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English Language Arts
July 17, 2012
Bloomberg credits boosts in test results to new school initiatives
Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott, and Deputy Chancellor Shael Polakow-Suransky walked reporters through a powerpoint presentation on the city's latest test score results. This afternoon, Mayor Michael Bloomberg enjoyed what could be his last opportunity to point to clear gains on city test data. The state is overhauling its testing program next year, and year-to-year comparisons favored by Bloomberg's test analysts will soon become futile. Until then, city officials are championing the small gains almost every group of students made on this year's state tests, calling the scores a sign that some fledgling school initiatives are already working. Breaking the test results down by race, grade level and students with disabilities, each group saw gains of one to four percentage points for the numbers of students scoring proficient on the literacy and math exams. But students of color are still performing well below their white peers, and the number of English Language Learners scoring proficient in literacy actually dropped by 1.8 percentage points. "There is still a gap, and it is unacceptable, inexcusable and it is our responsibility to rectify it," Bloomberg told reporters this afternoon. He speculated that the ELL scores dropped because the city has begun declassifying greater numbers of ELL students who have become proficient in English.
July 28, 2011
State test scores still under wraps, but release 'imminent'
Schools are still waiting for the results of state ELA and math tests, exactly one year after the 2010 scores were announced. The July 26 Principals’ Weekly newsletter said that the state had “postponed the release” of the grade 3-8 scores, though the New York State Education Department said today that results were right around the corner. “The release this year is imminent and will be announced shortly,” NYSED spokesman Tom Dunn said. The Principals' Weekly item told principals that after the scores are released, they will need to send "July promotion update letters" to students who had been held back, and to students who failed the tests but had been promoted to the next grade on the expectation that they would pass. Now, it looks like those July updates may not come until August. Clemente Lopes, principal of Horace Greeley Middle School in Long Island City, said that he was anxious to see his school's scores—for planning, but also out of curiosity. “I’d like to see how my students perform. I’m like a parent—I want to know how my kids did,” he said.
June 4, 2010
New testing schedule complicates NYC's summer school plans
When the state announced plans to push back the date of the annual tests, some teachers and administrators bristled. But now the change is complicating a rite of passage: figuring out which students are promoted to the next grade and which are going to summer school. This year's delayed testing schedule puts New York City in the awkward position of choosing which students to send to summer school without knowing whether they passed the state's annual math and English exams. Currently, schools have their students' raw test scores, but they don't know whether the scale score passes the official state cut-off for passing, because the state hasn't set cut-off scores yet. In response, the city is working with the state to set their own cutoff scores months before the official results come out in August.
April 23, 2010
A school day in East New York: bright students, bored restless
Where can you find the most bored children in New York? Last week I visited P.S. 13 in the East New York neighborhood of Brooklyn, a school where you would expect to see some anxiety before the high-stakes English exam that will be given next Monday. Instead, I met a cast of bright and precocious students plodding through test prep worksheets with little supervision. P.S. 13 has been a troubled school for years though its last city-issued progress report calls it a "B" school. In 2004, it managed to remove itself from the state's list of schools at risk of being closed, but it's now in danger of landing back on that list. Students know a lot is riding on their test scores. During my visit, many could rattle off the dates of the upcoming tests from memory. Morning announcements over the loud speaker included test tips like encouraging students to get a good night's rest and eat a full breakfast (84 percent of P.S. 13 students qualify for free or reduced lunch). In advance of the test, the regular schedule had been altered so that on Thursdays students only focused on reading and writing and Fridays were math-only days.
August 21, 2009
Test analyst: Reading exam bar even lower than critics say
Passing the state reading test might be even easier than recent criticism has suggested, a former Department of Education testing analyst is arguing. Independent statistician Frederick Smith examined the way free-response questions were graded and found that virtually every student received enough points on that section to then pass the test by guessing randomly on the multiple-choice questions. Smith's finding expands on an informal study by a city teacher who concluded that arbitrarily filling in a pattern of multiple-choice answers and leaving the open-response section blank could yield scores high enough to promote a student to the next grade in New York City. That amounts to eight correct multiple choice answers on the fifth-grade English Language Arts exam. Smith found that students who answered only 6 multiple choice questions correctly almost certainly would also pass the Level 2 bar. That's because an overwhelming majority--99 percent--of fifth-graders who took the exam in 2009 received at least two points on the open-ended essay and free response sections, which would boost them to the eight-point cut-off level. In addition, more than 97 percent of students received three or more points on that section, meaning that they would have had to answer just five multiple-choice questions correctly to receive a Level 2 score.
July 22, 2009
New timeline packs state tests into a 10-day window next year
City schoolchildren will need to boost their test-taking endurance before next spring, when students in grades 3 through 8 take two state tests just four school days apart. A revised exam schedule released by the state today dramatically condenses the testing timeline. It also halves the length of time alloted to scoring, eliciting concern from educators statewide about how schools will manage the new schedule. The state announced last month that it would be moving state English language arts and math tests, previously given in January and March, closer to the end of the school year. City schools officials said then that they had lobbied for the change but hoped that the two tests would be separated by at least some time. The schedule released today separates the two tests by just four school days.
May 21, 2009
Momentum is building to administer state tests later in the year
An effort to move state tests later in the year is gaining momentum, following a state Education Department survey that shows wide support among teachers for the change. More than 80 percent of nearly 23,000 parents, teachers, and school administrators the department surveyed this spring said they favor at least some rescheduling of the tests, and the state Board of Regents could implement a change as soon as the 2010-2011 school year, a member said. Right now, students take English tests in January and math tests in March, but critics have said the timing doesn't give teachers enough time to bring students up to grade level. The early testing also makes it difficult to use test scores to evaluate teachers' effectiveness. The Board of Regents, the state board that sets education policy, requested the survey. Betty Rosa, a Regents member from the Bronx, said that the Regents are likely to propose a change in the timing of tests for the 2010-2011 school year. "All the members have been very, very united on this front," Rosa said. Merryl Tisch, the new Regents chancellor, did not return several requests for comment.
May 13, 2009
After waiting anxiously for scores, a teacher finds them useless
Much ado is made every year about how students do on state tests. But are individual students’ test scores useful for them and their teachers?…
May 7, 2009
State officials herald "moderate" progress on English test
A screenshot (including a caption) from today's online press conference about state test scores, featuring State Education Commissioner Richard Mills and Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch. More students across New York State scored proficient on the state reading and writing test this year than ever before, and gains by black and Hispanic students drove the improvements. The difference between white and black students' average scores is now at 18 points, down from 28 in 2006. More students in New York City scored proficient, too; proficiency rose 18 percentage points to 69 percent from 51 percent in 2006. According to the city Department of Education, the difference between the percentage of black and Hispanic children who scored proficient on the test and the percentage of white students who did now stands at 22 percentage points, down from more than 29 three years ago. State school leaders described the gains across New York as "moderate" because much of the increases were driven by a greater proportion of children just squeaking past the proficiency cutoff, State Education Commissioner Richard Mills explained during a press conference this morning. The difference comes from looking at the actual scale scores students received, rather than the percentage of students deemed proficient. Scale scores are considered the most statistically useful way to evaluate test score gains. (Aaron Pallas has written about this on GothamSchools.) Mills explained the distinction by providing three ways to look at this year's sixth-grade scores. The first is by looking purely at what proportion of students in the grade tested at basic proficiency. According to that metric, 81 percent of this year's sixth-graders met proficiency, compared to 60.4 percent of sixth-graders in 2006, the first year of a new statewide curriculum and testing program. Looking at proficiency over time, 69 percent of children in 3rd grade in 2006 met standards; those are the same children who posted an 81 percent proficiency rating as sixth-graders this year. But the scale scores of that same cohort of children actually dropped slightly over the same period, from 669 to 667.
May 7, 2009
Reading scores will be announced, and Web-cast, this morning
State school officials will announce the results of this year’s state English tests this morning, at 11 a.m. To watch the news conference live, either…
February 2, 2009
After scoring ELA tests, a teacher says good grading isn't easy
Some people think scoring the state English language arts exam is a piece of cake. But judging from the experience of one teacher-blogger who…
February 2, 2009
How long does it really take to grade the state tests?
Teachers across the city are leaving their classrooms this week to grade the state reading tests required by the No Child Left Behind law. This…
January 16, 2009
An inauguration day party in Harlem for charter schools
PHOTO: Tajuana Cheshier/Chalkbeat TN A postcard Democracy Prep sent out inviting other schools and parents to their Harlem Armory inauguration party. I’m planning…
December 17, 2008
Students learned “fake reading” from test prep, says teacher
After four months of continuous test prep for January’s English Language Arts exam, her fifth graders refuse even to engage with the text anymore, reports…
December 12, 2008
Praying for 5 paragraphs in her students' 5-paragraph essays
First-year 7th grade teacher C in the City has just one wish for the holidays: I caught myself praying as I was writing a…
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