Meanwhile, here in New York City, UFT President Michael Mulgrew, in an opinion piece in City and State, goes out of his way to laud the Common Core ELA and math test results and he does not even mention the 225,000 students who opted out of taking the tests statewide. Mulgrew calls the incremental gains in New York City's state test scores "good news for our schools and children."
Magee, however, in her statement says, "Student test scores based on poorly written, developmentally inappropriate Pearson tests aren't worth the paper they are printed on." Magee then salutes parents who opted out. She also criticizes the Pearson tests and says NYSUT will try to "continue to help lead the state toward a constructive assessment policy that works for students and for educators."*
NYSUT Leader Briefing has another article that calls the state tests "meaningless as measures of teacher effectiveness." In addition, for the first time that I can remember, NYSUT actually writes about the Sheri Lederman case. Lederman is a Long Island teacher who is challenging the student test score portion of her rating based on the Value Added Model in court. Her husband Bruce is her attorney. Oral arguments were heard Wednesday in Albany.
Mulgrew, on the other hand, shows his support for high stakes testing by providing a comprehensive positive spin of the Common Core exam results that sounds as though it is coming directly from Mayor Bill de Blasio or Chancellor Carmen Farina, rather than from the leader of a union whose members I talk to hate these Common Core tests and the high stakes that are attached to our jobs because of them. Only in the final paragraph does he admit that "a concentration on test scores obscures some important questions about the usefulness of standardized tests as a measure of educational quality." In the end, however, he concludes by saying test results are "more likely to reflect real progress..."
It probably does not mean much but at least NYSUT is taking a somewhat critical stance, including criticism of so called receivership schools as a failure of policymakers. By contrast, our UFT President looks like he remains fully on board with the testing policies that are weakening, if not destroying, our union as he brags about test results on exams that NYSUT's President says "aren't worth the paper they are printed on."
NYSUT Leader Briefing--Karen Magee Notes and Article 1.
Karen's notes: A hollow ringThe big news this week had a hollow ring to it when SED released the state test results from last spring. Every educator knows it would be a huge mistake to read anything into these results. Whether they're up or down, they tell us virtually nothing meaningful about students or their teachers. Student test scores based on poorly written, developmentally inappropriate Pearson tests aren't worth the paper they are printed on. We know it and so do parents who repudiated these tests by "opting out" their children in record numbers. A year ago, we stood on the steps of the Education Building in Albany and ceremonially shredded the state's testing contract with Pearson. Now Pearson is gone. We will continue to help lead the state toward a constructive assessment policy that works for students and for educators.
In the midst of the release of the statewide exam results, affected districts are planning for implementation of new receivership provisions. Regarding that, I want to share with you this newspaper article in which I make the point that receivership is the state's way of shifting blame from its own failure to adequately support struggling schools, most of which are in impoverished districts.
As we enter the new school year, we must all take active leadership roles in building the union again, emphasizing its value to new members and re-energizing the commitment to union action with existing members. From new member greetings and orientation to back-to-school nights and Making Strides, the next two months are always full of opportunities to organize. Plan ahead and make the most of them.
1. State test scores tell parents, policymakers almost nothingTest scores in English language arts and math released this week tell parents, educators and policymakers almost nothing about students' progress toward meeting state standards, and are meaningless as measures of teacher effectiveness.
NYSUT Vice President Catalina Fortino said NYSUT will be vigilant in ensuring that the eventual move to Questar Inc., with the full involvement of teachers in the test-development process, will result in better, more accurate and reliable student assessments in ELA and math.
Fortino said NYSUT is gearing up to work with Education Commissioner Mary Ellen Elia, the Regents and Legislature toward a new teacher-principal evaluation system that is fair and meaningful, and designed to foster professional growth so educators can better serve their students. She also pointed out SED is embarking on a review -- with teachers and other educators -- of the Common Core standards.
"We need to recapture the joy of teaching and learning -- for students and teachers," Fortino said.
"That's going to take recognition that the misuse of student test scores in teacher evaluations was a mistake. We know now from research that student test scores are not a valid way to measure how a teacher is doing in the classroom, just as the state's growth model has proven to be inaccurate, unstable and unreliable," Fortino said. "We are committed to a fair evaluation system, which uses multiple measures and which helps New York's already strong teaching force grow even stronger. NYSUT is looking forward to working collaboratively toward that goal."
- Lederman case goes to court: In a related court case, Long Island teacher Sheri Lederman had her day in court Wednesday to challenge the validity of her rating based on invalid test scores. A fourth-grade teacher in Great Neck, Lederman said the state's evaluation system is based on a "statistical black box" and should be thrown out. Under Gov. Cuomo's APPR plan, her 2013-14 rating moved from "highly effective" to "effective" based on standardized test scores.
Her attorney Bruce Lederman, also her husband, said, "It may be the governor wants to jar teachers and shake up the union, but the law that was passed does not allow that."
* It should be noted that Pearson will write the tests next year and the new company Questar Inc might not be any better but at as we said, at least Karen Magee is saying something negative on testing.
Opinion: Incremental test score gains are more likely to be real
During the Bloomberg years, state and city test scores exploded, to the point that in 2009 nearly 70 percent of city elementary and middle school students were supposedly proficient in reading, and more than 80 percent were proficient in math – results that Bloomberg and his allies in the “school reform” gang could not stop boasting about.
The UFT and experts warned that these results were smoke and mirrors, and by 2013 those numbers had fallen dramatically – to 26 percent proficiency in reading and 30 percent proficiency in math, thanks to new tests based on the Common Core learning standards, and to the state’s overtly political decision to set the new passing mark very high.
It generally takes students and teachers some time to adapt to new curricula and test approaches, and it has been a slow road back. The 26 percent in reading proficiency in 2013 grew to 28 percent last year and to more than 30 percent in the most recent results. Math proficiency is now up to more than 35 percent.
An indication of real progress is the fact that the rate of increase for city reading scores this year (1.9 percentage points) was more than twice that of the state’s (0.7 percentage points). Overall, city reading scores are now close to the same level as the state’s, which has traditionally outscored the city by significant amounts in this area.
Schools set aside for special interventions also appear to show real progress. More than half the schools that have been in the UFT’s Community Schools program for more than two years showed increases in reading scores, several of them well above the average citywide increase.
On average, schools in the PROSE program, which provides schools with wide flexibility to change their instruction based on input from teachers, showed significant reading gains – up 4.8 percentage points (versus 1.9 percentage points citywide).
Despite all the clamor from “reformers” about charter schools, charter reading gains in 2015 (1.3 percentage points) were under the average gain for public schools, and, as usual, overall city charter reading scores remain below the average for public schools (with public schools’ reading proficiency average at 30.4 percent versus the charter school average of 29.3 percent).
The racial achievement gap – the difference in performance between whites/Asian students and black/Hispanic students – is a stubborn and troubling phenomenon, and a feature of local, state and national standardized tests.
The new scores did not show any major improvement in this category, though “reformers” – who were largely silent when Bloomberg and then-Schools Chancellor Joel Klein were making transparently fictitious claims about progress in this area – seem to have adopted it as a key concern since Bloomberg’s departure.
Unfortunately, a concentration on test scores obscures some important questions about the usefulness of standardized tests as a measure of educational quality. But, to the extent they do reflect reality, their incremental increases are more likely to reflect real progress based on the hard work of teachers and their students.
Michael Mulgrew is president of the United Federation of Teachers