Saturday, July 14, 2012

Walcott Offers Credit Recovery and Instant Graduation to Students Who Write a Report Showing 100% Grad Rate Under Bloomberg Tenure

Whom do you believe? Me or your own lying eyes? -- Diane Ravitch
Walcott says high school students could have written a more credible report than the I.B.O. He says the report's methodology is faulty and inaccurate.  ----WABC



The usual narrative from the city is that student achievement has significantly and steadily improved under Mayor Bloomberg, but the report by the Independent Budget Office has a different story to tell.... According to the I.B.O. report on student achievement of selected students tracked over several years, 62 per cent were found to show no improvement between 3rd and 8th grade, while only 30 per cent improved, and 8 per cent lost ground.... The city often points to narrowing the achievement gap between black and Hispanic students and white students, but the I.B.O. report reads: "The findings for this cohort of students indicate little evidence of a narrowing achievement gap."  --- WABC

Report Finds Student Performance on State Exams Remains Consistent

Here's a report by the NYC Independent Budget Office.  It has drawn some public attention and strongly voiced disparagement from the NYC DOE. 
I'm including a link to an article in today's Daily News (p.2) based on the report.
Keep stirring the pot and DOE will overreact in ways that often come crashing on City Hall and Tweed. Listen carefully to their words on testing.  It's the sound of a house of cards falling down.  ----Fred Smith

How can the DOE say that you can't use the state tests to compare individual students year to year, BUT you can use the same tests of students to evaluate teachers from one year to the next???  Lisa North

Fred: how can we trust any trend line derived from the state tests given the test score inflation and overall unreliability of the exams over this period? And aren't proficiency levels even less truatworthy as they are set by the cut scores which are easy to manipulate and were indeed manipulated as we know by NYSED?  -- Leonie Haimson

Based on the record, I don't have faith in the tests, the test makers, SED and the reporting and use of the exam results for students, teachers, principals and schools.  Did I leave anything out?
Let's focus on the floating cut scores, which are set on the basis of expediency (aka other considerations).  Political and budgetary factors weigh into the decision about where to place the cutoff point.  Raw score distributions are transformed into scale score distributions.  Even when (2006-2009) a scale score of 650 was established as the point required to reach proficiency--there was nothing constant about the score needed to demonstrate that a child "meets state learning standards" because of the factors you cite and the other considerations that entered the determination about where the passing bar should go.
Then a four-point performance level scale was imposed on top of that structure, with three cutoff points dividing the raw score distribution into four parts.  As you know, the Level 2 / Level 3 split separated kids who were proficient from those who were improficient (i.e., partially met the learning standards). The Level 1/ Level 2 split delineated those who were eligible to be held back in New York City, while merely labeling the Level 1s in the rest of the state as having serious academic problems. There who reached Level 4 were deemed to meet the standards with flying colors--but the tests were never long or sensitive enough to differentiate among kids at the high end.
The 2009 results tie this together.  The cut scores were set so obviously low that record high percentages of students were at or above Level 3.  At the same time, the number of Level 1s practically disappeared, because Level 2 could be reached by guessing--that's how low the L1 / L2 cut point had been set. Both  outcomes were good for politicians who were running for election or re-election that year.  And budget was also spared, because with so few Level 1s, money for academic intervention services did not have to be expended. 
Chancellor Tisch did her 2009 test results press conference in a stern, non-celebratory manner--promising more comprehensive, more rigorous, less predictable tests and higher standards in the future--part of her educational reform agenda.  In short, no more lies.  It was also a promise not to look back and investigate how testing had become so distorted.  That would have exposed the discredited cut scores.  Commissioner Richard Mills retired shortly after the announcement and never addressed reasonable suspicions that he had been instrumental in setting the indefensible 2009 cut scores.
But in 2010 and 2011 Tisch went with the same publisher (CTB/McGraw-Hill) that had worked with SED's Office of Assessment to provide the statewide testing program from 1999 forward.  If the 2009 results were so unworthy, why then did she continue to engage CTB in 2010 and extend the contract for 2011?  This is where Tisch developed her posture of decrying the tests, scowling and saying testing couldn't continue as it had before--but immediately nullifying her position by noting she had been reassured by the publisher that everything was valid and the testing would go on.
And in 2011, Pearson was awarded the contract.  The Pineapple King has a 5-year ($32 million and counting) agreement to develop and bring forth the program--getting us through the transition period leading to the common core standards and probably beyond that to the next frontier--computerized individual testing.  This year we paid Pearson to field test items by embedding them in the operational April test exams and in stand-alone field tests administered last month.  These items will be used on next spring's operational statewide tests.  But for several obvious reasons the field testing was inadequate--so next year's product will be seriously compromised.
SED is requiring Pearson to hire an "independent" investigator to look at the problems it just encountered. What a great way to find out that everything Pearson did was valid.  But parents and the public have caught on to the way testing has been manipulated and has come to dominate education.
Yes, in this context, score inflation, lack of reliability (especially in scoring the open-ended items), a shrinking window of transparency, never-ending political machinations, privatization/corporate ambitions, shielded by an unrelenting unwillingness to have an independent investigation, make it clear that distrust is warranted. 
The picture is bleak.  The hope for change lies mainly with parents, courageous teachers and principals, but also with an enlightened union and progressive politicians to create the critical mass needed to take back public education and restore its central place in a democracy.


The opinions expressed on EdNotesOnline are solely those of Norm Scott and are not to be taken as official positions (though Unity Caucus/New Action slugs will try to paint them that way) of any of the groups or organizations Norm works with: ICE, GEM, MORE, Change the Stakes, NYCORE, FIRST Lego League NYC, Rockaway Theatre Co., Active Aging, The Wave, Aliens on Earth, etc.

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