Saturday, August 10, 2013

NY Test Scores (Literally) Unbelievable

The first New York test scores using the Common Core standards were release this week. And I have to say that the results are literally unbelievable. Only 31% of kids throughout the state of New York passed. An amazing 5% of some subsets of children passed.

This reveals my love-hate relationship with Common Core. I love that my son is learning pre-algebraic concepts in second grade. But I hate how the tests make it look like our schools are failing.

Does anyone really, I mean really, believe that more than 2 out of every 3 children in New York State are failing? Or that only 5% of some subsets pass? Or that the schools in New York State (which consistently rank pretty well in EdWeek's rankings) are really that bad?

Some officials in New York State are trying to temper the rhetoric, calling the results "a new baseline". But is it really? We were told months ago that only 30% of kids would pass these new tests. If 30% of the kids passed my wife's exams, or my exams, or we told our deans that we were expecting 69% failure rates, the universities for which we work would say the tests are unfair and must be re-written.

Test distribution generally should follow a bell curve that looks like this:

Most of the grades should cluster around C, with a few failures and a few As. What does it say when your bell curve is basically clustered around F? It means your test isn't fair. Unfortunately, these results will result in serious consequences for kids in New York, as well as their schools.

I have no doubt that eventually the teachers and kids in New York will adjust to the new tests and the distribution will eventually even out. But will it be too late? And what happens when they do? Will these tests be called too easy?

High standards don't mean that more than 2 out of 3 kids have to fail. High standards and normal test scores are perfectly compatible.

What this reveals is a deep-seated belief that's has been around since the infamous A Nation at Risk report -- that our public schools are failing. Any indication they aren't means our measures are "too easy". Maybe. Just maybe, our public schools aren't all that bad.

Maybe, instead, it's the tests that suck.

I'm just saying.