New York State Test Scores Inspire Conflicting Interpretations
When the New York State Education Department announced scores last week from this year’s standardized tests, it led with the good news — nearly 38 percent of students statewide were proficient in English and about 39 percent were proficient in math, up from the previous year’s results. But it also warned that the scores could not be compared with previous results “apples to apples,” because of changes in the way the tests were written and given.
Almost immediately, in what has become an annual ritual, politicians, educators and advocates of every educational stripe popped up to interpret the results in myriad contradictory ways. And they did not let any asterisks get in the way.
In a news conference on Monday, Mayor Bill de Blasio, with the New York City schools chancellor, Carmen Fariña, beaming by his side, celebrated the fact that the city’s proficiency rate on the English test, given to third through eighth graders, matched the state’s for the first time, at 38 percent of test-takers. (The city’s proficiency rate in math lagged behind the state’s by about three percentage points.) Mr. de Blasio also happily noted the increase in English scores in “every single one of our 32 local districts.”
Although the tests were shorter and given without a time limit — which the state education commissioner, MaryEllen Elia, repeatedly pointed out while presenting the results — Mr. de Blasio said that the changes actually made the exams a more accurate measure of what students had learned.
“We think the previous test focused on endurance, if you will,” he said. “This test, because they changed the structure of the test, allowed a cleaner, better look at how the child is actually doing.”
Families for Excellent Schools, a charter school advocacy group that makes a habit of vigorously criticizing Mr. de Blasio, also ignored Ms. Elia’s caveat and went a step further, crediting gains at charter schools with lifting the city’s scores.
Not quite. While the city’s charter schools as a group did outperform traditional public schools, the charter school scores were not used to calculate the city’s proficiency levels; they were broken out separately.
Asked about that discrepancy, Jeremiah Kittredge, chief executive ofFamilies for Excellent Schools, said in an email on Friday, “Any way you look at the data, charter schools outpaced district schools in nearly all categories of achievement and are leading the way in public education in this city.”
Others weighed in from different corners of the educational world. The gains were a victory for the Common Core, said a group supporting those New York State Test Scores Inspire Conflicting Interpretations - The New York Times: