Thursday, August 8, 2013

Testing, testing

You may have heard that New York, one of the first states to shift their testing to something (possibly) more reflective of the Common Core, released their district and state results yesterday. As expected, scores across the state have dropped precipitously. 
Let me repeat the beginning of that: AS EXPECTED.
New York radically changed the type of test and in many cases what was on the tests the kids were taking this year. Teachers hadn't had much time to prepare kids, and no one really knew what these tests were going to look like once they were out there.
Please take this as a given: when we switch tests, scores are going to drop. They are going to drop hard, they are going to drop fast, and IT IS GOING TO MEAN NOTHING ABOUT WHAT KIDS ARE LEARNING.
Get ready for this now, in any state where your schools are changing types of tests: when the first round comes out, the scores will be lower.
And it will be meaningless.

If you're looking more on what this does and doesn't mean, Diane Ravitch takes apart the "yes men" at the New York Times while pointing out that the NY state ed commissioner doesn't know how the NAEP works,  a principal from elsewhere in the state points out what NY state tests have been like lately and points to mismanagement at the top, the New York State High School Principal of the Year has advice for parents and pushes for sanity to prevail, and the Voorheesville* Central School District superintendent has a thoughtful, down to earth letter of perspective for parents:
Our community is sophisticated enough to recognize a canard when it experiences one.  These tests were intentionally designed to obtain precisely the outcomes that were rendered.  The rationale behind this is to demonstrate that our most successful students are not so much and our least successful students are dreadful.  If you look at the distribution of scores, you see exactly the same distances as any other test.  The only difference is that the distribution has been manipulated to be 30 to 40 percent lower for everybody.  This serves an enormously powerful purpose.  If you establish a baseline this low, the subsequent growth over the next few years will indicate that your plans for elevating the outcomes were necessary.  However, it must be recognized that the test developers control the scaled scores—indeed they have developed a draconian statistical formula that is elaborate, if indecipherable, to determine scaled scores.  I would bet my house on the fact that over the next few years, scores will “improve”—not necessarily student learning, but scores.  They must, because the State accepted millions and millions of dollars to increase student scores and increase graduation rates.  If scores do not improve from this baseline, then those ‘powers that be’ will have a lot of explaining to do to justify having accepted those millions.
(and her letter before that, on the Common Core, is excellent as well. Dr. Snyder, you rock!)

*suburb to the west of Albany. 

No comments: