Test Scores Tank

Thursday, August 08, 2013

Standardized test (dieselbug2007/flickr)

New York adopted more stringent standardized tests this year and has the big drop in scores to prove it. Beth Fertig, contributing editor for Education, WNYC Radio and, looks at the results, why federal education officials are satisfied with them and what they mean for Bloomberg's legacy and for the next mayor.

Read more about the story in SchoolBook and look up how your school performed:


Beth Fertig

Comments [23]

K from Brooklyn, NY

I am truly weary of teachers (like the first caller) who talk about their students being stressed b/c they had to do something like read for 3 hours. Guess what? Life is stressful, work life is stressful. What do these people think they are preparing these children for, if not, aomong other things, to handle the stresses of life. Three hours of reading is preferable to 3 hours of television or video games,neither of which do much for life preparation.

Aug. 15 2013 10:45 AM
Chuck from Pittsburgh from Pittsburgh

I'd like to hear in the future from a group of people who really know the ins and outs of how the questions are designed, that test the students' educational progress.

That discussion always need some mention, every time tests for educational standards are talked about.

I was disappointed that the questions on the tests were NOT even mentioned during this show segment. Give us the questions! And discuss the questions!

Aug. 11 2013 11:48 AM
Eddie Brown from New York, NY

Because teachers unions protect lame teachers that work in schools that churn out dummies. That's really about as complicated as this gets.

Aug. 08 2013 07:27 PM
Edward from Washington Heights AKA pretentious Hudson Heights

Guy from NYC,

Now I understand. You're a gym teacher.

Aug. 08 2013 06:03 PM

Write your reps to abolish Fed interference in education:

Aug. 08 2013 04:53 PM
Guy from NYC

Matt F.'s comments below are interesting and a real contribution to the debate. Educational testing is a big business. This doesn't mean publishers can be kept from the spoils of reform, just that the public should know (again, this would be the media and journalists' job) just exactly which corporate interests are influencing the process and when. It is safe to assume publishers and hedge fund-backed consultancies, like the one started by Michelle Rhee that runs some sections of NYC DOE policy, get in on the ground floor.

Aug. 08 2013 04:44 PM
Matt F. from NJ

I'm a proponent of the Common Core. Regardless of how you feel about the value of higher education, the goal of these standards, as expressed at the outset of each subject area's document, are to prepare students for college AND careers, not just college. And I sincerely hope that, when they and their appropriate assessments are fully implemented, that they'll improve the capabilities of and the hopes of prosperity for our nation's youth, whether or not we meet any international competitive benchmarks.

I'm a lot less hopeful based on how the testing, and much of the standards' implementation, has been handled so far. The original goal for all 46 states (and Washington, D.C.), was to roll out standardized tests created by two nonprofits, PARCC and Smarter Balanced,at the end of the 2014-2015 school year, when curriculum and tests were both ready to be taught and assessed.

Unfortunately, states like New York and New Jersey jumped the gun by creating their own standardized tests (actually, "paying corporations to create standardized tests") ahead of the standards being implemented, and beating PARCC and Smarter Balanced to the punch. My worry (and full disclosure here: I'm an editor for educational publisher, Scholastic) is that the paid testing companies, which have been making big money off of testing for years, are trying to establish a beachhead so that states like New York won't dare to switch to the PARCC test (which may or may not more accurately reflect the Common Core, but at least don't have corporate interests, let alone a textbook arm that poses a conflict of interest).

Why wouldn't New York dare switch? Answer: Just look at the backlash the city and state are getting right now for setting a higher bar. Does New York really want to go through this again in the spring of 2015? We can't know if there's be ANOTHER precipitous drop in scores when the new tests arrive, since I'd imagine they'll be even more rigorous. Plus, the PARCC test will be more expensive to incorporate, but that's its own story.

Bottom line: I think the standards will get students to gain a deeper understanding of the skills they'll need to get jobs and/or go to college. They COULD BE great for all of the states that signed on. If tests are how we measure student achievement, which it is and will almost certainly remain at least to some degree, we're going to need a lot more patience as teachers and students take years to catch up to the tests.

Aug. 08 2013 04:27 PM
josh from NYC

As usual, Beth Fertig let Bloomberg off the hook.
Bloomberg's policies in education did nothing to prepare students for college, and when this was pointed out to him, he replied that Lady Gaga only had one year of college...
Beth Fertig has let down the children of the city and the teachers by letting Bloomberg carry out his plan of destroying the teachers' union without any meaningful criticism on her part, and in doing so, making our children unable to handle the rigors of college.
Great job, Beth; you made Bloomberg look like a prince of education.

Aug. 08 2013 01:30 PM
Edward from Washington Heights AKA pretentious Hudson Heights

"Guy from NYC

If Edward below is being sarcastic, he has captured the ignorance of Americans"

Ignorance of Americans?

What elite nationality are you a member of?

Aug. 08 2013 11:30 AM
Guy from NYC

If Edward below is being sarcastic, he has captured the ignorance of Americans when it comes to education in a nutshell. Brilliant!

Aug. 08 2013 11:16 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

To Roy from Queens

PRECISELY THE OPPOSITE! I graduated with nearly a 90% (3.8) average from Tilden HS in 1964, scored 1160 on the SAT's and got a FULL New York State Regent Scholarship paying for my entire tuition, which I wasted in Brooklyn College but mostly on cars. I was a GREAT test taker! You know what? It is all bullsh*t. It meant nothing. I wish I had never gone to college at all, and instead stayed in the family clothing business instead.

For most people, college is just a waste of time and money. Yes, many companies require a college degree, but only because there are so many college graduates. Soon they will require one to flip burgers at McDonald's. It's just an artificial barrier signifying nothing in the real world.

Aug. 08 2013 10:56 AM
Edward from Washington Heights AKA pretentious Hudson Heights

Why should teachers be a protected class? They should be subject to the same performance reviews and market forces that all the rest of us are.

Eliminate Tenure.


Aug. 08 2013 10:40 AM
Guy from NYC

I wish Fertig and other people paid as education journalists were able to go beyond the received wisdom to provide actual critical purchase on test scores and educational reform in general. She mentioned Diane Ravitch but gives a truncated and misleading account of her work, making sure that casual listeners won't take Ravitch as seriously as they should.

Typical Americans are not going to take the time to understand the testing regime and read Ravitch and Daniel Koretz and others so this has to be the job of education reporters. Instead, Fertig takes the testing regime for granted, going with the flow of corporate funded reformists rather than doing the job of a real reporter who would dig into where these standards came from, who stands to benefit from the new tests, which subjects are covered, and if tests measure what they say they do.

Chuckling about talking pineapples is one thing. But we need smarter, better journalism on the education reform movement. Basically, Fertig is nice enough, but if news organizations cared about education, surface reporters like her should be replaced or augmented by someone who will dig deeper into the current conventional wisdom. The current reporting encourages citizens to take teachers and scholars input lightly, while taking the edu reformers' agenda for granted. It's hard not to conclude that the money and political power behind edu reform ensures lame, surface reporting.

Aug. 08 2013 10:32 AM
Roy from Queens

@jgarbuz from queens: You didn't do well in high school, did you? I bet you beat the snot out of kids who were smarter than you. :D

As for the results, not every kid can go to college, but it's very important to have a society led by educated people. Having a college degree doesn' t make you a Commie. If it did, you better look at the education backgrounds of those who work for the Fox News Channel.

Aug. 08 2013 10:28 AM
john from office

I hate that the kids are just pawns between the unions, the parents and the city. How about thinking of the kids. I have met teachers who cannot speak standard american english, the kids are being taught to rap subjects, an insult to their intellegence and the parents, in certain areas, don't care. Like 14 year olds running around the bronx with a gun at 3 AM.

Aug. 08 2013 10:26 AM
Ben from Westchester

First of all -- great reporting. Thank you, Beth Fertig!

Then, you missed one point about the new common core standards. Our local Westchester school system has announced that school will end at 2pm and not 3pm on Wednesdays, so that teachers have professional development time to learn the new common core standards.

I'm not reflexively against this -- the teachers do need to learn the new standards too, after all, and perhaps adjust their curriculum. But it isn't trivial to ask all parents to change their schedules and those of their kids for one day a week, forever.

This is a price to pay all in the service of more standardized testing. And boy are we paying a price for this already!

Aug. 08 2013 10:24 AM
Bob from Huntington

The Common Core initiative is being driven by industry leaders--supposedly to improve the quality of their workforce. Let's have some of them take these exams and see how well they perform.

Aug. 08 2013 10:23 AM
ba from UWS

Please: graduate FROM high school, not "graduate high school." GRADUATE is a transitive verb, needs a preposition.

Aug. 08 2013 10:22 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

Liberals instinctively put "college" as the end goal of "education" and that is the crux of the problem. This is self-serving, as academia is where liberalism thrives, and academia is the economic basis of liberalism. "Work" is a hated "conservative" concept. Most of what academia produces are malcontents whose only purpose is to critique and attack the status quo at every point. Academia is not there to produce happy, content, and efficient workers. "Critical thinking" means attacking everything and anything smacking of "status quo." They are only happy when they produce malcontents, revolutionaries and anarchists.

Aug. 08 2013 10:16 AM
judy from Manhattan

How long will it be before the new tests are declared "too hard" I wonder?

Aug. 08 2013 10:08 AM
John from NYC

I have a suggestion:

The teachers take the exact same tests that their students take. And the results of each teacher are available to the school system, and averages are made public by school.

And what would be the result?
- We would all have a lot more information to work with

Aug. 08 2013 10:04 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

The purpose of the K-12 system must be REPURPOSED for getting kids ready for a future of work, not for academia.The reality is that only 1/4 of young people actually succeed in finishing college with a degree anyway, and we fool 3/4s into believing that a college degree is in and of itself is "the answer." This is a horrible misdirection and waste of human and economic capital. IOW, we have to put more emphasis in "doing" rather than just "learning" in the academic sense of that term. Doing is the best learning experience.

Aug. 08 2013 10:04 AM
Victoria Zunitch from Queens

Are you seriously going to fall for the idea that a good school system is one that writes hard tests?
A good school is one that plans a meaningful curriculum, teaches students well, raises students above the level at which they started and gives every child a chance to pass a difficult test.
When students fail, schools fail.
Let's create schools that focus on and rejoice in teaching our children how to succeed, not just schools that take pride inwriting difficult tests.

Aug. 08 2013 09:38 AM

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