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Live Blogging the 2008 NY State ELA and Math Press Conference

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"No one should be surprised to see these kind of gains because there have been significant investments at the state and local level."

"I'm sure the people will say the test is easier. Take the test. Look at it yourself."


New York State Commissioner Richard Mills is on the offensive and doing his best to make sure that we all believe that the enormous NY state gains are not illusory. He's even put together a cute story about why performance is up:

* State invested an additional $3.4B in support for schools over 2 years.
* New grade by grade curriculum sets clear expectations.
* Schools are embracing changes in State curriculum.
* This is the third year of 3-8 testing. The system is responding.

Ask yourself two questions: First, is there any reason to believe that teachers suddenly became several times more successful in improving ELA and Math skills? Haven't we had increased investments in schools and new curricula in the past? Second, do we also see gains on other tests? Why haven't the NAEP scores skyrocketed?

But you can always count on NYC's fearless three - Jenny Medina, Erin Einhorn, and Elizabeth Green - to have their crap detectors on. Erin Einhorn of the Daily News asked about the huge jumps across the board, noting that experts tend to be suspicious of such increases. Mills first responded by saying that "we check the numbers very extensively," and then went on to argue that the gains weren't "that big." He pointed us to the mean scale scores, and showed that they are going up gradually. But if the scale scores are going up quite gradually while the proficiency scores have skyrocketed, doesn't this suggest that schools are focusing on bubble kids to bump up passing rates? More to come on the scale score data.

Elizabeth Green then asked about the state/NAEP discrepancy. Mills hemmed and hawed, first saying that these are different tests, and then changing course to note that NY's long term trend is positive. "They're going in the same general direction as the state scores. NAEP is a different test. It's a great indicator of general direction, but it's a different test," said Mills.

Below are trends for New York State and the "Big Five" districts: NYC, Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse, and Yonkers.

Update: Medina's NYT article here and Einhorn's Daily News article here.

2008%20ELA%20Graph.jpg

2008%20Math%20Graph.jpg
3 Comments

Exactly how fearless was an article entitled "New York Students Improve in Reading and Math"?

Hey, there's not a paper in the country where the reporters get to write the headlines. Nor do they get to edit their own stories. I do wish that the editorial staff at the Times were more skeptical about the NY miracle ... and small schools ... and TFA ... and ...

My 30-chart analysis of the 2008 state tests, primarily pertaining to the 4-county capital region of NY, is at http://myshortpencil.com/2008elaandmath.htm

Here are some of the factors that affect exam outcomes:

* Changes in state learning standards.

* Changes in state achievement standards. These define the levels of proficiency.

* The ratchet effect caused by converting scaled scores to performance levels.

* Changes in exam difficulty, content and/or format.

* Changes in the rules exempting students from the exams.

* Changes in testing frequency.

* Changes in grading rubrics.

* Changes in the amount of exam similarity from year to year.

* Changes in grade-level retention rates.

* Students moving into better performing school districts.

* Changes in scale score conversions or in cut-off scores.

* Improvements in gaming the test, including institutionalized cheating.

* Changes in the level of information about what will be on the test (test-content intelligence).

* Improved instruction/learning, increased classroom time spent on core subjects, improved teaching techniques from professional development, after-school classes, better assessments of students' strengths and weaknesses and more individual help.

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