The New York Foundation for Education Reform and Accountability (NYFERA) commented on the study (here). NYFERA's Director of Research & Communications, Jason Brooks, described the NAEP results as a "red flag" and that New York schools are doing a "poor job [in] preparing students to high academic standards."
That's not what state education officials were saying last spring when the state test scores were released. Former Education Commissioner, Rick Mills, preparing for retirement, said at the time: "as students progressed through the grades, their math scores progressed steadily." Then, incredibly, Mills alluded to the dubious soundness of the state tests by saying, "As we prepare to develop the next set of tests for 2010, it's probably time to raise the bar again."
Raise the bar again? Why is that, Rick? Did ya lower it on the way out? Judging by the NAEP results, it sure looks that way.
Test Score Discrepancy: NAEP v. NYS Exams
What is so alarming is the sizable gap between NAEP math scores for 8th grade compared to 8th grade results on the state's math exam. NAEP results showed nearly two-thirds of 8th grade students failed to achieve proficiency, as only 34 percent scored proficient. By contrast, 86 percent of 8th grade students in New York achieved proficient (level 3 or 4) on the state's math exam -- a gap of 52 percentage points!
Fourth grade results show a proficiency gap of 47 points between NAEP results, with 40 percent proficient; compared to the state's 4th grade math exam, with 87 percent proficient. Ouch.
Something is wrong here, and that's not all.
The racial achievement gap is on full display with these NAEP results and it appears to be getting worse rather than narrowing. The 2009 results showed at least a 25-point gap between white students compared to African-American and Latino students.
New State Education Leadership
Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch and Commissioner David Steiner are not unaware of this credibility problem with New York's tests. Nor is the Obama Administration, which is encouraging states to adopt world class standards as part of its Race to the Top competition for federal grants. President Obama said that states ought "to stop low-balling expectations for our kids" that results in gaps in test scores among students with similar knowledge.
Indications are that Tisch and Steiner will confront this problem head on. The evidence more than ever suggests that the previous Education Commissioner, Rick Mills, had the Department dumb-down the state tests so that students would score higher as a sign of accomplishment as he prepared to ride off into the sunset after 14 years at the helm. If this is true, it's political selfishness on his part or someone's part. Even worse, it's the moral equivalent of cheating on the test. What happens to a child who cheats on a test? They cheat themselves first and foremost. In this case, the students were being cheated by the government test designers.
It's time to start over, raise the bar, and keep it there. Watch for state test results to come crashing down to earth.
for The Chalkboard
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