This is not difficult to do, and the annual testing of students in grades 3-8, which started in 2006 in response to the requirements of NCLB, makes it feasible to compare the performance of the same cohort of students as they advance through the grades.
*In grade 4, 56.0% met the state standards in 2007 (levels 3 & 4); a year earlier, 61.5% of the same cohort met the standards, a drop of 5.5 points.
*In grade 5, 56.1% met the standards; a year earlier, 58.9% of the same group met them, a drop of 2.8 points.
*In grade 6, 49.7% met the standards; a year earlier 56.7% of this group met them, a drop of 7 points.
*In grade 7, 45.5% met the standards, compared to 48.6% who met them in 2006, a drop of 3.1 points.
*In grade 8, 41.8% met the standards in 2007, compared to 44.2% of the same group in 2006, a drop of 2.4 points
The data also permit us to look at the eighth grade cohort longitudinally. The group of students who are now in eighth grade were in fourth grade in 2003. In 2007, 41.8% of this group met the standards; in 2003, when these children were fourth graders, 52.5% met the state standards, a drop of 10.8 points.
Considering the score changes from the perspective of "value-added," the steady decline in test scores is even more alarming than the comparison of grade-to-grade, because there are no gains at all.
These year-to-year comparisons for the same grades suggest that progress has been sluggish at best. After five years of mayoral control and four years of the Children First "reforms," test scores decline steadily for each cohort.
Now the Chancellor promises to add new tests, with the expectation that more testing means more learning. This is not good news. Testing is not a substitute for a sound curriculum and effective instruction.