Friday, December 11, 2009

Your Cheating Heart

Diane Ravitch, following our own critique, chimed in yesterday-in a trenchant NY Post Op-ed-on the issue of fraudulent state school tests: "National math scores were released this week for 18 cities, including New York City, and we learned that our state tests are a complete sham. The National Assessment of Educational Progress, which is administered by a federal agency, is considered the gold standard of education testing. The big lesson: Our state test scores are grossly inflated."

So, where do we go to get our money back? You know for all of those teacher bonuses that were based on a lie; and, for that matter, all of the extra money that was spent per pupil to supposedly raise student achievement levels. When you look at the situation closely, the level of fraud is Enronesque.

Here's how Ravitch puts it: "According to state officials, the scores for New York City have soared year after year. From 2003 to 2009, they said, the proportion of fourth-grade students who met the state standard for proficiency leapt from 66.7 percent in 2003 to 84.9 percent in 2009. In eighth grade, where test scores had long been flat, the proportion who reached proficiency soared from 34.4 percent to an astonishing 71.3 percent. These amazing changes seemed too good to be true. They were."

Given this blatant discrepancy-and the apparent fact that the kids and their parents are being snookered-what should be done? Nothing until the real lack of educational progress is accepted: "As a result of the state's manipulation of test scores, many students aren't getting the attention that they need, and school officials are led to believe that programs are working when they're not. Schools can't help students who are far behind in math when the state mistakenly says they're "proficient."

The state testing regime needs to be radically overhauled: "Congress intended that the federal tests would serve as an audit for the claims made by states, which are required to take the NAEP tests, and by those districts that volunteered to take them. What we've learned from this audit is that the New York state test program is broken. It's giving us false information about student progress, which leads not only to complacency and false pride, but to failure to acknowledge the actual situation and set a strong course of action."

All of which demonstrates the total mendacity of the recently concluded Bloomberg re-election campaign. As Gotham Gazette tells us: "During the mayoral campaign both Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Christopher Cerf, a former Education Department official who had moved over to the campaign, predicted that the city’s scores on a national math test would show an increase. Yesterday the figures for the National Assessment of Educational Progress told a different story: Between 2007 and 2009 city fourth and eight graders showed no significant improvement on the test. This represents a sharp contrast to results on state tests, where city students have improved dramatically during Bloomberg’s tenure."

If there ever was a crying need for greater state oversight of the DOE, these test results should be seen as a clarion call for true reform-and we hope that the state senate will pick up this mantle. But we'll give Ravitch the last word; and it should resonate in Albany, and throughout the halls at Tweed: "For now, the challenge facing state education officials is to fix the state testing system. Not only is it broken, not only is it an embarrassment to the state, but the rosy misinformation that it provides is harming children."