“Since 2006, the city's elementary and middle schools have seen a 22-point increase in the percentage of students at or above grade level in math (to 54 percent) and a 6-point increase in English (to 42 percent).”
I wrote to the reporter, Jonathan Mahler, to ask where he got his data. Here is his reply: “The DOE was my source, and the fact-checker went back over the numbers with them.”
Indeed, this recalculation reeks of an attempt to rig the results, to back up improbable claims of great gains when the NAEPs have shown negligible increases. (Of course the meaningless nature of this exercise should be obvious in that there are two very different versions of achievement gains displayed in the above slide, depending on whether 2009 or 2010 cut scores are used.)
To the contrary, on August 4, 2009, at the very moment when Bloomberg was pressing for the extension of mayoral control of the schools, and two years following extensive and continuing coverage of test score inflation in the News and elsewhere, the Times published a credulous account that recounted the steep increase in state test scores and the apparent narrowing of the achievement gap, featuring this quote from Joel Klein:
“Mr. Klein, for his part, said he was confident that rising scores reflected real improvements. “No matter how you look at them,” he said, “the picture is one that shows that the city is making dramatic progress.”
“… there are many prominent administrators, researchers, teachers and principals who believe strongly that there has been rampant state test score inflation in recent years. … as has been widely reported in the Daily News and elsewhere … To leave this out of your story seems negligent at best…
"The Times front page piece last week -- headlined "Gains on Tests in New York Schools Don't Silence Critics" -- failed to quote any real critics, but gave Klein six self-promoting paragraphs. It did bury a single questioning quote from two academics not known as critics of the test scores in the thirty-fourth paragraph, but the top of the story trumpeted success scores that would have silenced any critic. If, that is, they were true."
After State Ed officially burst the test score bubble last summer, the Times finally covered the issue in a front page story in October, entitled "On NY School Tests, Warning Signs Ignored." But here, too, the paper left its own deficient reporting off the hook, and refrained from mentioning any of the abundant exposes that had appeared over the last three years, not only in the Daily News, but in GothamSchools, the NY Post, and our blog; any of which should have alerted interested observers to the reality. (Here is my account of the failure of the NYT to cover this story in their revisionist history.)
An article on April 10 about Middle School 223 in the Bronx misstated the reasons the school does not qualify for some state financing earmarked for poorly performing schools. It does not meet some of New York State’s criteria for failing schools and it is relatively successful on state tests and other measures. It is not because of the school’s report card from New York City. The article also omitted an attribution for the increases in percentages of students at or above grade levels in math and English from 2006 to 2010. Those figures came from the New York City Department of Education, which did its own analysis of state testing data using 2010 proficiency levels for 2006 test scores. (Without that adjustment, the percentage of proficient learners in both math and English actually dropped from 2006 to 2010.) (emphasis added)
Since 2006, according to an analysis of state testing data by the city's Department of Education (which used 2010's recalibrated proficiency levels to compare 2006's testing data to 2010's), the city’s elementary and middle schools have seen a 22-point increase in the percentage of students at or above grade level in math (to 54 percent) and a 6-point increase in English (to 42 percent).
“The data can appear as divided as the rhetoric. New York City’s Department of Education will provide you with irrefutable statistics that school reform is working; opponents of reform will provide you with equally irrefutable statistics that it’s not. It can seem equally impossible to disentangle the overlapping factors…”
Perhaps they might even refer to independent experts who could dissect the data if they find it too difficult to interpret it themselves. They owe it to their readers. There is little point in trying to cover the NYC public schools if they continue to be incapable of weighing the evidence objectively and presenting the facts with a more practiced eye, rather than simply regurgitating what is handed them by the spinmeisters at Tweed.