Thursday, November 15, 2007

What Test Score Gains?

The NY Sun reports that New York City students showed few improvements on the the National Assessment of Educational Progress exam (NAEP), a respected national "yardstick" test used to compare student progress across the nation.

The Sun says that
NAEP results are usually released on a state-by-state basis, but several large cities agreed to have their own results reported for comparison purposes back in 2002.

Here's how New York City students fared:

Compared to the rest of the country, New York City fourth-graders edge out large central cities slightly on average but fall behind the national numbers. Eighth-graders scored no better on a math test than students in large central cities. That pattern has been essentially unchanged since 2003, the year the Bloomberg administration began to initiate changes in the city's public schools.


This year, 34% of fourth-graders scored proficient on the math test, up from 21% in 2003. That is below the national average, 39%, but above the average for large central cities, 28%. When it comes to reading, 43% of fourth-graders in the city this year did not reach the basic level — one step below proficient — down from 47% in 2003. Eighth-grade results were more dismal. In the city, 41% of eighth-graders cannot perform basic reading, up from 38% in 2003, the first year scores were reported, and above the percentages in Houston and Chicago, 37% and 39% respectively. On the math test, 43% of eighth-graders scored below basic, compared with 46% in 2003.

There you have it - after three New York City public school system reorganizations in the last 6 years, countless school closures, curriculum changes, math and reading coaches, additional standardized testing, additional professional development for teachers, additional school days and seat time for students, merit pay for teachers and testing "bonuses" in the form of cash and prizes for kids who improve on tests, there has been little-to-no improvement in the national test scores of New York City students.

Let me repeat, after all the vaunted changes the "Education Mayor" and his chancellor have brought to the New York City school system and after all the glorious press the mayor and the chancellor have gotten for "breaking the status quo" and "bringing accountability to the schools," the national test scores are flat.


Sure the dumbed down city and state tests show lots of improvement, but the national tests, which neither the mayor nor the governor can have manipulated or dumbed down to make the scores seem better than they are, are flat.

What do you think about that education reformers?

You have gotten most of what you wanted out of both the UFT and the NYCDOE.

You got a partly privatized public school system with a gutted central bureaucracy and a union that has conceded autocratic mayoral control, merit pay, seniority and grievance rights, and additional days and time.

You got standardized testing added to the curriculum which is used to track school, teacher and student performance on an $80 million dollar computer system.

You got a host of large schools closed down and plenty of your darling small schools and charter schools opened in the past six years.

You got Jack Welch/CEO-style principals in charge of their own budgets and accountable for their own results.

You got school financing reform which allows these CEO principals the freedom to can costly senior teachers and hire cheaper and more pliable Teach for America-type missionaries who will hang around for a few years before moving on to their "real jobs."

You got what you wanted and the result has been flat test scores on the one test that can't be played with by the people in charge of the school system.

Heckuva job, education reformers.

I wonder what happens after you get vouchers, the end to teacher tenure, year-round school and nine hour school days and the national test scores STILL don't show improvement.

Will you then come to acknowledge that there are factors beyond schools that contribute to student performance?

You know, like whether students take some responsibility for their own education and parents take some responsibility for their own children.

Yes, schools have to improve and teachers and administrators need to be accountable for their results.

But parents and students need to be held accountable too.

Whenever I hear education reformers talking about problems in education and their proposed solutions, I never hear them ask for more accountability from parents and students for how students perform in school.

All I ever hear is how teachers suck and the schools are abysmal and something has to change or the United States of America will wither and die.

But until students and parents are asked to take some responsibility for themselves, little is going to really change.
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