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Will Koretz Study Burst the NYC Bubble?

July 19, 2010

By Norm Fruchter

People concerned with education in New York City and State have been anxiously awaiting the release of the Daniel Koretz/Jennifer Jennings’ study of the validity and reliability of New York State’s reading and math testing program. If Mary B. Pasciak’s scoop in Wednesday’s (July 14) edition of The Buffalo News is an accurate account, Board of Regents’ Chancellor Merryl Tisch and State Education Commissioner David Steiner, who commissioned the Koretz/Jenning’s study, have pulled off a major coup. According to Pasciak’s account, the Koretz/Jennings study seems to interrogate, even invalidate, the almost miraculous rise in test score outcomes that state and city officials have been celebrating for most of the past decade.

The problems identified by the Koretz/Jennings study seem to range from test score inflation, caused by setting passing levels and cut scores too low; test predictability, caused by repeating many of the same test items from year to year; and narrowly limiting test content, which makes it easier for teachers and schools committed to “test-prep” practices to drill students on what will likely be tested. The study also seems to demonstrate that despite many students’ positive testing results in their middle and high school years, they show negative academic outcomes, including compulsory remediation, in their subsequent college careers.

The NYC Coalition for Educational Justice (CEJ), along with many NYC education advocacy groups, has persistently challenged the validity of the city’s supposed education miracle, based primarily on test score outcomes, which the Bloomberg-Klein regime has trumpeted for the past eight years. CEJ’s earliest campaigns targeted the city school system’s failure to prepare most of its students for successful entry into, and completion of, higher education. The Koretz/Jennings study seems to validate CEJ’s positions and, hopefully, will generate a more critical, less triumphalist discussion of what constitutes genuine and sustained education reform.

Chancellor Tisch and Commissioner Steiner seem to be committed to a thorough overhaul of the state’s testing program, so that it produces reliable outcomes and trustable, actionable data. Such outcomes are the necessary starting point for developing reform interventions that produce the lasting increases in academic achievement, intellectual growth, and critical capacity that all our children need and deserve.

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