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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…
April 30, 2009
After a DOE official tries to rebut her, Diane Ravitch responds
The Department of Education and Diane Ravitch, a former supporter who has emerged as one of the department's most vocal critics, have for years sparred over how to interpret DOE data. In their latest skirmish, the department and the historian have each issued memos refuting the other's claims about how well the city schools are performing. The DOE's memo went out by e-mail to all principals; Ravitch's appears for the first time in this post. The newest dustup stems from an op/ed Ravitch wrote for the New York Times earlier this month, in which she argued that data show the DOE is incorrect to say schools have improved significantly since Mayor Bloomberg took control of them. Schools Chancellor Joel Klein immediately fired back against Ravitch in a letter to the editor. But apparently some principals needed more convincing, because Klein wrote in a recent Principals Weekly newsletter that he had heard from "a number" of them with questions about whether Ravitch's op/ed was accurate. To answer the principals' questions, Klein said he asked Jennifer Bell-Ellwanger, a senior DOE official who oversees testing, to fact-check Ravitch's claims. Bell-Ellwanger produced an 8-page memo, dated April 28, rebutting Ravitch point by point. Klein linked to the memo in his most recent e-mail newsletter to principals; I've also posted it in full below the jump. After I shared Bell-Ellwanger's memo with her, Ravitch composed a long response of her own, noting that her Times op/ed was thoroughly vetted before publication. "The editor at the Times required documentation for every single fact in the article, and I supplied it," she writes in her response, which I've posted just after Bell-Ellwanger's memo below.
March 13, 2009
Report: Test score gains predate Bloomberg and mayoral control
A graph from Assemblyman James Brennan's report shows that test score increases began before 2002, when mayoral control was enacted and Mayor Bloomberg took office. A Brooklyn lawmaker is throwing doubt on two key arguments in both Mayor Bloomberg's re-election campaign and his effort to keep the mayor in charge of the public school system: The idea that Bloomberg's leadership is responsible for city students' rising scores on standardized tests — and the extent to which achievement actually improved under Bloomberg. In a paper released earlier this year, Assemblyman James Brennan points out that city students' test scores were rising steadily for four years before Bloomberg took office, and, in some cases, at a faster pace than they have under Bloomberg. He also argues that a list of changes in the schools that are unrelated to the Blooomberg administration or mayoral control (a near quadrupling of early childhood programs, for instance, and a dramatic increase in state funding that dates back to 1998) are the real reason for the gains the system has made. "I generally don’t view their success to be credible," Brennan, who could play a significant role in the mayoral control discussions this spring, said in a recent interview. "I do not believe that some of the recent improvements in the school system are directly related to policies of Klein." Brennan's stance directly challenges the mayor and Schools Chancellor Joel Klein, who declare in speeches, billboards, television advertisements, and interviews that their changes to the school system are responsible for a battery of improvements, including higher test scores. A Department of Education spokesman, Andrew Jacob, defended this point of view in a short memo disputing Brennan's conclusions. The memo argues that the city's test scores are rising more steadily than scores across New York State, and accuses Brennan of ignoring several Bloomberg administration policies, including the opening of hundreds of new schools and transfers of funds to schools from the bureaucracy. It also points out an indisputable rise in the graduation rate, which soared by 10 percentage points under Bloomberg, compared to a change of just one-tenth of a percentage point in the entire decade before he took control of the schools. Below the fold, I'll walk through each part of the dispute.
December 22, 2008
NYU's Tobias on city school trends since 2002: It's no miracle
One highlight of the mayoral control panel put together by the parent commission Friday night was testimony by Robert Tobias, the former city testing czar and now New York University professor. Tobias has often been quoted expressing concerns that the Bloomberg administration inflates its record of educational improvement. But the analysis Tobias presented Friday, explaining exactly what progress he thinks happened ("real" improvements in math) and what he thinks did not (any narrowing of a longstanding gap between the state and city students' scores on reading tests), was the most succinct summary I've ever heard him deliver — not to mention a striking counterpoint to the sanguine evaluations of Chancellor Joel Klein, Mayor Bloomberg, and even Caroline Kennedy. Here's what Tobias said: Tobias also tempered the fact of the improvements in math scores with a warning about score inflation, the phenomenon by which test-prepping, in his words, can "undermine" the meaningfulness of the test as an indicator of what students know, versus how well they have been prepped. (Harvard Graduate School of Education's Daniel Koretz has written the most on score inflation that I know of. For more on the topic, see this story I wrote for the Sun and these posts by Eduwonkette.) Tobias's remarks on score inflation are below the jump. Thanks to David Bellel for sending me the video.
October 28, 2008
Coming soon: NAEP results on state and city report cards
States and school districts will have to revise their accountability reports to include scores on a national test known as the nation’s report card, the…
October 14, 2008
Knowledge is power, Cerf tells NPR
Yesterday, Margot Adler reported on New York’s new Teacher Data Reports for Morning Edition: “The whole notion of having standards and assessments…
August 6, 2008
Exploring two measures of student progress…
Mind the gap, <em>by ##http://www.flickr.com/photos/mwichary/2506936869/##Marcin Wichary##</em> The internet has seen a flurry of activity recently over the DOE's claim that it has reduced the achievement gap between black and Hispanic students and their white and Asian peers. Testing that claim, the New York Sun submitted the ELA and math scale score data for students in grades 3-8 to three independent analysts, who concluded that the gap has decreased in ELA, but has stayed flat since 2002 in mathematics, confirming much of Eduwonkette's analysis. The new analysis emphasizes the difference between closing the proficiency gap by comparing the percentage of students who score at a level 3 or 4 on state tests, and closing the achievement gap by comparing mean scale scores.
August 5, 2008
Joel Klein doesn't believe in statistical significance?!
I have to take issue with Klein’s dismissal of statistical significance, as reported by the Sun: The National Center for Education Statistics also…
August 4, 2008
New charter schools on the way…
A $16.6 million federal grant will fund the development and support of new charter schools in New York State, the US Department of Education announced in July. The grant, from the Department's Charter School Program, will be used primarily to create and support secondary-level charter schools. Today is the postmark deadline for the current round of applications for the planning and implementation of new charter schools. Mayor Bloomberg and Chancellor Klein have long pushed for the creation of more charter schools, successfully convincing the state legislature to increase the number of charters granted from 100 to 200 in April, 2007. Half of the new charters are reserved for New York City. Even that limit may be short-lived; Governor Paterson reportedly told members of the Alliance for School Choice advocacy group that he supports lifting the cap on charters altogether. Approximately 18,000 students attend New York City's 60 charter schools, with thousands more students on waiting lists, according to the DOE. In response to this demand, eighteen new charter schools will open across the city this fall, with seven in the Bronx, five in Brooklyn, five in Manhattan, and one in Queens. The schools have a wide variety of institutional partners, including Victory Schools, adding two new charters to their six existing schools throughout the city, and the Success Charter Network, expanding from one to four schools in Harlem. The new charters, once they reach full capacity, will include six elementary schools, seven combined elementary-middle schools, one combined middle-high school, two high schools, and two K-12 schools. Most existing New York City charter schools serve elementary and middle school students.
July 24, 2008
Reading between the lines on test score reporting
test books by menlophoto From the Washington Post, a glaring example of why it’s so important for educators, parents, and concerned citizens to turn…
June 23, 2008
NYC students post double-digit test gains; statisticians are dubious
No one was surprised when Chancellor Klein announced today that the city's students posted dramatic gains on state test scores this year. Charting a clear trajectory of improvement has been fundamental to his reforms. This year, he announced, nearly 80 percent of 4th graders and 60 percent of 8th graders passed the state math test, and about 60 percent of 4th graders and 40 percent of 8th graders passed the state English test. Gains in the last six years, the DOE points out in its press release, range from about 15 points in 8th grade English to more than 30 points on math tests at all levels. Even before the mayor made his announcement this afternoon, discussion had begun over whether this year's test scores are a sign of victory, as the mayor believes, or of score inflation and manipulation. In today's Sun, Elizabeth Green speaks to statisticians who warn that, for many reasons, large-scale score increases are not always to be believed.
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