Maria Baldassarre-Hopkins, a local education professor who was part of making the “cuts” in New York State proficiency exams which led to headlines earlier this week, has a blow-by-blow about how, exactly, the books were cooked. Her conclusion:
While I am required here to be vague about specific data, details and conversations, I trust that the discerning eye of the critical practitioner might read between these lines. But I will be frank when I say that it has never been so clear to me that the dataphilia that is now the culture of our profession is not non-ideological.
My geek-life hero, Marilyn Cochran-Smith (among others), has written that teaching is never neutral. Every single thing we teach and how we choose to teach it is political, including how and what we assess and how we evaluate those assessments.
That admonition has never felt so real to me. I am heartened by the vehemence with which the professionals in that room pushed back, working within the system in order to simultaneously work against it.
The reason she had to be vague about specifics is that she had to sign a non-disclosure agreement to be part of the process, but the key fact was the test scoring criteria were determined after the test had been taken and they were scored to meet the expectations of the Commissioner of Education, John King. Some background and more commentary from Diane Ravitch:
As many teachers have pointed out, in blogs and comments, no responsible teacher would create a test with the expectation that 70% of students are sure to fail. It would not be hard to do. You might, for example, give students in fifth grade a test designed for eighth graders. Repeat in every grade and the failure rate will be high. Or you might test students on materials they never studied. Some will get it, because of their background knowledge, but most will fail.
Why would you want most students to fail?
Commissioner King has repeatedly warned superintendents, principals, and everyone else that they should expect the proficiency rates to drop by 30-35-37% and they did.
This is a manufactured crisis. We know who should be held accountable.
The new test scoring “cut” does two things for politicians: it moves the goalposts so we have no idea whether schools actually improved in comparison to the last testing cycle, and it manufactured a 26% (English) and 30% (Math) pass rate so they can bemoan how much more our schools are failing. For teachers and students, in the words of one of the teachers involved, it makes it look like they’ve “accomplished nothing this year and we’ve been pedaling backward”.
An old friend used to describe this as pulling the plant out of the pot to see if the roots are growing–killing what is measured in the zeal to take a measurement.
(via the Rochesterian)