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June 12, 2009
New York's annual math tests are repeating themselves
A Daily News report this week cast doubt on the validity of the state's math scores. A major problem the News pointed to is that the math tests seem to repeat themselves, broken-record style, making it easy for teachers to coach their students on how to give correct answers — without necessarily understanding the underlying math. A second problem is that the tests may be getting easier over time, the story said. Here's a graphical portrait of what this means in practice, courtesy of Jennifer Jennings, the doctoral student at Columbia University whose analysis informed the News's story. A math question seventh-graders answered in 2009: A math question for seventh-graders in 2008: And finally a question from the same test's 2007 version, assessing the same concept, but in a much more difficult way:
April 30, 2009
Saying discharges are up, report demands grad rate audit
Six years after Schools Chancellor Joel Klein vowed to crack down on a bureaucratic loophole that allowed principals to hide students' failure to graduate high school, a new report (PDF) suggests that the loophole remains open and may be growing wider. The report calls for closer study of the students classified as "discharges" — departures from the system, but not dropouts — through steps including a state audit. The report says that 21 percent of students who entered high school in 2003 both never graduated and were never counted as dropouts, instead falling into a category known as "discharges." The percentage was up from 17.5 percent among the Class of 2000. The rate is especially high among special education students, and includes a remarkable jump in 2005, when the special education discharge rate shot up to 36 percent from 23 percent in a single year. Students classified as discharges can include those who left the school system for legitimate reasons, such as moving to another state, deciding to enroll in an outside G.E.D. program, or death. But some advocates have argued that principals can also misuse the discharge code, entering students who simply dropped out in order to inflate their graduation rate artificially. A recent audit of 12 high schools in New York State by the state comptroller, Thomas DiNapoli, found that high schools classified students as G.E.D. discharges who did not actually enroll in a G.E.D. program. "As a result," DiNapoli's audit concluded, "the report cards understated the number and percentage of dropouts and overstated the percentage of graduates for some of the schools we reviewed." The audit did not probe any New York City high schools. Two persistent critics of the Bloomberg administration compiled the report: the executive director of Class Size Matters, Leonie Haimson, and a Ph.D. candidate at Columbia University, Jennifer Jennings. Jennings was the author of the now-defunct Eduwonkette blog, whose analysis of New York City education data became (as I reported) a thorn in the Bloomberg administration's side. The report is being released at a press conference this morning held by a third critic, the city's public advocate, Betsy Gotbaum. City school officials were already disputing the report's claims yesterday, before it had been released.
February 18, 2009
Australian TV profiles Klein, challenging some of his boasts
View the TV program ##http://video.sbs.com.au/player/news/index.php?mmid=31566&chid=13##here##. A new television look at Joel Klein’s reforms airing in Australia paints a mixed picture of the results for schools.
December 22, 2008
NYU's Tobias on city school trends since 2002: It's no miracle
One highlight of the mayoral control panel put together by the parent commission Friday night was testimony by Robert Tobias, the former city testing czar and now New York University professor. Tobias has often been quoted expressing concerns that the Bloomberg administration inflates its record of educational improvement. But the analysis Tobias presented Friday, explaining exactly what progress he thinks happened ("real" improvements in math) and what he thinks did not (any narrowing of a longstanding gap between the state and city students' scores on reading tests), was the most succinct summary I've ever heard him deliver — not to mention a striking counterpoint to the sanguine evaluations of Chancellor Joel Klein, Mayor Bloomberg, and even Caroline Kennedy. Here's what Tobias said: Tobias also tempered the fact of the improvements in math scores with a warning about score inflation, the phenomenon by which test-prepping, in his words, can "undermine" the meaningfulness of the test as an indicator of what students know, versus how well they have been prepped. (Harvard Graduate School of Education's Daniel Koretz has written the most on score inflation that I know of. For more on the topic, see this story I wrote for the Sun and these posts by Eduwonkette.) Tobias's remarks on score inflation are below the jump. Thanks to David Bellel for sending me the video.
December 22, 2008
A gifted program in a poor area fights to survive, via test prep
When the city last year centralized admissions standards for gifted and talented programs, setting a single standard for all city programs, one goal was to…
December 4, 2008
Joel Klein joins Facebook
My favorite part is that he is using a graphic made by Eduwonkette as his profile picture. He told me he picked it…
November 12, 2008
Gates announcement A-list, continued: So many power players!
SEATTLE — Here's an update to the who's-who list I started yesterday, name-checking the notable people here in Seattle for the Gates Foundation's announcement. It really is remarkable to have so many players in one place. I guess the prospect of dinner at the Gates family estate, which was offered to all guests Monday night (plus a romp on the family trampoline, says Eduwonk) was hard to pass up. Or is it that Bill Gates is more powerful than even the U.S. Education Secretary (see Skoolboy at Eduwonkette: "Bill Gates, U.S. Superintendent of Schools")? Below the jump, and in no particular order, the list. I've added links this time so you can read more about these people. Warning: One link will direct you to a MySpace page with loud gospel music. This will not be an error. UPDATE: Jim Hunt, the former North Carolina governor and a mentioned name for Education Secretary, was physically in Seattle; he did not teleconference.
November 11, 2008
Graph illustrates demographic shift at specialized high schools
Graph by ##http://eduwonkette.org##Eduwonkette##. Sociologist Jennifer Jennings (who blogs as Eduwonkette) graphed a change in demographics at the city’s eight specialized high schools, providing…
November 3, 2008
Contest update: Brat Pack is not the answer, but we're close!
I've been getting a lot of ideas for what to call the nameless movement personified by Jon Schnur. The good news is that I think the descriptions are getting a lot more precise. The consensus points I see emerging: This set of reformers puts a primacy on data; is obsessive about getting rid of bad teachers, and views the democratic political process as a barrier. They are also young and bratty. We are getting closer, but I do not think we are there yet. I define "there" as the moment at which you the readers have delivered me a single adjective that I can slap before "reformer" without feeling a twinge of remorse. So, please send more entries! As you brainstorm adjectives, the best of the suggestions so far, which I've compiled below and which include superstar entrants including Joel Klein and Diane Ravitch, may help.
September 22, 2008
Eduwonkette: Progress report grades "dominated by random variation"
Columbia sociologists Jennifer Jennings and Aaron Pallas (also known as Eduwonkette and her sidekick, skoolboy) take a long, hard, statistical look at…
August 25, 2008
Introducing Jennifer Jennings
The education blog world is kicking off this last week before school starts by extending a warm welcome to Jennifer Jennings, the blogger…
July 30, 2008
Scale score data released for NYC ELA and Math tests
After some back and forth between bloggers and the DOE press office, NYC has released scale scores and standard deviations broken down…
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