kitchen table math, the sequel: score inflation in NY

Thursday, July 8, 2010

score inflation in NY

Over the last few years, student performance has soared on math and English tests across New York State, with the most dramatic improvements evident in urban districts such as Buffalo, leading many to celebrate the progress.

But now, state education officials say the progress may not have been quite what it seemed.

Weaknesses in the state’s testing and scoring systems over the last several years created what Education Commissioner David M. Steiner equates to systemic “grade inflation.”
  • Students who score at the “proficient” level in middle school math, for instance, stand only a 1-in-3 chance of doing well enough in high school to succeed in college math, he said.
  • Students begin getting “inflated” test scores before they hit high school, state officials said. A student who scores a 3 on a state math test — which is considered “proficient” on the scale of 1 to 4 — stands only a 30 percent chance of getting an 80 on the high school Regents math exam, they said.
  • ...a student who scored at the proficient level on a state test in 2006 was in the 45th percentile on the national test, meaning that 55 percent of students in the country scored better. In 2009, the same score on the state test would land a student in the 20th percentile on the national test, meaning that 80 percent of students nationwide scored better.

The state Education Department recently asked a group of experts, led by Harvard University’s Daniel M. Koretz, to determine how closely eighth-grade scores correlate to high school Regents exam scores — and how well those Regents exam scores correlate to success in college.

Flawed tests distort sharp rise in scores by students
By Mary B. Pasciak
Updated: July 06, 2010, 11:42 pm / 19 comments
Published: July 07, 2010, 6:35 am


SteveH said...


Data driven analysis.

"Let's not use our brains. We can just wait for the data to tell us something is wrong and apply good ol' guess and check."

Now that the data tells them something is wrong, what new knowledge do they have that they didn't have before? They know that they have to raise the cutoff, but is that the real problem? They will need to apply expertise that doesn't need data. Why didn't they do that in the first place? Feedback loops are great if you are close, but they are no replacement for knowledge and experience.

Anonymous said...

This article:

Is a rather depressing lookback at one man's earlier attempt to raise the issue of grade inflation ... Or, cheating when reporting test scores. He has stopped trying because he believes there is very little consensus that rigging the tests is bad.

Mark Roulo

kprugman said...

Do the right thing and take a college placement test after graduation. If you rate high school level, then go to adult school and learn how to read, learn math inside and out, learn how to write a paper. The system is flawed, but it doesn't mean parents have to throw away their savings. I did the right thing, got my kid a strong music education and now he's working for more than minimum wage and he's 18. Wished my parents had had the guts I did. If he wants to go to college then he'll have to take a proficiency test before I'll pay for college!

Anonymous said...

Screw the universities, they're to blame for the textbooks in the first place. If they'd been honest and responsible, we wouldn't have 80% of hs graduates unprepared for college.

California Teacher said...

On the subject of data-driven schooling, I ran across this video on another blog. The video is titled "A Visit to a Data-Driven School District"

I'm curious what KTM participants would make of it...

kprugman said...

Data driven reform only works for schools that can churn 40% of their students out of hs in four years before they graduate. A drop-out factory that meets their AYP by failing most of their students does not deserve anybody's respect.

SteveH said...

"A Visit to a Data-Driven School District"

Extra! Extra! Data replaces thinking!

My first reaction to the video was that all teachers have plenty of data; they are called exams, quizzes, homework, and classroom participation. State testing is really just to keep the schools honest about screwing up at the low end. However, our schools think that their good results (for the Proficiency Index) on the state test indicate that they provide a quality education. They also use the vague data on things like problem solving from the state tests to decide how to modify instruction; "Um, I think we need to work on problem solving some more." No. The teacher has to look at each test carefully to, perhaps, see that more work has to be done on adding fractions.

In the video, the teacher collects data from very young students about whether she is doing a good job. How accurate and informative is that data? Why can't the teacher figure that out without collecting the data? I'm sure that's what many teachers would like to say when these incredibly bad management ideas get passed down. Don't think that I am anti-management. I am anti- bad ideas. Managers feel that they have to do something, and collecting data to put into a database is an easy thing to do. Real managing is much harder.

kprugman said...

That's not the point really - this reform ignores structural issues that are generations old. Like children, they cynically presume that all children think alike and that their ignorance is like a disease that one gets from being around a bad teacher. If the child can't add fractions, then the teacher didn't teach it - that sort of thing. And if they did teach it (we all presume they did) then they must be a bad teacher, because their kids didn't get it....that sort of flies in the face of, it takes a village....

Data driven can consume copious amounts of time and that is the heel of a teacher. So who could possibly take the great leaps of thinking required to absorb all that data and then make evaluative judgements?

This is not effective policy. It is Iago dumping more fuel for the fire and complaining they can't see through all the smoke.

California Teacher said...

"Managers feel that they have to do something, and collecting data to put into a database is an easy thing to do. Real managing is much harder"

Very well said... I agree.

I actually had to laugh out loud watching this video. Not only did this poor brainwashed soul have to administer a pointless survey (robbing the class of real instruction), but after looking it over and presumably getting the feedback she was after, she had to take even more precious time to input it into an electronic spreadsheet for some remote administrator to view. Who out there believes the average administrator is actually taking the time to read through such tripe? Waste. Of. Time.

And we wonder why day-to-day instruction is suffering!

Bostonian said...

SteveH wrote, "My first reaction to the video was that all teachers have plenty of data; they are called exams, quizzes, homework, and classroom participation."

Teachers may have results of exams and quizzes stored electronically (how common is this at present?), but the probably do not have breakdowns by topic that could tell them things such as "Jim cannot add fractions with like denominators."

The online EPGY math program shows a student's progress in various areas of mathematics, and the program will not ask Jim to add fractions with unlike denominators until he can add fractions with like denominators.

Two reasons computerized instruction has not caught on is that

(1) It threatens teachers' jobs. There would still be a need for teachers, but not as many as there are now.

(2) It allows the smartest kids to progress MUCH faster -- maybe by a factor of 10 -- than the dullest ones (without reducing the progress of the dullest). Schools like to pretend differences in intelligence don't exist for as long as possible.

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