Wednesday, January 20, 2016


Our state Union (New York State United Teachers) has been burying their own report that shows student testing in New York State has serious flaws, particularly when it comes to the college and career ready standards . Stronger Together, the statewide opposition to Michael Mulgrew's Unity Caucus, has released the report; there is a link to it here at the bottom of the page.

Stronger Together states the following regarding the use of certain student test scores as benchmarks to show a student is considered college and career ready:

ST Caucus understands that every teacher should fully comprehend the inappropriate nature of these benchmarks and how they continue to corrupt the testing experience for our students.  For more than a year, ST Caucus Leadership has made this argument central to the pushback against the inaccurate failing school/teacher narrative.  The data NYSED is utilizing to purport the benchmarking myth is deeply flawed.

The NYSUT white paper criticizes the 75% English Regents exam score and 80% Math Regents exam score as college ready benchmarks in part because these numbers are based on one narrow study that was not even peer reviewed. They then criticize using the National Assessment of Educational Progress proficiency scores for grades 3-8 as benchmarks for New York State exams to show students are on track for college readiness. I found these bullet points on page 13 to be illuminating:

  • The NAEP proficiency benchmark is set so high it seems reachable only by students in a handful of jurisdictions, most typically those with an affluent population and accelerated courses of study. 
  • NAEP‘s definition of proficiency has little or nothing to do with proficiency as most people understand the term. NAEP experts think of NAEP‘s standards as ―aspirational. 
The report goes on by criticizing testing in general on page 13:

Despite the inappropriateness of the state‘s process used to link standardized test scores with college and career readiness, the process has continued. Being college, career — and civic — ready is much more involved than the score on a standardized test. We urge educational and political leaders to move beyond defining goals of education in terms of student performance on standardized tests.

Then, there are recommendations.  I found this one on testing on page 23 to be enlightening:

Education officials in New York state say they want to measure ―college and career readiness‖ but have yet to develop a comprehensive plan to do so. Currently the measure of college and career readiness rests in the results of the state‘s grades 3−8 standardized testing and the Regents exams. 

Instead of using evidence and measures based on project-based learning, an ability to work with people and creative thinking, the state relies on assessments that require reading and endurance. The exams do not necessarily measure the skills students need to be successful in life, but instead provide a number which can be compared to other numbers to unreliably identify some students as college and career ready while other are not.

NYSUT's leadership, just like the UFT's, looks like it has very little interest in rocking the testing boat and fighting to eliminate test and punish education for students and teachers. Trying to downplay this report critical of testing is just another example of the leadership's complicity in our professional demise.

If I was running the union, there would be a huge press conference in Albany to highlight this white paper and that would kickoff the legislative session. We would then be doing heavy lobbying and protesting to repeal all of the state education laws linking student test scores on any tests to teacher ratings as well using student test scores to determine whether schools are closed and/or placed in receivership. We would fight for realistic standards for what it means for a student to be college or career ready.

We need to start from scratch. A four year moratorium on using  grade 3-8 Common Core state exams on teacher ratings is not nearly enough.  I don't want any student or school to be labeled as a failure because of flawed exams and misuse of these exams.