But a review of 4th grade test score data from 2003-2008 suggests that these parents have been on to something. Between 2003 and 2008, the fraction of students scoring in the highest achievement level on the 4th grade NY state ELA test has plummeted.
In 2003, 15.6% of 4th graders scored at Level 4. By 2008, only 5.8% did. In other words, the fraction of students scoring at Level 4 in 2003 was about 2.7 times higher than this year. At the same time, the percentage of students scoring at proficiency has increased 9 percentage points, from 52.4% to 61.3%.
Put bluntly, it appears that schools are focusing on pushing lower performing students over the passing mark, and shortchanging high-achieving students in the process. In Bloomberg's New York, as it turns out, a rising tide does not lift all boats.
You can find the data from 1999-2005 here, and the data from 2006-2008 here. I analyzed 4th grade scores because tests weren't given in grades 3-5 throughout the entire time period. If anyone knows where to find average scale scores at different parts of the distribution over time (i.e. 10th/90th percentile) - I would have preferred to work with these data for all of the reasons suggested below - please let me know.