Thursday, September 06, 2007

Sure The Tests Are Easier, But What Can You Do?

The Daily News reports that both the mayor and the governor acknowledged difficulty levels for state tests change from year-to-year:

"Tests go up and down in terms of difficulty so all you can really do is use them in a relative sense," Bloomberg said.


Although Bloomberg frequently trumpets annual jumps in city scores, yesterday the mayor said the tests are best used for comparing students with one another.

"What we can use this test for is to see how well we are doing vis-à-vis other parts of the state," Bloomberg said.

Spitzer defended the exams, saying, "We obviously don't think the test is getting easier."

But he acknowledged "you cannot invest enormous weight in a one-year differential because ... there are going to be marginal differences year to year in the nature of the test."

Okay, so if the tests can only be used in "a relative sense," to "see how well we are doing vis-a-vis other parts of the state," how come Mayor Bloomberg's website,, boasted so highly about score increases for city tests back in 2005:

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and Schools Chancellor Joel I. Klein today announced that New York City's public school students in grades 3, 5, 6 and 7 this year achieved the largest one-year gains ever on the City English Language Arts (ELA) and Mathematics (math) tests, as well as the highest overall scores ever on the tests. The number of students meeting or exceeding standards in these grades combined increased by 14.4 percentage points in ELA and by 7.5 percentage points in math from last year. For the first time, 50% or more of all of the City's students in these grades met or exceeded the ELA (54.8%) and math (50.0%) standards for their grades. In addition, Black and Hispanic students achieved their greatest one-year gains and best performance ever on both tests. The tests are developed and scored by two independent testing companies - Harcourt Assessment, Inc. (ELA) and CTB/McGraw-Hill (math).

"One look at today's City ELA and math results and it's clear that the reforms that we put in place are working," said Mayor Bloomberg. "Over the last two years we have begun to bring order and accountability to a system that had been dysfunctional for decades. By providing students with the resources they need and holding them, their teachers, and ourselves accountable for producing results, our schoolchildren are now receiving the education they deserve. Today's results, like the achievement and gains on the State test scores released two weeks ago, are remarkable and a sign that things are moving in the right direction. I congratulate the students, teachers and parents that have worked so hard to achieve these record results."

Gee, there's no caveat about how the test score increases can only be used in "a relative sense." Instead the press release makes it sound like Great Education Mayor Mike Bloomberg single-handedly brought higher test scores and better educated students to the NYC public school system after decades of dysfunction.

Funny thing though - now we know from the Daily News that the test score increases Bloomberg crowed about back in 2005 are phony and we also know that if Bloomberg would allow independent analysts to look at those city tests from 2005 that he bragged about, they would also found to be suspect.

How do we know that?

Because he won't let anyone look at them.

The test methodologies are a secret.

And there's a reason why they're a secret.

Because he doesn't want anyone just how easy the tests were and/or how generous the rubric was.

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