in baccalaureate programs in 1999.

And as far as your scaled scores on standardized testing is concerned, you missed the point completely. The issue is not that every student's grades will be inflated. You remark that a 62,63, and 64 raw score ( out of 87 possible questions) are all scaled at a test score of 87.

The issue is the MINIMAL standards of what you consider proficient (30 correct out of 87 possible credits). So, yes, if this were the physician's licensing exam, those that did great wouldn't get a 140% on an exam. The problem is that the lowest performing group (30 out of 87 questions), would still be graduated as doctors. Let's use common sense here, as someone else just mentioned, would you want anyone - your doctor, bus driver, barber, astronaut, waiter, proctologist to get 30 out of 87 in anything in their training?

And let me tell you why these tests are becoming easier than ever. I ran tutoring sessions for several hours 3 days prior to this years Living Environment exam. There were many students who attended who failed it in the past, and had not taken a single course related to this subject all year. Why did they come and thank me right after the test? They thanked me because every question I crammed into them was on that exam. Of course, because many of the questions appeared last year, and the year before that. These tests are getting narrower in scope, and exact forms of questions are being repeated year after year.

Any test in which one can predict the questions, does not measure what it claims to.
Seung Ok

Parent Steve Koss jumps into the fray

Dear Mr. Cantor,

I normally try my best to refrain from responding to the comments you submit to this listserv, but your most recent posting was so feckless and off the wall, I simply couldn't stand by and let it pass uncountered. I have to tell you that I've never seen anyone put their foot in their mouth so often and so readily as you seem to do; "tribalism" was truly a gem, I must say. Remarkable that they pay you for whatever it is you're doing. A bit of professional advice before I move ahead with responding to your email? Stop trying to defend the indefensible. It's difficult enough to do as it is, but you make complete hash out of it every time you attempt it. If I was your boss, I'd frankly tell you in no uncertain terms to shut the hell up and stay off the Internet.

Now, as for your comments, which I personally find (as both a math major and as a former NYC high school math teacher as well as public school parent leader) so preposterous as to be beyond laughable. They really make me wonder if you have any clue whatsoever as to how the NYC and NYS school systems and exam structures work. It's eminently clear that you don't. What you wrote is some of the most patently ridiculous and intellectually bankrupt stuff I've ever seen from someone who ostensibly speaks on behalf of a major city public school system.

I see that others have already responded regarding CUNY, including statements issued by CUNY itself as to their increasing enrollment due to their "good value for the money" education. Interesting to see the number of students who went to CUNY from the specialized high schools. When I taught at Lab School, some of my best students (especially first generation Americans from immigrant families) also went to CUNY because their families just didn't have the money for something more renowned. I'll leave that argument for others and focus on what I know best (advice I'd highly recommend to you) -- the Grade 3-8 and Regents first level Math exams.

The scaled passing score on Integrated Algebra is a 30 out of 87 points. Period. There's no if's, and's, or but's, no way of dancing around the fact that a 34.5% raw score earn you a 65 and hence the "math credit" toward a (now meaningless) Regents diploma. That fact has nothing to do with how the rest of the exam is scaled. Scaling creates all sorts of issues, but none of them are pertinent to the central argument Ms. Seung Ok was originally making. And nothing in this argument even begins to address all the other aspects of score inflation built into the Regents: narrowed scope, simpler questions, repetition of question content and format, opportunities for systemic cheating, etc.

Regardless, in order to help educate you, I've included below the cut scores for a 65 (passing grade) on every Math A and Integrated Algebra exam since June 1999. The second column is each exam's maximum possible score, the third column is the cut score for a 65 based on that exam's conversion table, and the last column is the percentage of the maximum raw score that it took to get the 65 (e.g., 43 out of 85 in June 1999 was 50.59%, and that was converted to a 65).


Jun-99 85 43 50.59
Jan-00 85 44 51.76
Jun-00 85 41 48.24
Aug-00 85 41 48.24
Jan-01 85 46 54.12
Jun-01 85 46 54.12
Aug-01 85 47 55.29
Jan-02 85 48 56.47
Jun-02 85 52 61.18
Aug-02 85 53 62.35
Jan-03 85 52 61.18
Jun-03 85 51 60.00
Jun-03 85 36 42.35
Jan-04 84 37 44.05
Jun-04 84 37 44.05
Aug-04 84 36 42.86
Jan-05 84 34 40.48
Jun-05 84 36 42.86
Aug-05 84 34 40.48
Jan-06 84 33 39.29
Jun-06 84 35 41.67
Aug-06 84 34 40.48
Jan-07 84 35 41.67
Jun-07 84 35 41.67
Aug-07 84 34 40.48
Jan-08 84 34 40.48
Jun-08 84 36 42.86
Aug-08 84 36 42.86
Jan-09 84 35 41.67


Jun-08 87 30 34.48
Aug-08 87 30 34.48
Jan-09 87 31 35.63
Jun-09 87 30 34.48

As you can clearly see, the cut score percentage actually rose somewhat in the few years before NCLB turned education on its head and politicized the outcomes of state standardized exams. Since 2002 though, the cut score percentage has been declining steadily, reaching an abysmal and embarrassing low of 30 out of 87 in three of the four Integrated Algebra exams (which, by the way, are filled with questions that belong in middle schoolers' exams). So your contention that "next year a student may need a raw score of 40" is patently absurd -- it's never happened, and it's not going to happen until folks like you and your bosses who've politicized all of this get out of the middle of something none of you understand and let real educators and parents take charge of their children's education. You only have to look at what happened in June 2003, when the passing score was dropped precipitously due to "anomalies" in that exam but then never re-raised in the years and exams following to see what's going on.

The State has never significantly raised standards since the inception of NCLB. In fact, they've consistently gone the opposite direction, and not just for the high school Regents. The cut scores for Level 3 in Math have been lowered consistently at every grade level, almost one point per year, since 2006 (when full Grade 3-8 testing was implemented -- if you want those numbers, I have them and will happily provide you with them so you don't make a fool of yourself yet again).

Interestingly, the Regents have kept the bar for a "high pass" (85%) pretty much constant. But then again, nobody's looking at that because who cares about kids doing more than just climbing over the lowest bar we can possibly set for them? In point of fact, the 2008 CIR's from NYS make it clear that the percentages of kids scoring over 85% on Integrated Algebra (which requires a raw score equivalent of 77-78%) are horrifyingly low, zero percent in dozens of NYC high schools (I've already found 46 schools where that happened, a total of 81 schools out of 142 I've looked at where the 85% bar scaled score bar was crossed by 2% or less of the students, and a total of 106 out of 142 schools where less than 10% could manage a raw score that reached 75% of the raw score points available to them). Lest you think I'm cherry-picking, my 142 schools included Townsend Harris, LaGuardia, Cardozo, Bayside, Edward R. Murrow, Bronx Science, Brooklyn Tech, Stuyvesant, Millenium, Eleanor Roosevelt, Baruch, Hunter Science, School of the Future, Staten Island Tech, Pace HS, Forest Hills, Midwood, Manhattan Center for Science & Math, NEST+M, Bard Early College, Manhattan Village Academy, HS for Dual Language and Asian Studies, Murry Bergtraum, Leon Goldstein, PPAS, and many others that are considered to be among the city's best public schools.

Before you embarrass yourself with another sparkling revelation of your lack of knowledge and apparent unwillingness to study the data in order actually to support your statements with something substantative like some of the rest of us do, I suggest you think twice about what you say on the listserv and how you say it. When you speak, you are not David Cantor, citizen, you are David Cantor, NYC DOE. If you are going to make arguments on behalf of the Chancellor that are utterly bereft of both common sense and supporting fact, you are going to have to deal with responses from people who have spent time studying these things and understand what's really going on despite all the "feel good" P.R. that comes out of both SED and the NYC DOE.

If the tone of this email is insulting, it was meant to be. I'm outraged beyond bounds by what you wrote, not because it's in any way personal, but because it's so nonsensical and demonstrates so clearly how those of you at Tweed simply don't get it. As a presumably responsible representative of the DOE, you cannot just say anything you want (sorry, you're not Rush Limbaugh, at least not yet) and expect knowledgeable parents simply to roll over and say thank you. This listserv isn't one of your silly subway posters that can claim anything without having to deal with public responses. Do your homework and check your facts next time if you don't want to enrage people who actually know what they're talking about.

Steve Koss

David, the ball is in your court. Or did Seung and Steve serve an ace?

NY Times article link:

More comments on the article posted at Norms Notes:

Credit Recovery






Once upon a time a large East Coast City was protected from flood disaster by a dam.

One day someone noticed there was a small crack in the dam. When he alerted authorities, the City Fathers were worried that if the crack were mended, they might suffer embarrassment that a crack existed at all. (A City Father's cousin had been hired to build the shoddy dam at an enormously inflated price).

So instead of repairing the crack in the dam they decided to build a wall that would block anyone from observing the crack.

As the crack grew in size, the City Fathers naturally had to continually enlarge the wall that obscured any view of the steadily growing crack.

Eventually when the crack reached the very top of the dam, as workers strived in vain to enlarge the wall blocking any view of the crack, the entire dam split in two, right down the middle and the wall meant to hide any view of the crack was washed away, the City Fathers were washed away.

In fact the entire City was flooded and washed away, far out into the ocean.

The moral of the story is that when you have a problem, large or small, recognize that it makes more sense to admit you have a problem, and a good deal cheaper in the end to solve the problem in an intelligent fashion, than to make the shortsighted decision to attempt to hide the problem.

The additional money required to create smaller Public School classes which would help teachers deal with student deficiencies and truly raise academic success levels, would be far more economical in the long run than the constant attempts to spin the numbers, concoct phony meaningless feel good slogans, and try to fool the Public.

As Mark Twain correctly observed:

"There are lies, Damn Lies- And then there are statistics."

How did Mark Twain ever know there would one day be something called the NYC Dept of Education, run by a ruthless, pompous, egotistical, former Federal Prosecutor named Joel Klein, Esq., ensconced in a former Marbled Courthouse on Chambers Street that once was the seat of one of the most corrupt political gangs that ever ran New York City.

Mr. Klein, meet Mr. Tweed, and may I add- You both deserve one another.

Anonymous said...

Still wondering, where's the story about how Sing took it upon himself to trespass into the last DA.