Tomorrow’s test scores
Everyone involved in New York City educational policy – all levels of the DoE, the mayor, the UFT, the education reporters, pundits, activists – all are waiting for tomorrow’s scores.
And it’s a crock.
The scores will tell us nothing, except how students did on a test – a test that means very little at all.
The individual scores will tell us (well no, we won’t see the individual scores) how individual students did on one test…
This test was designed to “align” with the “Common Core” – but we know that test designers – NYS and private – lack the skill to produce a “good” test, whatever that might look like. Think of mistakes on Regents Exams (past year, math only: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7). Think of Speedy, the Blusterous Pineapple.
Even if the tests were well-written (I should stop there, contrafactual), but even if they were, alignment with the common core seems unlikely. Here a group of principals posit that the NYS exams focused on the testable part of the standards. They also point out that nine hours over three days becomes a test of stamina. (Folks, three hours of a hard exam is a test of stamina. Sitting still for three hours of anything for these kids, except video games…)
But even if the test were well-written, and aligned with Common Core, (again, I don’t believe either one), in mathematics Common Core represents itself as a coherent 1 – 8 whole. For 1 – 3, kids have had regular math, and for 4th grade only something that schools allege is CCLS-aligned (dubious claim). But even were that claim true, the students were being tested on material with three years of pre-req, that they did not have.
And then, were the tests well-written, CCLS-aligned, and fair, what of it? Do we think “the Common Core” is what kids should know? Most of us don’t have much of a grasp of what’s in the Common Core. Certainly the politicians don’t know. What would lead anyone to believe that this is a worthwhile exercise?
But even if we agreed that Common Core is something worthwhile (I don’t. Most people who say they do don’t actually know what’s in there), and even if we agreed that the tests were fair, and that they were aligned with the CC standards, and that they were well written, there would be a problem…. A big problem.
The tests, were they worthwhile, fair, aligned, well-written, the tests show the performance of individual children. There is nowhere, nothing, except in fairly ugly politics, that suggests that aggregating these kinds of scores reveals anything about teachers, schools, or entire school-systems. There is only one exam I know of (NAEP) which is designed to do this. And even that <smh>.
I’m not making the argument here that individual student test scores don’t paint a picture of teachers, schools, or school systems. I will let the evidence (complete lack of any scientific study, but a plethora of social-science/political studies with low standards for data analysis and low confidence levels) speak for itself. The research that exists is conclusion-driven (junk) – and is designed to punish schools, communities, teachers (once through simple shaming, now through a tenure-weakening evaluation system that uses these test scores of questionable value – or perhaps no value at all)
But tomorrow? Tomorrow all the players in NYC education, and even in national education, will speak to the numbers. They will analyze, spin, contort. Shael (why isn’t he looking for a job yet) Polakow-Suransky already sent a dog-ate-my-homework e-mail to principals (yesterday).
They will not mention that the tests were unfair, poorly written, not aligned to CCLS. They will not mention that we don’t know if CCLS are worthwhile. They will not mention that the tests were designed to assess students, not teachers, schools, or districts. They will instead pick apart the numbers they see – empowered by the democratizing and dumbing down effect of having Excel on every reporter’s computer, enabling them to “analyze” numbers, whether they understand them or not, whether the numbers have meaning, or, as in this case, do not.
It will be tempting for people of good will to look, too. It will be tempting to draw conclusions about Bloomberg’s sad legacy, or Walcott/Suransky’s poor management. But we should not.
These numbers are not meaningful. They represent 9 hours of punishment for children across the city. They represent dumb test prep, wasted class time. They represent the opening wedge in the new evaluation system that is designed to make it easier (and more arbitrary) to fire teachers. They represent profits for testing companies. They represent support for Duncan’s anti-education Race to the Top. To use these numbers is to concede to the profiteers, the anti-public education ideologues, the politicians, the DoE itself.
I don’t care about tomorrow’s test scores. Neither should you.