Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Houston Miracle: Bloomberg/Klein Edition

It is becoming pretty clear that the progress Mayor Bloomberg and Chancellor Klein have claimed as a result of their education reforms in the New York City public school system is phony.

Last week the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) test scores were released for 11 cities including New York City.

The NAEP scores showed eighth graders have made no significant progress in math or reading since Mayor Bloomberg started his reform campaign in 2002 while progress for fourth graders has stagnated in the past few years.

The poor NAEP score results stand in marked contrast to the "steady" gains fourth and eighth graders have made on state exams since Bloomberg took office, leading B. Jason Brooks, director of research at the Foundation for Education Reform & Accountability, to say that the state tests have clearly been "dumbed down" and "simplified."

Today the NY Daily News reports that Chancellor Klein has sent out a mass e-mail to 100,000 principals, administrators and teachers touting the NAEP results as a success. Klein claims new immigrants have been unfairly tested in reading, but if you strip those students out from the test scores, you will see upward trends for the system that show a "story of good progress."

But on the very same day that Klein is trying to defend himself and his mayor from charges that their education reforms have resulted in little-to-no gains in national test scores while other cities around the country like Atlanta have passed New York City by, the NY Sun reports that Klein and Bloomberg essentially cheated on the 2007 NAEP tests by adding tons of testing modifications:

So many New York City students received extra time and other accommodations on a respected national test this year that several testing experts are saying the results should be considered invalid.

On the test known as the nation's report card, the National Assessment of Educational Progress, New York state gave accommodations to more fourth-graders than any other state in the nation, and New York City gave more help than any of the ten other major cities that participate in a separate city-by-city comparison. On three of four tests the accommodation rate hovered around 20%. On the last — a fourth-grade math exam city officials are trumpeting as evidence the Bloomberg administration's schools program is working — the rate was 25%.

The math test this year showed the city's fourth-graders making record gains, with 79% of students reaching the basic level, up from 73% in 2005 and 67% in 2003. At the same time, the number of students receiving legally allowed accommodations, such as extra time to take the test, having the test read out loud, and receiving a translation into the student's native language, more than doubled, to 25% this year from 12% in 2003.

Shown the numbers, several testing experts said they were shocked.

"That's a percentage which is large enough basically to invalidate the test," a professor at New York University who has advised the city and federal government on standardized testing, Alan Siegel, said. "When you change the statistics for 25% of the people who are guaranteed to be at the lower end, that's going to have a tremendous impact."

An educational statistician who has written multiple studies of NAEP results, Donald McLaughlin, told the Sun he could not recall seeing testing accommodation figures as high as New York City's were this year ever.

That's right - ever.

McLaughlin went on to say that with testing modifications trending so high, there was good reason
to "be very suspicious" about claims academic achievement is increasing under Bloomberg and Klein.

The NYCDOE defended the huge increase in testing accommodations by saying that state policies had increased the number of English Language Learners who had to take the standardized tests. In New York, NYCDOE officials told the Sun, all ELL students are eligible for accommodations on both math and reading tests.

another education analyst, Richard Innes, told the Sun that the rise in testing accommodations in New York City is part of a national trend in response to pressure to show improvements on tests:

"The schools are figuring out: Gee, I've got a weak-performing student. If I consider him learning disabled, he's going to get a higher score on the test," Mr. Innes said.

Increasing accommodations on tests may be a national trend, but as we can see from the stats, New York City is far in the lead of this trend.

Which brings me back to what I wrote in the beginning: the "progress" Bloomberg and Klein tout for their education reforms is phony.

The "progress" on the "dumbed down" and "simplified" state tests comes from manipulating the methodology and rubric of the tests while the federal tests which cannot be dumbed down or simplified show students have made little-to-no progress even after Bloomberg and Klein have doubled the number of students receiving modifications.

When Bloomberg and Klein finally ride off into the sunset and some independent education experts and testing analysts get the opportunity to really look under the hood of the New York City Department of Education, its reform movement, its graduation rates and its test scores, I know that they will find that Bloomberg's "Education Miracle" here in New York is as phony and trumped up as the "Houston Education Miracle" that Rod Paige and George W. Bush cooked up in Texas some years ago.

In fact, the evidence is already in the public domain now:

Bloomberg and Klein have been manipulating state and city test scores to show student progress that federal tests show has not really happened.

They have closed tons of large schools and stopped testing Support Services and ELL students from those schools in order to further manipulate test scores.

They have played with the graduation rates (as I noted in this post yesterday.)

They have continually reorganized the system in order to postpone real accountability for their reforms.

And finally, they have spent millions on public relations to win over the public, the media and the newspaper editorial boards with their smoke and mirror reforms.

For a long time, it worked for them. But the curtain is starting to be drawn back on the "Bloomberg Education Miracle" and as I said earlier, it is becoming pretty clear that the progress Bloomberg and Klein have claimed for their time in power is phony.
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