Friday, May 08, 2009

The Chancellor's New Clothes

As we have been saying, the rising test scores are a chimera-akin to the sartorial splendor of the fabled emperor;and Juan Gonzales hones in on the charade: "Too unbelievable to be true. That's what some veteran educators say about the huge jump in public school reading scores state and city officials released Thursday. In just one year, average scores for all New York City elementary pupils zoomed by an unheard of 11%. Even more astonishing, fifth graders recorded a 20% increase."

Someone needs a saliva test here-and everyone should be calling for an independent audit of these state tests; and a proper comparison with the more rigorous national (NAEP) exams: ""It's impossible that you would see this kind of change in just one year," said Martha Foote, an education researcher with Time Out From Testing, a group critical of high-stakes testing. "After seven years of these improved test scores, how come the children we're getting in high school aren't reading any better and don't show any greater love of literature?" said a veteran secondary school principal who scoffed when she heard the results."

But that doesn't stop the amen chorus at Mort's Place: "Read 'em and cheer - this year's test results are in, and city kids scored big in reading and writing. Really big. More students in every grade, three through eight, are reading at or above grade level than ever. Black and Latino children are narrowing the achievement gap with their white peers. The middle school dead zone has come to life, with huge gains in proficiency and virtual elimination of the lowest scores."

Stop the presses! But wait, not everyone is ready to bow and scrape before Merlin Klein: "Writing in the City Room, Jennifer Medina questioned some of the department’s bombast. She noted that, while more students meet standards, scores have edged up very slowly, leading skeptics to “wonder whether the state’s tests are simply becoming easier to pass.” And while the mayor — and his cheerleader Carl Campanile at the New York Post — will undoubtedly say the scores have risen because of mayoral control, Medina notes “Buffalo, Rochester and Syracuse have all shown larger improvements on the mean scores.”

So let's not get, well, Buffaloed here: "Those cities have done so without the aid of mayoral control Joel Klein or Michael Bloomberg. Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch put it this way. While saying mayoral control did not hurt New York City, she told reporters “Mayoral control is not part of the conversation about the gains across the state.”

Which brings us back to these state (saliva) tests-and the last word belongs to Juan Gonzales: "As for the unprecedented rise in test scores, it couldn't have come at a better time for Bloomberg - just as he's running for reelection and weeks before the Legislature decides whether to extend mayoral control of the schools. As skeptics have noted, the federal government's national assessment tests keep puncturing the claims of local officials that New York tests scores have been rapidly improving. Results of the next national assessment won't be made public until November, so we won't know for sure until then. But I learned a long time ago that when something looks too good to be true, it usually is."