As Expected, Student Test Scores Have Plummeted in New York City

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Just to follow up on a post from a couple of days ago, the scores on New York’s new, more difficult school tests are in. Here’s how New York City did:

Across the city, 26 percent of students in third through eighth grade passed the state exams in English, and 30 percent passed in math, according to the New York State Education Department….Under the old exams last year, the city fared better: 47 percent of students passed in English, and 60 percent passed in math.

….The results galvanized critics of Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, who has often pointed to improvements in test scores as evidence that his stewardship of city schools has been a success.

….Anticipating the outcry, the city and state arranged for the United States secretary of education, Arne Duncan, to participate in a conference call with reporters on Tuesday. In his remarks, Mr. Duncan said the shift to Common Core was a necessary recalibration that would better prepare students for college and the work force.

“Too many school systems lied to children, families and communities,” Mr. Duncan said. “Finally, we are holding ourselves accountable as educators.”

This is all pretty silly. The only thing it proves is that you can pass or fail as many kids as you want by fiddling with a test. Make it hard enough, and even a national merit scholar will fail. Make it easy enough, and even a moron will pass. You can set the bar anywhere you like.

Is the new test a “better” measure of how much students know? Maybe. Maybe not. But it’s different, which means it tells you exactly nothing about how good Bloomberg’s stewardship of New York City schools has been over time. If you think test scores are a good way of measuring student performance, we already know the answer to that question: he’s done OK, but not great.


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