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Sunday, July 6, 2008

ELA and Math Test Scores -- Experts Question Increases

State test scores for 2008 can be found here (Math) and here (ELA)

An expert who serves as the State's top technical adviser on testing is concerned about grade inflation and has called for an independent study of this year's unusual and unprecedented rise in test scores across the state. Writing in the NY Sun, Elizabeth Green has the story here.

Elizabeth also has a disturbing story about cheating on the state tests here. An excerpt:

A sixth-grader at M.S. 201. said that a teacher once looked over his shoulder and said, "Ooh, is that right? Is that the right answer?" encouraging him to erase and try again.

Meanwhile, 11 of 12 P.S. 48 graduates interviewed last week said they were coached during the state tests.

They said that teachers would look over their shoulders and instruct them to try again and again until they got answers right.

"They'd be like, 'Is that the right answer?' — until they make sure it's right," a sixth-grader said.

"When I was at 48, I never went to class, and I still passed the test," a seventh-grader said. "If you go to graduation, you pass."

Higher test scores could pay off for M.S. 201's teachers this year. The school is one of about 200 participating in a trial project to give teachers bonuses if their students perform well on state tests.

The bonuses average $3,000 a teacher.

Under the Bloomberg administration, test results have been woven into a complex system of carrots and sticks where principal bonuses, teacher merit pay, school ratings, school budget bonuses, principal dismissals and school closings all hinge on test scores. It is not surprising that pressure to score high has lead to a culture of test prep, grade inflation and cheating.

Update: see the NY Sun for a properly skeptical oped about the sharp rise in NY State test scores.


Unitymustgo! said...

You could just as easily been writing about my school. I've witnessed all of the above cheating. I'm a cluster and have served proctoring time in many different classrooms. Out of 5 different classrooms this past school year only 1 teacher didn't do it. Her class is known to be a better class than her counterparts, but amazingly she is outscored by her peers. I wonder what would happen if $ was on the line?


Anonymous said...

I have been comparing the 7th-grade ELA exams (booklet 1) for 2007 and 2008. The differences in difficulty are not glaring, but the questions on the 2008 exam seem a little more obvious in their intent. Here are the first three questions for 2007 and 2008, respectively (apologies for taking them out of context and for leaving out the multiple-choice options):

2007 exam:
1. When Alex refers to his competitor as “Kerry Kendall the Great,” he indicates he
2. Alex and Kendall meet each other while stretching for the race. Their first response
to each other is best described as
3. Complete the chart below. In the first box, give one reason Alex thinks Kendall will be difficult to compete against before they meet. In the second box, give one reason Alex thinks Kendall will be difficult to compete against after they meet.

2008 exam:
1. According to the article, which of the great apes are the most like humans?
2. Which detail best supports the main idea of the article?
3. What will most likely happen to Panbanisha and Kanzi next?

I find the 2008 questions more obviously aligned with test prep. Question #1 is plain comprehension; Question #2 is clearly about main idea; question 3 involves a prediction. The students would likely recognize the format and purpose of such questions. The first three 2007 questions do not match in obvious ways with test prep topics.

Of course, these are the first three questions only. They do not necessarily represent the whole (though the pattern does seem to continue). Nonetheless, they raise an interesting question: was there any attempt in 2008 to use more test prep language in the questions?

You can find the 2006-2008 tests here:

Diana Senechal

Anonymous said...

Bloomberg and klein must think that we were all "born" yesterday. From scoring the ELA exam for many years, I can testify that our children are not making the grade. We continue to dummy down the criteria that we use to score these exams. We are giving these children a false sense of achievement. Why do I say this? Some of these children will eventually go out into the real world, not knowing how to complete a job application and/or college application using proper grammar, spelling, punctuation, capitalization, and sentence structure. We need to stop treating education as a corporate enterprise, only paying attention to the figures, and start looking at how we need to prepare our children to function in the High- Demand Global Community. There needs to be more equality in our educational system. Until this happens, there will be children left behind.

Anonymous said...


thanks for the links to the old tests- could not find them anywhere til you posted them!

Anonymous said...

we need to modify our ELa exams. Cut out the long and senseless reading comprehensions and replace it with basic English grammar. Many of the kids do not know how to spell and how to construct sentences correctly. Many of our student have reached college level and their grammar is poor. A plural noun goes with a plural verb. They lack basic English