New York

King won't change cut score advice for new Common Core tests

Contrasting his administration to previous ones, which have been criticized for inflating state test scores, State Education Commissioner John King agreed to accept proficiency bars recommended by a committee of educators with no revisions, as captured in this simple slide. Commissioner John King pledged this week to accept the "cut scores" recommended to him by a committee of educators, one of the final steps remaining before the state releases results from the state tests. Cut scores determine the number of right answers students need on state English and math tests to be deemed proficient in the subjects. The announcement at this month's Board of Regents meeting came in the middle of a detailed 46-page slideshow presentation outlining how the "cut score" recommendations were made. But while the other slides were packed with numbers, graphs, and paragraphs, King's 10-word acceptance of the standards got its own simple slide: "The Commissioner accepted recommendations from Day 5 with no changes." (The full slideshow is below the jump.) The flourish was a signal of the new transparency the department is trying to project around test scoring. In 2009, under then-Commissioner Richard Mills, dramatic improvements on state tests that had been seen as signs of academic progress across the state came under scrutiny for being inflated — not representing actual learning gains. The inflation seems to have been the result of several factors, including focused test prep by teachers who became increasingly familiar with the tests. But at least one observer, Sol Stern, has reported that state officials might have deliberately inflated results by lowering cut scores so that more students would be deemed proficient. Commissioners do not have to accept the recommendations of the committee of educators that suggests where to set the scores.
New York

A year after NewsCorp doomed school data deal, SED tries again

A year after the state comptroller canceled a no-bid contract for a statewide student data system, the State Education Department has announced new contracts for the delayed project. Four companies were awarded parts of a $50 million federal grant to develop the infrastructure for an "education data portal" that would serve as a hub of information for schools and teachers. One of the subcontractors is Wireless Generation, the company that lost the original $27 million contract. The portal is meant to allow educators to track and use student performance data and exchange information about curriculum and instructional practices across the state. It was one of several new initiatives the state vowed to carry out in its 2010 application for the federal Race to the Top funding competition, in which New York netted $700 million. "The Education Data Portal is an integral element of the Regents reform agenda and was an essential component of New York’s Race to the Top application," said Education Commissioner John B. King, Jr., in a statement. The state's Race to the Top application promised to roll out the data system in October 2012 — two months from now. By a year from now, the portal was to serve 90 percent of the state’s intended audience, according to the Race To The Top application. That timeline suffered a significant setback last year when state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli rejected the $27 million contract that was given exclusively to Wireless Generation, the Brooklyn-based education software developer.