Live Blogging the 2008 NY State ELA and Math Press Conference
"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.