War Declared on New York’s Phony Test Results

The pressure is mounting in New York to put a stop to phony test results in the aftermath of a recent study that found evidence that the tests had become too easy to pass. State education officials have declared war on the fraud.

Officials now admit that pass and proficiency standards on the tests were set too low. Merryl Tisch, the Chancellor of the New York State Board of Regents which administers education in the state, says standards will be changed. She told the New York Post this week [26 July]: “This is going to sting, but I don’t want to be responsible for the Enron of test scores.”

She said that test scores had been inflated by 20% in recent years. Yet, these inflated results were cheered by New York City mayor, Michael Bloomberg, and bragged about by Julia Gillard’s hero and mentor, Schools Chancellor Joel Klein.

Critics of New York City’s test results, such as Diane Ravitch, were pilloried by city education department officials for questioning the results. But, their criticisms have been proven.

New York City has awarded teachers and principals millions of dollars in bonuses and ranked schools on the basis of phony test scores. Some $33 million in bonuses have been given to elementary and middle school teachers and principals for meeting targets or getting high scores on school report cards. Schools have been closed and principals sacked on the basis of the results.

Improved scores on reading and mathematics tests for grade three through to grade eight have translated into A’s awarded to over 80% of schools. These test scores also determined which students got promoted and, in some cases, which ones got into selective middle and high schools. This year, the results were used to determine which teachers receive tenure.

Tisch and state Education Commissioner, David Steiner, will soon release the results of tests held earlier this year. They will require higher passing and proficiency scores so they are more aligned with national standards.

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