Thursday, October 4, 2018

School Scope: Test Scores from Spring ’18 Released - Oct. 5

School Scope: Test Scores from Spring ’18 Released
By Norm Scott

In case the news passed you by, the New York State reading and math tests students took last April and May were released last week, tests that are no use to students, parents or teachers so long after the school year ended;  expensive tests that have distorted education at every level from pre-k through high schools are fundamentally useless. But they are used to rate part of teacher performance, also useless since that practice has also been discredited. They are also used to rate overall school performance and as an excuse to try to shut down public schools whose buildings are coveted by well-funded charter school chains.

Testing mania is not a new thing. I remember how standardized testing (as opposed to teacher or school-wide tests) was important in my elementary and middle schools in the 1950s and regents test-driven in high school in the early 60s. And as an elementary school teacher from the late 60s through the late 90s testing was a driving force. But it was used mainly to address the outcomes of children and we received the results before the school year ended, still too late to do much with them. (I advocated that tests be given in September so teachers could actually use the outcomes to assist their students.)

With the No Child Left Behind Law pushed by the Bush administration with the support of Democrats in the early part of this century, testing became a political cudgel used to attack entire school systems, close down schools, and punish teachers and students. The punishment put careers of educators and politicians on the line and that drove us to the present hysteria.

Along side that has grown a vast educational-industrial complex forming a testing industry that makes enormous profits from the tests and to ensure those profits there has sprung up a pro-testing lobby funneling money to politicians who control the state education departments. Our own NY State Education Department (NYSED) has pushed hard on tests and I suspect this is more about politics than education.

There has been a counter reaction against testing – the opt-out movement to have kids sit out the tests. Despite enormous attacks against opt-outers by educational bureaucrats in NY City, the opt out rate in NYC was slightly up to 4.4 percent, a .4 percentage point increase from last year. Statewide the numbers are still around 20%. The highest refusal rates have been in the wealthier/whiter districts with District 15 (Park Slope) leading the pack with 12% opt-out.

NYSED has tried to lure opt-outers back by making cosmetic changes in the test along with reducing some testing time. But this has not affected the many schools that focus on the tests with enormous test prep time that takes away from curriculum.

You  can read Fred Smith, a major critic of the testrocracy, who takes apart the tests on my blog: Fred Smith: Opt-out movement is viable and capable of growth in NYC -

It’s all about politics
You may have noticed that I have focused more on politics than education recently. As you can see from the above we can’t isolate educational policy from the politics and politicians behind it. Both political parties are responsible for bad education policy – Obama’s Race To The Top funneled billions  to schools based on some of the worst policies we’ve ever seen. But what about local politics? Our local electeds and the political machines that back them say little or nothing about bad ed policies. It is time to hold them accountable.

Norm Races to the Bottom at


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