The CTMirror ran a story yesterday about how some school districts have figured out that if you shift lower performing students to a Modified Assessment Test instead of the Connecticut Mastery Test, your test scores will go up, and people will think that you are” improving the quality of education” in that community.
Readers will recall that about four months ago, we examined how Hartford’s former Superintendent of Schools, Steven “where is my pension” Adamowski had used this very technique from 2006 to 2011 to push up Hartford’s test scores.
As the CTMirror story indicates;
“One of every 20 students in Connecticut is being directed to take standardized tests created for children with either severe or moderate disabilities, a significant increase in the past five years.” See http://ctmirror.com/story/16889/more-students-routed-non-high-stakes-assessments
Although the state-wide average is now one in 20, in Adamowski’s case, he moved 9.8 percent of Hartford’s lowest performing students off the Connecticut Mastery Test and to the Modified Assessment Test in just four years, thereby setting up a situation in which he could claim that he had dramatically improved test scores in Hartford. See March 21, 2012 Wait, What? post: http://jonathanpelto.com/2012/03/21/steven-adamowski-governor-malloy-and-perfecting-the-art-of-inflating-test-scores/
Unfortunately, the CTMirror story doesn’t highlight Adamowski’s record on this very topic, it does show how standardized test taking can be manipulated to make it appear that test scores are going up when, in fact, the change is being driven by changing who is actually taking the tests.
The highlight of the CTMirror story is that over the past two years, the number of students who took the Modified Assessment Test rather than the Connecticut Mastery Test has risen by 7 percent.
Robert Cotto Jr., a policy fellow and expert with Connecticut Voices for Children authored a study on this issue a few months ago. He explained to the CTMirror that “ several things could be happening: a district’s performance results are distorted, there’s an incentive to direct more students to these alternate assessments and these alternatives might be the appropriate measurement tool.”
The benefit to the state and communities of shifting students from the Connecticut Mastery Test to the Modified Assessment Test is two-fold.
First, as lower performing students stop taking the test, the scores for the remaining students go up. Second, the federal government’s “No Child Left Unbothered” law doesn’t hold states accountable for students who take the alternative test. In this way, states can get out of some of the penalties that they might otherwise face if they were actually having those special education students take the standardized test.
According to the CTMirror, the State Board of Education was informed about this “increase in participation in alternative tests,” but Department of Education officials said the decision about who takes which test is a “local decision.”
Strange that the state doesn’t have a problem with cities like Hartford moving almost one in ten students out of the Connecticut Mastery Test system but then uses the results of that same testing system to rationalize their decision to take over Bridgeport, Windham and New London.
Would the state have moved so quickly to take away the rights of those three communities if they, like Hartford, had pulled students out of the testing system sooner and made it appear they were being more successful?
And how “ironic” is it that the very person who is most experienced with pushing up test scores by maximizing this loop-hole is none other than Steve Adamowski, who is now pulling in $225,000 in state funds as the “Special Master” of Windham and New London. (Note to self – remember to check the percentage of students who are suddenly shifted out of the Connecticut Mastery Test in Windham and New London.)
As Robert Cotto, Jr. pointed out in his recent Connecticut Voices report, “some districts are routing too many students to non-high-stakes tests to skew performance results…He pointed to Hartford, where most of the noted gains are, he said, from shunting students away from the tests that count. “’It’s addition through subtraction.’”
According to the CTMirror, Stefan Pryor, Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, said he is going to look into the issue (as if he didn’t know that education reformers have been and will continue to use these types of techniques in an attempt to show policymakers and the public that their “education reforms” can immediately increase test results).