Diane Ravitch: Why New York Parents Are Baffled and Angry

By | September 7, 2014

The following was written by Diane Ravitch, former Assistant Secretary of Eduction, and published on her blog.

You can’t blame New York parents for feeling baffled and angry at state education officials.

From 2006-2010, the state told them that their children were making incredible gains on the state tests.

Many people thought that the gains were so high that it couldn’t be true.

So state education officials brought in Professor Daniel Koretz of Harvard and Professor Jennifer Jennings of New York University to review the tests and the scores. They reported that the tests had become too predictable, that too few standards were tested, and that the results were inflated. So in 2010, scores dropped across the state as the scores were adjusted.

Then came the switch to Common Core, and the scores across the state collapsed in 2013. Two-thirds of all students “failed” to reach what the state called proficiency. Parents were furious, especially in districts where the graduation rate was well over 90%, and most students were accepted at good colleges. How did their children go from success to failure in such a short time? How could their children be both college-bound yet not, in the state’s telling, “college ready.”

Well, the main reason scores collapsed was that the state education department insisted on aligning New York’s “proficiency” mark with that of the federal NAEP. This was a huge error. NAEP proficiency is a mark of “solid academic achievement.” It is not a grade-level mark; it is not a passing mark. Typically, only 35-40% of students in every state reach NAEP proficient. In my seven years on the governing board of NAEP, I considered it to be akin to an A or a B+. The only state where as many as 50% of students achieve NAEP proficient is Massachusetts.

So if the Common Core tests are not only harder but have a grading scale that is sure to “fail” more than 50% of all students—including 80% of black and Hispanic students, 97% of English learners, and 95% of students with disabilities–what will the state do with all those kids who are not college and career ready?

Want to know more about how the New York State Education Department has fiddled with the test scores? As activist Leonie Haimson says, “do not trust data from the New York State Education Department.”

Blogger Perdido Street calls for an investigation.

Blogger Lace to the Top expresses frustration at the fluctuation in scores.

Many parents are angry at the state and angry at Pearson for concealing 50% of the questions and for the poor quality of many of the questions that were released.

What a mess!

Please visit her blog for additional analysis on the state of education.

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