I’d rather have a tall glass of “innocent until proven guilty,” whether it’s about my standing as a citizen in NYC or my students’ test scores.
This month has been rather unsuccessful for Mayor Bloomberg and two of his political postures: his stance on stop-and-frisk and his direction in education reform. Despite what comes out of his office, everyone ought to recognize it as a major fail, and a blow to an already tarnished third term.
I can’t tell you how quickly my jaw dropped when I saw my school’s test scores. I didn’t get a glimpse of them, but when I heard only ~30% of students “passed” the English or Math test, AND that the scales were aligned to the NAEP, I knew NYC would be in some trouble. I sighed, and hoped none of my students took the drop personally. Only a handful of eight graders at my school got a 4, the highest level possible.
I can’t understand the games some adults play with their lives, especially when they tie these scores to all types of notions, including their scholarships, honors classes, and their actual ability as students.
Then I read this by Diane Ravitch and almost flung my phone at someone:
The state didn’t just “raise the bar.” It aligned its passing mark to a completely inappropriate model.
The state scores have four levels: level 4 is the highest, level 1 is the lowest. In the present scoring scheme, students who do not reach level 3 and 4 have “failed.”
NAEP has three levels: “Advanced” is the highest (only about 3-8% of students reach this level). “Proficient” is defined by the National Assessment Governing Board as “solid academic performance for each grade assessed. This is a very high level of academic achievement.”). “Basic” is “partial mastery” of the skills and knowledge needed at each grade tested.
“Proficient” on NAEP is what most people would consider to be the equivalent of an A. When I was a member of the NAEP governing board, we certainly considered proficient to be very high level achievement.
New York’s city and state officials have decided that NAEP’s “proficiency” level should be the passing mark.
They don’t understand that a student who is proficient on NAEP has attained “a very high level of academic achievement.”
And then it hit me. The fact that we can’t even compare any one year with other years for the last decade speaks volumes about the sorts of education policy we’ve encountered in NYC. To bewilder, anger, and frustrate parents, students, and educators across the city looks less like collaborative learning and more like a shakedown.
Speaking of which, a judge ruled today that “stop-and-frisk,” questioning or otherwise, is unconstitutional. I wish Bloomberg, Ray Kelly, and the NYPD would have stopped this nonsense back when we deemed it inappropriate. Despite 57% of white residents of NYC approving of stop-and-frisk, it rarely affected them. 86% of those affected were Black or Latino, and at a 12% success rate, it did more to agitate relationships between certain communities and the Giuliani-inspired police state.
In both instances, it’s very easy to blame the system for its inefficiencies, or the people who lead these systems as some politicians do. It’s more appropriate to hold the right people accountable for the direction NYC has gone in for the last decade. That’s why mayoral control ought to mean.
We can’t say the teachers didn’t teach when scores go badly and take the credit when scores get inflated. We can’t take pride in stopping and frisking Black and Latino youth, yet continually tell these communities that it’s what’s best for them. The citizens of NYC demand respect, as parents, as citizens, as people seeking a better way.
As a person affected by both of these initiatives, I thought to myself, “What if we stopped frisking my students and stopped and frisked education reformers with quick fix disaster plans coming into our public schools? What if we created environments that cared for our most disenfranchised?”
In the meantime, I implore all of you reading to stop and frisk those test scores. You might find, as Bloomberg did, nothing at all.
p.s. – photo courtesy of http://www.wnyc.org/i/620/372/c/80/photologue/photos/bloomberg-and-kelly-at-ground-zero__.jpg