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April 19, 2018
The highs and lows of Colorado education are spotlighted in ‘The Outliers’
A new report from the Denver-based education reform advocacy group A Plus Colorado examines both exemplary and struggling districts.
April 10, 2018
A decade of stagnation: Little progress on closely watched federal test, as big disparities persist
Scores on the exams known as the “nation’s report card” have barely budged over the last two years, new data show.
By the numbers
August 28, 2017
Eight top 10 lists from New York City’s 2017 state test scores
Which schools are least proficient -- or most improved? Find out here.
August 28, 2017
Find out how your New York City school performed on the 2017 state tests
Average proficiency rates ticked up across the city this year.
An education U-turn
June 21, 2017
Do struggling schools in New York City’s Renewal turnaround program outperform those left out? A new analysis suggests no
“The scale of resources for the system to intervene in poverty is a very hard thing to do and it’s likely you won’t soon see the results you want.”
Week In Review
March 24, 2017
Week in review: Controversy about superintendent opening and lawsuits against the state
Who will be the next superintendent of Detroit schools? The board of education did not grant Alycia Meriweather an interview, but many in…
December 13, 2016
UPDATED: Urban districts score below statewide averages on new TNReady tests, with some bright spots
A new test does hasn't changed which Tennessee school districts are the top performers, and which districts struggle relative to the state as a whole.
September 20, 2016
Analysis: Memphis students from closed schools don’t always go to better ones
Up to 2,600 Memphis students leaving 10 closed schools since 2012 were assigned to schools with similar, if not worse, test scores, according to a Chalkbeat analysis.
August 1, 2016
City’s top education officials claim victory after big increases in English test scores
The city’s top education officials celebrated historic gains on state tests Monday.
December 18, 2015
Here’s what you need to know about the latest teacher evaluation changes
The Board of Regents voted Monday to suspend the use of state test scores in teacher evaluations for four years. Here's what that means for educators.
August 18, 2015
Testing spikes and nosedives: What does it all mean?
With dozens of Tennessee schools logging double-digit test score gains and losses this year, a Vanderbilt researcher warns against drawing quick conclusions.
Science and Social Studies
July 16, 2015
In Denver, big swings in some schools’ scores, even as district follows state trends
DPS scores on science and social studies assessments track state trends, but some schools are thriving while others struggle.
May 26, 2015
Rise & Shine: Tracing Colorado schools’ transition to Common Core
May 6, 2015
Schools could earn fewer A's next year under proposed state board rule changes
Schools could have a harder time earning A's beginning in 2016 if the Indiana State Board of Education approves new A-to-F grading rules Thursday.
March 22, 2015
One school at a time, one child at a time, impact of school closures goes beyond budgets
While one of the stated goals of closing underperforming schools is to boost test scores, research suggests that the opposite often happens for students who are moved.
November 20, 2014
Chancellor Fariña implies some charter schools boosting scores by pushing out students
Chancellor Carmen Fariña expressed concerns about charter schools in the past, but comments she made Thursday were perhaps the most provocative she has lobbed at the charter sector since taking over the school system.
August 18, 2014
Rise & Shine: Displaced Shelby County teachers sue for job placement
August 15, 2014
Ten top 10s from New York City’s 2014 test scores
City test scores inched up and overall proficiency remained low, but in a system with more than 1,200 elementary and middle schools, there are dozens of outliers. We pulled out some of the highest and lowest scorers and what you need to know about why they’re there.
August 13, 2014
Six things to look for in the city's 2014 state test scores
One year after the switch to Common Core-aligned tests sent the city’s proficiency rates plummeting 24 percentage points in reading and 34 points in math, observers are planning for a slight uptick, as schools have grown more familiar with the Common Core standards and the new tests. But there are still plenty of important questions to ask as the annual release approaches.
August 27, 2013
City officials hit local libraries to help parents understand scores
PHOTO: Dylan Peers McCoySamita Rahaman, an M.S. 101 eighth grader, told a city official why she hadn't been able to access her test scores. Carolina Martinez was shocked when she logged on to the city's student data system on Monday to see her daughter's fifth-grade state test scores. Sitting at a computer station at the Parkchester Library in the Bronx, with a Department of Education staff member at her side, Martinez said she saw that her daughter, Stephanie Bravo, had gotten 1's in math and reading — the lowest scores possible. The bad news came as a surprise because Stephanie had gotten much higher scores, 3's and 4's, as a fourth-grader at P.S. 106 in 2012, Martinez said, and her teacher last year said Stephanie was doing well. Leaving the library, Martinez said she didn't understand why Stephanie's scores had fallen so far. She said she hadn't heard that the state had adopted new standards, known as the Common Core, to propel students toward college readiness. That wasn't the outcome that department officials hoped for when they fanned out to libraries across the five boroughs this week for "Log On and Learn" events aimed at helping parents access and interpret their children's scores.
August 9, 2013
2013's test score takeaways, starting with what didn't change
The new tests did nothing to displace old inequities, and charter school performance ranged just as widely as other schools' performance.
August 7, 2013
At test score presentations, NYC celebrates, state stays sober
It was a tale of two press conferences. Using words like "distressing" and "disheartening," state education leaders struck a sober tone this morning at their Midtown offices to discuss this year's test scores. But at his press event a couple hours later, Mayor Bloomberg had a different take, identifying what he said was "very good news" inside the city's lower scores. The scores, the first to reflect students' performance on tests aligned to new learning standards, were far lower than in the past and suggest that less than a third of students across the state are performing at grade level. Statewide, the drops were sharpest for students who historically have struggled in school. Across the state, fewer than one in five black and Latino children are on track to graduate from high school prepared to take college courses, according to the new scores, officials said. "Perhaps the most disheartening piece of today is the persistence of the achievement gap," New York State Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch said in her opening remarks. The racial disparities in reading test scores across all grades, Tisch added, "reveal the really daunting, daunting challenge."
August 7, 2013
Shock, suggestions, and silver linings in test score reactions
Just as soon as the state's new test scores were released — and even before, in the case of mayoral candidate Bill de Blasio — reactions started flying about the sobering news about student achievement in New York. The reactions ranged from shocked (in the case of an advocate for English language learners) to constructive (AFT chief Randi Weingarten, who offered a takeaway for other states) to pleased (charter school operator Eva Moskowitz, whose schools posted high scores on the new exams). Below, I’ve compiled the complete set of reactions that dropped into my inbox today. I’ll add to the list as more reactions roll in.
August 7, 2013
What N.Y. students actually had to do to pass the math tests
Fourth graders in New York State answered this question about multiply whole numbers on their math exams this spring. Along with this year's test scores — lower than in the past, if you haven't heard — the State Education Department also released test questions today. The items posted on the department's educator resource website, EngageNY, represent a quarter of the questions that students faced when they sat down to take Common Core-aligned exams this spring. Usually the state keeps test questions under wraps, but this year it decided to publish some of them because of the new, tougher standards. Critics of the state's testing practices say transparency can't be achieved if the entire test isn't released, and we don't know how well students did on each of the questions that have been released. Still, they offer a view into the skills and practices that students were asked to demonstrate, and a discussion of test scores without a discussion of what counted is thin indeed. That's why we've collected a sample of the questions asked at each grade level on the state's math exams. (EngageNY has more questions, in-depth explanations about how to solve and teach each problem, and, for questions that asked students to show their work, examples of student responses.) We're hoping to spur a conversation about the questions that's even better than the one that already happened on Twitter today. Check out the test questions below, then let us know in the comments what your favorite and least favorite is and why. We'll be highlighting insightful responses on Thursday. In third grade, 33.1 percent of city students tested proficient in math.
August 7, 2013
Test scores fall sharply statewide, but NYC fares relatively well
The state's first round of Common Core test scores are out and they are just as low as officials warned. But there is some good news for New York City: Its scores are close to the state average, and far ahead of those of other large cities.
August 7, 2013
Four big questions to ask about New York City's new test scores
Last year, 60 percent of city students in grades 3-8 scored "proficient" or higher on the state math tests and 47 percent passed the state reading tests. This year, the first that the tests were tied to new learning standards known as the Common Core, that number will be far lower — 30 percent in math and 26 percent in reading, according to early reports. Here are four things to ask about the test scores, in addition to how low they are. 1. Where are the outliers? All scores are expected to be low, but some will be lower than others. And some will almost certain fall by much less than the average. Identifying those outliers will be a first step in telling the story of schools' first year under the new standards. A school whose scores fall by far less than other similar schools might be the site of exceptional, Common Core-aligned teaching — or there might be more nefarious explanations worth looking into. On the other hand, a school whose scores drop by even more than other schools like it might have been propping up its performance in the past using test prep — that will be worth looking into, too. The scores alone won't tell the story of what has happened inside a single school, but they can provide a starting point. 2. What happened to achievement gaps? The Bloomberg administration has touted reductions in the racial achievement gap even after state officials announced that test scores had been inflated. The state's test scores have showed some narrowing. But on other measures, including the National Assessment of Educational Progress, racial achievement gaps have barely budged.
August 7, 2013
A packed calendar for test score announcement day
Around 9:30 a.m., test score data will go up on the State Education Department’s website. You’ll be able to find it here. At 10…
August 6, 2013
Arne Duncan steps in to assuage fears about N.Y. test scores
U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said New York's new test scores should be a benchmark for growth, not cause for concern. U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan wants New Yorkers not to worry when they see the latest round of state test scores on Wednesday. The scores are from the first tests to measure students' skills under the Common Core standards, and state officials have said the scores are "significantly lower" than in the past. They have warned that the scores are more in line with assessments that show a statewide college-readiness rate of about a third than with last year's test scores, where more than half of students were deemed proficient in English and two thirds in math. "We should absolutely not be alarmed if these test scores drop," Duncan said today during a phone call with reporters. Duncan has good reason to want to assuage concerns about the lower scores. While the U.S. Department of Education does not impose state learning standards, Duncan made support for shared standards a consideration in the Race to the Top funding competition, and he has defended the Common Core vigorously.
August 6, 2013
Mayoral hopefuls hit Bloomberg over looming test score decline
Mayoral candidates have declared open season on Mayor Bloomberg's education legacy on the eve of new test scores that will be much lower than in the past. What began last week as a fight between the teachers union and City Hall spilled out onto the campaign trail this week with a flurry of critical comments from Democratic contenders about test score gains under Bloomberg and his eagerness to tout them as evidence of his administration's success. "The days of the mayor dislocating his shoulder patting himself on the back should be over," Anthony Weiner told reporters this morning at an education event. Weiner said it wasn't "entirely fair" to blame Bloomberg for the anticipated drop in scores, which reflect student performance on state tests that were for the first time aligned to more challenging learning standards known as the Common Core. But Weiner later added that the "constant emphasis on testing in schools has created nothing but trouble" and even suggested that Bloomberg helped "fudge" the scores at top-performing schools for political gain. "There was a spate of press conferences about how amazing schools were doing that were later discredited when those numbers came crashing back to Earth," Weiner said.
August 5, 2013
Before lower test scores arrive, a fight over how to interpret them
Union and city officials are sparring in advance of tough test score news that arrives at a pivotal moment for Mayor Bloomberg's education legacy. Scores due out on Wednesday reflect students' performance on the first tests tied to the new Common Core standards, which aim to get students solving complex problems and thinking critically. State officials have long warned that the new tests would produce lower scores, which they say will more accurately reflect students' skills, and in April, teachers and students reported that the tests were indeed challenging. After the state sent a letter to principals on Friday confirming that the scores would be "significantly lower" than in the past, the United Federation of Teachers argued — as it has before — that the news will undermine Bloomberg's claims of education progress. Chancellor Dennis Walcott called the union's criticism “despicable” and “really sad” during a conference call with reporters on Sunday. “What they're trying to do is politicize something that shouldn't be politicized at all," he said. Instead, Walcott emphasized that the scores should be seen as a baseline against which to measure future improvement. Walcott and Shael Polakow-Suransky, the department’s chief academic officer, said they would not be comparing this year’s test scores to scores from past years. "You can't compare these directly because they're not just slightly different tests, they're dramatically different tests," Polakow-Suransky said. "It's going to be difficult to make close comparisons with old state exams."
August 2, 2013
Along with scores, state will release test items next week
Spreadsheets and official statements aren't the only information that will get released next week when New York education officials announce the results of this year's state tests. State officials announced today that they'll also be releasing a "significant number" of questions from the new Common Core-aligned tests that students took in April. Schools will have access to the results on Monday, and scores will be released to the public on Wednesday. The decision to release tests to the public is a departure from the State Education Department's history of keeping the tests secure, as it has done for the past several years. Officials have argued that not releasing test items makes future tests less predictable and keeps down costs, since new tests don't need to be designed each year. But this year's tests, the first that were aligned to more challenging learning standards know as the Common Core, were clearly an exception. Big drops in proficiency rates are expected, with various estimates ranging from 10 points in math to nearly 30 points in English. State tests have been under fire since last year's tests were shown to be riddled with errors. One multiple choice question that was accompanied with a nonsensical reading passage about a pineapple attracted widespread ridicule.
July 24, 2013
King won't change cut score advice for new Common Core tests
Contrasting his administration to previous ones, which have been criticized for inflating state test scores, State Education Commissioner John King agreed to accept proficiency bars recommended by a committee of educators with no revisions, as captured in this simple slide. Commissioner John King pledged this week to accept the "cut scores" recommended to him by a committee of educators, one of the final steps remaining before the state releases results from the state tests. Cut scores determine the number of right answers students need on state English and math tests to be deemed proficient in the subjects. The announcement at this month's Board of Regents meeting came in the middle of a detailed 46-page slideshow presentation outlining how the "cut score" recommendations were made. But while the other slides were packed with numbers, graphs, and paragraphs, King's 10-word acceptance of the standards got its own simple slide: "The Commissioner accepted recommendations from Day 5 with no changes." (The full slideshow is below the jump.) The flourish was a signal of the new transparency the department is trying to project around test scoring. In 2009, under then-Commissioner Richard Mills, dramatic improvements on state tests that had been seen as signs of academic progress across the state came under scrutiny for being inflated — not representing actual learning gains. The inflation seems to have been the result of several factors, including focused test prep by teachers who became increasingly familiar with the tests. But at least one observer, Sol Stern, has reported that state officials might have deliberately inflated results by lowering cut scores so that more students would be deemed proficient. Commissioners do not have to accept the recommendations of the committee of educators that suggests where to set the scores.
May 22, 2013
More principals pledge not to use test scores to admit students
More principals have committed to ignoring test scores when selecting students for admission, in a growing show of concern about the state's new Common Core-aligned reading and math tests. Principals began making the commitment last week, but the number grew on Tuesday when letters explaining the policy change went out to "Elementary and Middle School Families, Students, Teachers, Parent Coordinators, Counselors and Principals" who might be affected by it. Now, 15 principals of selective schools across the city have said they will not consider scores on tests that they say did not meet their expectations. "We appreciate that officials at the New York City Department of Education seem open to hearing our concerns and we hope for the same response from the state," the letter says. The principals are part of a larger group who sent a letter to State Education Commissioner John King this week expressing concerns about the tests. They say they want the state’s tests to be shorter, open to public scrutiny, and more aligned to the Common Core, which emphasizes critical thinking and problem solving over recall and the completion of rote processes.
February 20, 2013
Tweaked promotion policy part of broader prep for lower scores
Changes to the Department of Education's student promotion policy are just one part of a sweeping offensive to prepare schools and families for tougher state tests and lower scores this spring. In April, elementary and middle school students will take state math and reading tests that are aligned for the first time to new learning standards known as the Common Core. Education officials have warned that the state is likely to see scores plummet as a result, as they did in Kentucky — by 30 percent — when that state first administered Common Core-aligned tests. In an email to principals on Friday, Chancellor Dennis Walcott offered reassurance that schools and students would not be penalized just because they post lower test scores this year. And he encouraged principals to use parent conferences over the next few weeks to steel parents for the drop-off.
February 12, 2013
Walcott: Strike absences shouldn't exempt students from exams
Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch said on Monday that she thinks students who have missed weeks of school due to the city's school bus strike should not have to take the year's state math and reading tests. Today, Chancellor Dennis Walcott said they should. Speaking at a briefing for reporters about bids for new contracts the city received from bus companies, he said, They should sit [for the tests]. This year has been a very dramatic year for our students, both with the hurricane [Sandy] and with this strike, but we’ve also been working very closely with the schools and working with our principals and providing materials for parents to receive at home as well.
October 1, 2012
New progress reports shift some weight from scores to grades
For the first time since introducing school progress reports in 2007, the Department of Education has reduced the weight of state test scores in determining middle schools' scores on their state test scores. The change is slight, allocating just 5 percent of the calculation toward the grades schools hand out, but it reflects a significant shift within the Department of Education. After years of saying that the state's current tests are not the ideal measure of students' abilities, the department is — to a limited extent — putting its metrics where its mouth is. Until now, 85 percent of elementary and middle schools' scores have come from crunching the scores in different ways. But on the 2011-2012 progress reports, which are coming out today, that proportion has dropped slightly for middle schools, to 80 percent. The difference will be made up by schools' course passage rates in the core subjects of English, math, science, and social studies. The change, which the department promised a year ago, makes year-to-year progress report score comparisons hard to make yet is unlikely to dramatically alter schools' scores on its own. Still, it signals that the city is projecting onto middle schools growing concerns about the mismatch between how city students perform on some high-stakes accountability metrics and how well prepared they are to take on more challenging work.
July 20, 2012
Bloomberg says this year's test scores call for more charters
(Credit: WOR) Mayor Michael Bloomberg said this morning that the test scores announced this week, which showed charter schools had out-paced district schools, are proof enough why the city should be expanding charters. "There's a reason people want to send their children to charter schools," he said during his weekly morning appearance on the John Gambling radio show. The average proficiency rate for charter schools students improved 7 percentage points on the state reading tests and 3.5 percentage points on math. The city's district schools also improved but at a slower pace. Bloomberg blamed the teachers union contract for the districts schools' inability to duplicate the success of privately-managed charter schools, which have longer days and greater flexibility in hiring decisions. But instead of making points about issues such as teacher tenure or seniority-based layoff laws, Bloomberg invoked more salacious news items. "The union keeps protecting people that shouldn’t be in the classroom that touch, have sex, whatever it may be," he said. "It embarrasses other teachers."
July 18, 2012
Seven takeaways from a closer look at the state test scores
The state released the results of this year's third through eighth grade tests yesterday, and officials from City Hall to the charter sector lept to celebrate students' gains. Some changes were the focal point of the Department of Education's Tuesday afternoon press conference—like the drop among English Language Learners and the boosts charter schools saw. But they avoided nuances in the results for the city's new schools, which have been at the center of Mayor Michael Bloomberg's education reform policies. Beyond first impressions, here are seven interesting takeaways we parsed from the trove of data: Like last year, English Language Learners took a step back. Students who are identified as English Language Learners improved slightly in math, but took another step back from the statistical gains they made on the literacy test (ELA) earlier in the decade, before the state made the exams tougher in 2010. While just under half of the city’s non-ELL students met the state’s ELA standards, just 11.6 percent of ELL students did so. But in math, the percentage of ELL students scoring proficient rose by 2.5 points, to 37 percent. But students in other categories that typically struggle showed improvements. The percentage of students with disabilities who are proficient in math and literacy went up again this year, to 30.2 percent in math and 15.8 percent in English. And although Black and Hispanic students are still lagging behind their white peers by close to thirty percentage points in literacy and math, they also saw small bumps in both subjects. Officials said that new initiatives targeting struggling students, particularly students of color, contributed to the gains.
July 18, 2012
For some charters, 2012 reading test gains began with a struggle
Two years ago, just one in three students at Achievement First Bushwick were rated "proficient" on the state's reading tests. It wasn't exactly the kind of result promised from a high-performing charter school in a "no excuses" network. But the school has nearly doubled that rate in the two years since, according to state test scores released Tuesday. On the 2012 English language arts test, nearly 60 percent of students at the school were rated proficient, compared to 47 percent of students citywide. Bushwick's gains on the reading tests were among the largest made in the charter sector, which improved as a whole by seven percentage points, from 44.5 percent to 51.5 percent. The improvement — from matching the citywide average to scoring well above it — has provided fodder for charter school advocates and the Bloomberg administration to push back against critics who oppose the expansion of charter schools across the state. "Policy makers and legislators should take note" of the gains, said Bill Phillips, president of the New York Charter Schools Association."It’s not only a tougher measure than the host district comparison, it suggests that districts across the state should consider charters as another tool to better educate children." "We can't possibly handle the demand from parents for the charter schools," Mayor Bloomberg said during a press conference Tuesday. "They're just off the charts." Several charter operators announced their schools' test scores in celebratory press releases Tuesday. Deborah Kenny touted the eighth-grade math and reading scores at her schools, the Harlem Village Academies. The Success Academy network announced a 7-point gain in reading proficiency across its four schools with testing grades, more than twice the citywide improvement rate. And Democracy Prep said the low-performing charter school it took over last year had posted the largest reading proficiency gains of any school in the state, with third-grade reading proficiency hurtling from 28 percent in 2011 to 63 percent this year. The charter school sector wasn't nearly as enthusiastic to promote its gains two years ago, when reading scores slumped. Struggles to boost literacy were not unique to Achievement First Bushwick.
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 17, 2012
Test results show "incremental" gains for both city and state
An early look at this year's state test scores shows that the percentage of students rated "proficient" in reading and math inched upward in New York City and across the state. In a press release announcing the scores today, state officials called the gains "incremental" but warned that scores still have a long way to go before they show that all students are on a path toward being prepared for college. According to the data released today, 46.9 percent of city students tested in grades 3-8 met the state's proficiency standard on the English language arts exam, compared with 44 percent last year. The proportion of students rated proficient in math increased to 60 percent from 57.3 percent a year ago. City students still lagged behind the state as a whole, where 55 percent of students scored proficient in reading and 65 percent scored proficient in math. But the city's scores increased by a wider margin than the state's. Across the state, reading proficiency increased by 2.3 points and math proficiency rose by 1.5 points. New York City also did better than several of the other large urban districts that it is often compared to. Scores increased in Yonkers and Syracuse, but they fell in Rochester and Buffalo. “The progress we see this year doesn’t give us a reason to rest – it gives us a reason to strive for even greater gains," Mayor Bloomberg said in a statement. "There’s still much more work to do, but there’s no question our students are headed in the right direction.”
July 17, 2012
Five things to look for in this year's state test scores, out today
When state test scores are released in about half an hour, it will happen solely by press release. For the second year in a row, state education officials are not holding a press conference to announce the year's results. Nor does the city appear to be planning to tout its scores. Last year, Mayor Bloomberg and Chancellor Dennis Walcott held a press conference to highlight the fact that city students' scores, while low, had increased more than those of students in the rest of the state. But there's nothing on Bloomberg's or Walcott's public schedule for today about the scores, and the Department of Education hasn't informed reporters about any surprise additions. Quiet from the city and state usually does not bode well for increases in test scores, an annual announcement until the state raised proficiency standards in 2010 and scores across the state dropped precipitously. It's also unusual that schools are not getting their scores before the state releases them to the public. But rather than read the tea leaves, we've prepared a crib sheet for the news that will come later today. Here are five things we'll be looking at when the scores come out: What they say about students' stamina. Next year, state test questions will be tied to new learning standards, known as the Common Core, and so the questions themselves are likely to be more challenging. But this year's tests changed mostly in length, with students in elementary and middle school sitting for twice as long as they did last year. Teachers and parents worried about students' ability to retain focus for so long, and some teachers also reported that students were thrown by questions that covered unfamiliar content or took an unfamiliar format — likely ungraded questions that the state will use as it toughens tests next year. The scores that come out today could confirm — or refute — the teachers' and parents' fears.
May 25, 2012
Principal evaluation results stabilized with test scores last year
As test scores stabilized last year, so did principals' evaluations. Two years ago, the state made it harder for students to score proficient on state exams. Scores dropped — and so did principals' ratings, because the ratings are based almost entirely on student test scores. Last year's test scores were more consistent with the previous year's results. Almost 90 percent of schools received the same grade on their city progress report as they had the year before, or rose or fell by just one letter grade. Because of the way the city calculates principals' performance ratings, the stable test scores meant that most principals' annual ratings could only improve. As a result, only about 1 percent of principals — 18 out of 1,485 — got the lowest rating on the city's five-point scale in 2010-2011. More than 25 percent landed in the highest category, "substantially meets expectations." Of the lowest-scoring principals, only five remained in their position this year.
May 22, 2012
With field tests approaching, parents are reprising protests
A group of parents and teachers are once again preparing to opt their children out of state tests, this time when their schools will administer “field” exams in over a thousand elementary and middle schools across the city next month. Field testing allows test makers to gauge the value of future test questions. Pearson, the company that currently makes New York's state tests, is preparing a slew of new questions that are aligned with new learning standards known as the Common Core. This spring's field tests focus on science, math, or reading, depending on the grade level. Students in selected schools already took the science test in mid-May, which was for grades 4 and 8. The math and reading tests are scheduled for the first week of June. The parents and teachers, who are part of the Change the Stakes coalition, are calling on parents to protest the testing, which will be administered on behalf of Pearson Education, the test publisher that famously drew criticism for the “pineapple” test questions on the state’s eighth-grade English exam in April. “This is just research for the company,” said Tony Kelso, whose third-grader is supposed to take the reading field test at Amistad Dual Language School in Inwood. Kelso added that he doubted Pearson would get useful information from the tests. “My understanding is that the tests aren’t even reliable. The students know they won’t count so they don’t take them seriously,” he said.
March 26, 2012
AJC analysis: Suspicious scores found widely, including in NYC
An analysis of nearly 15,000 districts' test scores turned up suspicious patterns that suggested that some cheating might be taking place in New York City schools. The analysis was conducted by a team of reporters and researchers at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the newspaper that covered last year's revelations about a far-ranging cheating scandal in Atlanta's schools. The team looked at changes in students' test scores from year to year, reasoning that large increases or decreases in groups of students' test scores would be unlikely without an unusual intervention such as cheating. The analysis does not identify instances of cheating, only places and times when cheating is considered more likely to have occurred. Most of New York's 32 school districts fell well within the normal range, with around 5 percent of classes showing unusually large score climbs or falls. But in a few places, the analysis detected swings in more than 10 percent of classes, a level that experts told the AJC team was highly improbable under normal circumstances. In Brooklyn's District 16, for example, 7.95 to 12.82 percent of classes between 2009 and 2011 showed suspicious test score swings. Between 2008 and 2011, the percentage of classes flagged in Manhattan's District 2, which includes many middle-class students, ranged from 7.41 to 12.5 — significantly higher than in neighboring districts.
February 9, 2012
Citing poll, NYSUT pushes for limited role of test scores in evals
Across the state, school districts are inching toward teacher evaluation deals one week before a deadline Gov. Andrew Cuomo set last month. According to NYSUT, the state teachers union, 100 school districts have agreed on how to put new evaluations in place and 400 districts "report making progress." That leaves just over 200 districts that, like New York City, are nowhere near agreeing with their local unions on new evaluation systems. Cuomo said last month that if districts do not settle on new evaluations by next week, he would use the budget amendment process to change the state evaluation law. Last year, in a hint of what the changes might entail, the governor pushed state policy-makers to double test scores' weight, from 20 to 40 percent, in an action that drew a successful legal challenge from the union.
January 6, 2012
Sticks, carrots, and familiar policies in state's NCLB waiver plan
New York will get new terms for high- and low-performing schools — and new ways to define good and bad performance — under a proposed accountability plan designed to replace the requirements of No Child Left Behind. The proposal, which was released in draft form late today and will be discussed by the Board of Regents on Monday, is the result of two months of planning in response to the Obama administration's offer to waive some of the decade-old federal law’s requirements, including one that requires full proficiency by 2014. In exchange, states must to commit to prioritizing college readiness, setting guidelines for teacher and principal evaluations, and holding schools and districts accountable for their students' performance on state tests. Under the proposal, the bulk of the state's testing program would remain unchanged. But elementary and middle school students would take science tests; the bar to be considered proficient on high school exams would be raised; and proficiency would be calculated not just by whether students met certain benchmarks, but by how much they improved. Schools that fall short would not get extra funding to pay for tutoring services, an arrangement that has shown mixed results. Instead, they would get extra money to carry out more of the initiatives that the Regents themselves have endorsed, such as improving teacher training and revising curriculum standards. Five percent of low-scoring schools would become Priority Schools and have to undergo federally mandated school overhaul approaches. Another 10 percent would become Focus Schools, and their districts would have to develop plans to improve them. For the first time, school districts will be evaluated with the same scrutiny as schools were under NCLB. "Since district policies often contribute to why schools have low performance for specific groups of students," the proposal says, "districts must play a lead role in helping schools to address this issue." New York City, a district certain to house many Focus and Priority schools, will not be evaluated as one entire district, according to a provision. Instead, each of the city's 32 districts would be evaluated based on state test scores for its schools.
December 16, 2011
More students in summer school this year, and more promoted
Five days before the official start to winter, the Department of Education has finished crunching numbers from summer school — and found that nearly one in five students told to attend shouldn't have had to. Of the elementary and middle school students whose test scores were so low that they had to attend summer school, two thirds were promoted in August, according to data the DOE released today. The numbers also show that thousands more high school students than usual signed up for summer classes when it looked like they wouldn't have a chance to retake Regents exams in January. Over 17,000 more high school students enrolled in summer school than in 2010, likely driven by the news that the state had voted to eliminate the January Regents exam administration, often used to retake failed tests required for graduation. The exams were reinstated in August, after the summer session had ended. Elementary and middle school students have less choice about whether to attend summer school. In those grades, whether a student is promoted depends on his state test scores. But the city doesn't find out students' scores until August, when summer school is already over. So every year, the city must predict whether a student is likely to pass the state exam — and tell those who seem likely to fail to register for summer classes. This year, the city told 34,069 students in grades 3-8 that they should attend summer school — or about 9 percent of all students in those grades. But 6,245 of those students actually passed the tests with a score of 3 or 4.
September 16, 2011
City's 2011 AP and SAT scores show little improvement overall
More city students than ever took exams that could earn them college credit last year. But the pass rate held steady at just over 50 percent. The number of city high school students taking rigorous Advanced Placement exams last year jumped by 6.9 percent, according to Department of Education data released today. That follows a push by the DOE to expand access to college-level coursework to more students. The number of students passing the exams also rose by 7 percent, meaning that students' overall performance didn't improve. Black students, who have lagged the most in both participation and performance on AP exams, did post higher scores, with 12.7 percent more passing tests than last year. The DOE also released information about how New York City students did last year on the SAT. Nationally, performance dropped as the number of test-takers rose. But here in New York, 10 percent more high school seniors took the SAT, but students' scores overall held flat or dropped by one point on the test's three different sections. Still, city students' average SAT score is well below the national average. This year, NYC students scored an average total score of 1,327, while the national average is 1,483. Both SAT and AP exam participation and performance will be factored into the college-readiness metric that the DOE will premiere on high schools' forthcoming progress reports.
August 11, 2011
A list of takeaways we noticed from this year's state test scores
Despite our ongoing attempt to streamline the mountain of information that came with the state's release of the 2010-2011 test scores, there are still plenty of takeaways that haven't been said on a press release or at a press conference. After taking a slightly deeper look at the data, here are 10 worthwhile bulletins to consider: Some of the neediest students took a step back; others showed progress. Students who are identified as English Language Learners, or ELL, improved slightly in math, but took another step back from statistical gains they made on the english test (ELA) earlier in the decade. While nearly half of the city's non-ELL students met the state's ELA standards, just 12 percent ELL students did so. That's down from 34 percent two years ago, when the standards were easier and 1 percent drop from a year ago. The ELL students improved slightly in math. Special education students improved in both ELA and math. The achievement gap remains vast. Schools in poor neighborhoods still struggle the most. In the South Bronx — one of the nation's poorest congressional districts — and central Brooklyn, average proficiency rates were below 30 percent in ELA and below 40 percent in math. (Citywide rates were 57 percent in math; 44 percent in ELA). In the city's more affluent neighborhoods, like Bayside, the Upper West Side and lower Manhattan, scores hovered at significantly higher rates. District 26 in Queens topped out in both subjects, with 74 percent proficiency in reading and 88 percent proficiency in math. New doesn't always mean better. More than a dozen schools in their first year of testing spanned both extremes of the performance spectrum. Half of them, including The Active Learning Elementary School, whose entire 20-student third grade class was perfectly proficient, significantly outperformed other schools in their districts. But many others struggled just as much as the closed schools that they were supposed to replace. In four such schools, less than a quarter of students did not meet reading standards. Just 5.8 percent of students at one school, Urban Scholars Community School, were proficient in reading. Charter schools outperformed their neighbors, mostly. Citywide, 69 percent of students in charter schools met standards in math, up from 63 percent last year. In ELA, 45 percent were proficient, up from 43 percent last year. Both beat citywide averages. Nearly 75 percent of the charter school classes that took a state exam scored better than their districts, on average.
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