Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Re-Test: Educating the Educators

The NYS Department of Education, acknowledging its failure to provide righteous testing modalities for New York's school kids, has promised reform-but, as Fred Smith opines in the NY Post today, the reforms don't go far enough to clean up the mess from the old testing regime: "Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch and Education Commissioner David Steiner have admitted that the state has badly bungled its testing of New York's schoolchildren. They are promising to do better -- but want to close the book on what went wrong. Sorry: Assurances of more honest days ahead aren't enough -- we need to resolve accountability for the dishonest days of the recent past. After all, Tisch and Steiner are implicitly acknowledging that the critics have been right, and the state Education Department wrong, for years -- since 2006, at least."

Now, this isn't news to us-and we have commented on the testing scam on any number of occasions; but the real expose has come from Sol Stern's City Journal writing. In April, he pointed out: "Unfortunately, when NCLB became law, it left the door wide open to massive test inflation by stipulating that all American students “will be proficient” by the year 2014—and imposing a series of increasingly onerous sanctions on districts and schools not moving toward that goal—yet allowing each state to develop its own tests and set its own standard for “proficiency.” Since men are not angels, it was inevitable that some state education authorities would lower the proficiency bar to make themselves look good to the feds."

But Stern went on: "Stern goes on to detail how NYS DOE colluded with this fraudulent lying to the school children and their parents, resisting efforts to insure that the tests had integrity. The result, says Stern is that we were provided with a feel good false positive that camouflaged the grim reality of insufficient progress: "In many districts, the number of students in all grades scoring above the proficiency bar was nearly 100 percent. In City Journal and the New York Daily News, I’ve called results like this the Lake Wobegon Effect, after Garrison Keillor’s tales about a town where “all the children are above average.”

But Smith believes that there is a need to clean this stable of corruption with a good deal more thoroughness than what the chancellor is planning to do now-and he is horrified that the same crew who was responsible for the mess is being tasked to clean it up: "Tisch and Steiner want us to believe we're entering an era of testing integrity, which will be signaled in a few days when the 2010 results crash down on the inflated scores of the last four years. Nothing will change, however, unless those who produced the disastrous testing program are held to account for the harm they've caused. The same officials and technical advisers have been retained to deliver the new package. No one should buy it. Truth about the past must precede trust in the future."

And, on its editorial page, the NY Post is in agreement: "State education officials released a study this week that shows just why they're raising the bar on state tests -- and they got the Board of Regents to back the idea. That's great. But as we said last week -- when The Post reported the plan -- they've got a long way to go before New Yorkers can have confidence in state test scores, grades and other such benchmarks."

And what's with state and city officials when it comes to fraudulent tests and reports? As we pointed out yesterday, NYSDOT is continuing to rely on EDC's consultants in the preparation of a report on ramps for the Van Wyck, proposed top mitigate the gigantic Willets Point development-even after it was demonstrated by critics that those same consultants had produced contradictory, and apparently purposefully deceptive original traffic estimates. Talk about foxes in chicken coops-both the state regents and the DOT need to have their feathers plucked.

But, at the same time, what's with the Post? In its entire editorial on the test scam, caustic sarcasm reigns supreme:"No wonder nearly 80 percent of the state's students were deemed proficient in English last year, as compared to 62 percent in 2006. No wonder nearly 90 percent earned that distinction in math, as compared to 66 percent in 2006. And no wonder there was such widespread distrust of the tests. Now there's solid proof that such skepticism was on target. "It is very likely that some of the state's progress was illusory," the lead researcher, Daniel Koretz, said."

Yet nowhere in the opinion piece is there a single mention of how these fraudulent tests were put to good use by the city's mayor and school chancellor-and/or how teachers and administrators scammed millions as a result of phony jacked up scores. So half a kudo for the Post for its editorial that, when read carefully, is an example of the dog that didn't bark.