Archive for July, 2010

Assessing the fallout on assessment results

July 30th, 2010 by Robert Lowry

Media reporting on the release of grades 3 through 8 state assessment results included a lot of criticism of how the State Education Department handled the implementation of adjusting cut scores – doing it after the tests had been given, or changing the rules after the game had begun, as some characterized the action.

Most of the criticism came from educators.  See the Buffalo News, Middletown Times-Herald Record, and Newsday (paid subscription required), for example.

But the Syracuse Post-Standard also published a harsh editorial.

At the same time, most newspaper editorials have praised the Department’s action in acknowledging testing flaws and moving to set higher standards.  Here is what the New York Times had to say.

The Council tried to draw attention to additional points:  Actual student scores did not decline — there was not a fall-off in school performance, school leaders support higher standards, and the state has much more work to do to help schools and students succeed in meeting higher standards.

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A second chance for NYS in Race to the Top

July 29th, 2010 by Robert Lowry

As we reported earlier, New York State was chosen as a finalist in the second-chance competition for a share of the federal government’s $4.3 billion Race to the Top competition.

I would have been stunned had New York not made it this far this time.

If there was a surprise in the selections, it is that the U.S. Education Department advanced more than half the states submitting applications to the finalist stage.  Eighteen states and the District of Columbia were chosen.

The federal Department picked all the states which made it to the finals last time but did not win funding (including New York) and five new states.

Since coming up short in phase 1, New York has acted to advance its standing in addressing several of the RTTT priorities:

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State releases grades 3-8 test results; Council reacts

July 28th, 2010 by Robert Lowry

Today the State Education Department released results on the grades 3 through 8 math and English language arts assessments which incorporate an upward adjustment of the “cut scores” students need to reach to be deemed meeting standards.

As expected, the percentages of students meeting standards dropped sharply.

At the same time, the average scale scores earned by students were roughly the same as last year, indicating that the decline in “passing” rates was attributable chiefly to raising the standard, rather than a decline in student or school performance.

The Department’s news release and power point presentation on the results are available here, as is a link to the news conference conducted by Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch, Commissioner David Steiner, and Senior Deputy Commissioner John King.

The Council’s statement follows.

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New York chosen as Race to the Top finalist

July 27th, 2010 by Robert Lowry

Education Week and others are reporting that New York and seventeen other states plus the District of Columbia have been chosen today as second round finalists in the federal Race to the Top competition.

More on this to come…

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NYSUT-only retirement incentive upheld by court

July 27th, 2010 by Robert Lowry

Last Friday (July23), the constitutionality of the NYSUT-only “55-25″ retirement incentive was upheld in State Supreme Court.

The group which brought the suit (the Empire State Supervisors and Administrators Association) can appeal the decision.  For reasons which have always eluded me, “Supreme” Court is the lowest of the three tiers in the state court system.

The decision is available here.

The Teachers Retirement System says this about the challenge:

“As of this writing it is not known whether this decision will be appealed. The payment of the unreduced retirement benefit to eligible members who retired pursuant to Chapter 45 will be subject to the final outcome of any appellate process. Please watch the NYSTRS Web site for news of any further developments. Members considering retirement under Chapter 45 may wish to consult with their collective bargaining representative and/or attorney.”

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Race to the Top 2nd chance finalists to be announced today — revised

July 27th, 2010 by Robert Lowry

Today New York and other states seeking a share of federal Race to the Top education reform funding find out whether they have made it to the final round.

U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan will announce the finalists in a speech at 12:30 1 pm today at the National Press Club in Washington.

You can watch the speech live here and read the announcement here when it is posted — expected to be around 1 pm.

I’ll be surprised if something doesn’t leak out before noon, however.

I expect that New York will be among the finalists.  So does an Education Week blogger.

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SED invites comments on Teaching Standards

July 21st, 2010 by Robert Lowry

Today, the State Education Department began inviting comments on proposed “Teaching Standards.”

A cover note from from Joseph Frey, SED’s deputy commissioner for higher education, explains that the standards will,

form the foundation of a cohesive system to prepare, select, develop, and retain teachers who are effective in improving learning for all students. These standards will be the basis for teacher preparation programs, assessments for certification, annual professional performance reviews, and professional/career development plans for New York teachers.

The Department will be seeking comments through August 16.  Readers may view the cover note and draft standards and complete a response form here.

We encourage our readers to offer reactions, either via the Department’s response form or by sending them to us.

This initiative commenced before legislation was enacted to alter teacher and principal evaluation and support the state’s application for federal Race to the Top funding.  Nonetheless, these standards are referenced in the new law and would be applied under it.

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Toward tests worth teaching to

July 21st, 2010 by Robert Lowry

I am not a professional educator by background.  I worked on education policy for the State Assembly and Governor Cuomo, then went to work for New York State United Teachers in 1996 and moved to the Council of School Superintendents in 2002.

Coming out of the Capitol to work more intensively with educators – teachers and superintendents – I was surprised by how positive they were toward the state’s efforts to raise standards and help all students to meet them.

To be sure, both groups routinely quarreled with Commissioner Mills and the Regents over some of the specifics in translating aspiration into policy.

But my sense was that they predominantly embraced the idea that “all means all,” and drew energy from the mission of  at last giving all students access to a meaningful curriculum and striving to help all meet its expectations.

Now there is justifiable concern over how a change in cut scores will affect grades 3 through 8 test results for students and schools and how those scores will be reported and received, especially in this time of extreme financial challenges.

But I draw some hope for the long haul based on our past experience.

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National standards being adopted as state standards; both get graded

July 21st, 2010 by Robert Lowry

A couple pieces on the movement toward “common core,” quasi-national standards…

Today’s New York Times reports on movement by states to adopt the standards, one of the elements in Washington’s $4.5 billion “Race to the Top” competition.  States which agree to the standards gain points.

The Times reports that 27 states have adopted the standards since they were finalized by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers two months ago.

New York is among those states.  The Board of Regents approved the standards this past Monday.

Also today, the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation (no connection to Fordham University) issued a report grading state and national standards.

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Regents endorse adjusting cut scores for 3 through 8 state tests

July 19th, 2010 by Robert Lowry

As expected, the state Board of Regents today endorsed Education Commissioner David Steiner’s rationale for adjusting “cut scores” on the state’s grade 3-8 math and English assessments.

A news release from the State Education Department explains that the decision is “…based on research that clearly suggests the need to more accurately indicate ‘proficiency’ on those exams.”

School, district, and statewide results from these tests will be released during the week of July 26.

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