dept. of unintended consequences

Told they passed, thousands of students failed state exams

Thousands of students are moving up to the next grade this fall even though they failed last year’s state reading and math tests.

Caught between two sets of conflicting test standards — one produced by the city, one by the state — over 10,000 students were wrongly labeled as passing or failing.

Some of them, about 1,807, will get to skip the last week of the summer session, which they had attended unnecessarily. The new state standards show that these students passed their exams.

But the vast majority of them, about 8,500, were initially told they passed and will shortly learn that they actually failed. City education officials have decided to promote these students to the next grade level, though in a typical year they might have been held back.

A teacher emailed to say that a few eighth graders at his school were told they passed the test, but the state’s cutoff scores now show that they failed. Still, they will begin high school in the fall.

On the flip side, the school sent a fourth grader to summer school for initially failing the test, meaning the boy could not spend the summer with his father. Now, the new standards show the student didn’t need to attend.

The problem began when a new exam schedule and the state’s decision to adjust test standards meant the exam results wouldn’t be released until late July. With summer school beginning in June, schools had to know which students to require to attend, so the city set its own preliminary cutoff scores.

The state’s cutoff scores came out yesterday and they don’t quite match up.

“I think it’s fair to say we were surprised at how many kids we under-identified,” said Department of Education spokesman Matt Mittenthal.

For the reading test, in particular, the state set higher cutoff scores than the city’s own estimates for grades three through eight. Of the students who were wrongly identified as passing, 7,000 of them met the city’s standards in reading, but not the state’s.

The city also lowballed the math test for third and eighth graders, but overshot for grades four, five, and seven. About 1,000 students in grades three and eight will be told in a few weeks that they failed the math test, though the city initially passed them. And about 1,807 students in grades four, five, and seven, will get letters today telling them they can leave summer school early, as the new standards show that they are proficient.

Mittenthal said that students who failed the test according to the state’s standards, but passed the city’s bar, would be promoted and given additional help next year.



on the run

‘Sex and the City’ star and public schools advocate Cynthia Nixon launches bid for N.Y. governor

Cynthia Nixon on Monday announced her long-anticipated run for New York governor.

Actress and public schools advocate Cynthia Nixon announced Monday that she’s running for governor of New York, ending months of speculation and launching a campaign that will likely spotlight education.

Nixon, who starred as Miranda in the TV series “Sex and the City,” will face New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo in September’s Democratic primary.

Nixon has been active in New York education circles for more than a decade. She served as a  longtime spokeswoman for the Alliance for Quality Education, a union-backed advocacy organization. Though Nixon will step down from that role, according to a campaign spokeswoman, education promises to be a centerpiece of her campaign.

In a campaign kickoff video posted to Twitter, Nixon calls herself “a proud public school graduate, and a prouder public school parent.” Nixon has three children.

“I was given chances I just don’t see for most of New York’s kids today,” she says.

Nixon’s advocacy began when her oldest child started school, which was around the same time the recession wreaked havoc on education budgets. She has slammed Gov. Cuomo for his spending on education during his two terms in office, and she has campaigned for New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio.

In 2008, she stepped into an emotional fight on the Upper West Side over a plan to deal with overcrowding and segregation that would have impacted her daughter’s school. In a video of brief remarks during a public meeting where the plan was discussed, Nixon is shouted down as she claims the proposal would lead to a “de facto segregated” school building.

Nixon faces steep competition in her first run for office. She is up against an incumbent governor who has amassed a $30 million war chest, according to the New York Times. If elected, she would be the first woman and the first openly gay governor in the state.

cooling off

New York City charter leader Eva Moskowitz says Betsy DeVos is not ‘ready for prime time’

PHOTO: Chalkbeat
Success Academy CEO and founder Eva Moskowitz seemed to be cooling her support for U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.

In New York City, Eva Moskowitz has been a lone voice of support for the controversial U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. But even Moskowitz appears to be cooling on the secretary following an embarrassing interview.

“I believe her heart is in the right place,” Moskowitz, founder and CEO of Success Academy, said of DeVos at an unrelated press conference. “But as the recent interviews indicate, I don’t believe she’s ready for primetime in terms of answering all of the complex questions that need to be answered on the topic of public education and choice.”

That is an apparent reference to DeVos’s roundly criticized appearance on 60 Minutes, which recently aired a 30-minute segment in which the secretary admits she hasn’t visited struggling schools in her tenure. Even advocates of school choice, DeVos’s signature issue, called her performance an “embarrassment,” and “Saturday Night Live” poked fun at her.  

Moskowitz’s comments are an about-face from when the education secretary was first appointed. While the rest of the New York City charter school community was mostly quiet after DeVos was tapped for the position, Moskowitz was the exception, tweeting that she was “thrilled.” She doubled-down on her support months later in an interview with Chalkbeat.

“I believe that education reform has to be a bipartisan issue,” she said.

During Monday’s press conference, which Success Academy officials called to push the city for more space for its growing network, Moskowitz also denied rumors, fueled by a tweet from AFT President Randi Weingarten, that Success officials had recently met with members of the Trump administration.

Shortly after the election, Moskowitz met with Trump amid speculation she was being considered for the education secretary position. This time around, she said it was “untrue” that any visits had taken place.

“You all know that a while back, I was asked to meet with the president-elect. I thought it was important to take his call,” she said. “I was troubled at the time by the Trump administration. I’m even more troubled now. And so, there has been no such meeting.”