Friday, September 6, 2013

Superintendents & Cuomo Respond to Low NYS Test Scores

It's interesting and sometimes confounding to read differing responses to the NYS 3-8 assessment results. (Only 31% of NYS students who took the English and Math assessments passed.)

Gov. Cuomo is calling for a "death penalty" option to deal with failing schools. Of course, he will have to define "failing" as most schools in NYS saw their students fail the most recent round of tests.  NCPR reported that the Governor said, "Whether it is by take-over by the State, or mayoral control or take-over by a charter school, there's going to have to be a death penalty, so to speak." Unlike so many politicians, he was unequivocal regarding where he stands on the matter.

The thoughts of two superintendents, who sent out letters explaining what they thought about the testing results, was quite a counterpoint to the Governor's thoughts.
Joseph V. Rella, Ed.D., Superintendent for the Comsewogue School District (in Port Jefferson) wrote to State Senator LaValle. He wrote:

  • Our scores... have dropped significantly - 30 - 35 percentage points.
  • The test scores are not connected to student learning in any way.
  • What changed this year was not our students' intelligence or the talent and skill of our teachers and administrators. What changed was the curriculum and the tests. 
Rella goes on to note that SED officials predicted last year that student scores would drop by 30+ percentage points. He mentions that the Commissioner of Education (Mr. King)  wrote, "I want to make it very clear that the change in test scores (including, possibly, on in your child's score) does not mean that students are learning less or that teachers and schools are performing worse than last year." 

Rella referred to Carol Burris (who was quoted in the Washington Post): The bottom line is that there are tremendous financial interests driving the agenda about our schools - from test makers, to publishers, to data management corporations - all making tremendous profits from the chaotic change. When scores drop, they prosper. When tests change, they prosper...There are curriculum developers earning millions to create scripted lessons to turn teachers into deliverers of modules in alignment with the Common Core...This is all to be enforced by their principals, who must attend 'calibration events' run by 'network teams.'"

Supt. Rella goes on to say to his State Senator that he (the senator) should remove Supt. Rella from his position overseeing the school district ..."if this assessment system is truly valid, then during my tenure as Superintendent, our students went from about 90% proficient to about 30% proficient. At best this is gross negligence. At worst, this is willful malpractice."

Superintendent Fuhrman (Croton-Harmon School District) sent out a newsletter to parents and community members. He writes, " is important to remember that unlike with previous NYSED tests, teachers and parents are not allowed to review the new tests or the questions for the purpose of data analysis to inform instruction. This makes it virtually impossible to analyze the test results for student progress."

For those of us watching from the sidelines, the testing results and the responses from the Governor and well-respected superintendents are confounding. Who is to be believed?
~ The Governor appears poised to take drastic action against failing schools based on these test results.
~ The SED approved new assessment tests before NYS school districts had a chance to implement new curricula (that align with the new Common Core Learning Standards).
~ The Commissioner of Education predicted the staggering drop in the passing rates for the latest round of 3-8 ELA/Math tests.

 This all looks like a bureaucratic nightmare but it is not a nightmare for all. Follow the money. Business interests are making huge sums of money from taxpayer dollars which are being diverted from schools to the testing industry. A man cannot answer to two masters. Will politicians stand up for what is truly beneficial for the education of students or will deep-pocket corporations have an undue influence decision-makers in Albany?

The following is a great site to locate NYS school district scores:

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