Today’s Courant headline reads – “State Keeps Lid On Mastery Test Scores.”
Wait, What? Does that mean the State of Connecticut won’t release the results of this year’s Master Test results?
No, instead watch for a Friday press conference where Governor Dan Malloy and Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor can attempt to take credit for what appear to be the higher test scores that students got on this year’s Connecticut Mastery Tests.
For background, in March of each year, the “teaching to the test” approach to American Education reaches its crescendo as Connecticut students stop practicing taking standardized tests and actually spend two weeks taking Connecticut’s barrage of tests.
After spending millions to design, buy and score the tests, the results arrive in mid-July of each year.
Connecticut’s results are in and it turns out Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor, informed school districts that the results were “embargoed” until this Friday.
Embargoed is a term used in public relations to tell people, especially in the media, that they can look at something, but can’t write a news story about it until the embargo ends. It’s a technique used to make sure that the right people get credit for some piece of news.
Now, true the results are a matter of public record, and must be released, but in the world of politics, where the medium is the message, political positioning is reality and reality is the product of positioning.
So, as the Courant wrote, “state education officials were tight-lipped Tuesday about when they will release this year Connecticut Mastery Test scores, but at least two districts eager to brag about their results are jumping the state’s embargo.”
Turns out Hartford and Bloomfield couldn’t contain themselves and started talking about the test results before the Governor and Commissioner could ensure that they were the ones to announce the “good news.”
In this case, the good news is that the Mastery Test scores appear to be up over last year.
What a great tribute to Governor Malloy who said during last spring’s “Education Reform” debate that he didn’t mind schools “teaching to the test as long as the test scores go up.”
Imagine the celebrating that must be going on within the “Education Reform” community.
Just last February, Governor Malloy proposed the most anti-teacher, anti-union education reform package of any Democrat in the nation. After months of debate, a somewhat water-downed version of the bill passed that places even greater emphasis on standardized testing. And just weeks after the bill becomes law — voila — test scores are up!
(Don’t tell anyone that the tests were taken before the bill passed.)
Of course, it remains unclear what is behind the increasing scores. In Florida, when far too many kids failed that state’s standardized tests this year, their state board of education had to meet in an emergency session and change the scoring system to ensure that students appeared to do better.
And here in Connecticut, we know, thanks to Steven Adamowski, Hartford’s former superintendent of schools, who presently serves as Malloy’s “Special Master” for the Windham and New London schools that when you keep one out of every ten students from taking the Connecticut Mastery Tests, your test scores go up, as long as the 10 percent are the lowest performing students.
So who knows…
Maybe the test scores are really up.
Or maybe some towns have figured out a new way to beat the system.
Or maybe the work that teachers engage in every day actually has an impact.
The one thing we do know is that later this week we’ll see politicians attempt to take credit for the “development”…
Oh, and not this week, but soon, we’ll see Hartford and Bloomfield punished for “jumping the gun” on the “good news.”
For the Hartford Courant article on the issue go to: http://www.courant.com/news/education/hc-mastery-tests-friday-0718-20120717,0,1009454,print.story
One of Diane Ravitch’s blog posts today deals with this very subject;
We have known for some years that the scoring of state tests is easily gamed. In fact, proficiency rates don’t tell us much, because state officials may raise or lower the passing score for political reasons. It happened in New York for years, when the proportion of students passing the state tests went up and up until it collapsed in 2010 as a result of an independent investigation. The state officials enjoyed their annual press conferences where they announced annual too-good-to-be-true gains. And they were too good to be true. They were fake. When the fraud was revealed, there was no accountability. No one admitted having done the dirty deeds. No heads rolled. Accountability is for “the little people,” as real estate queen Leona Helmsley once said about paying taxes. In education, the little people are teachers and principals. At the top–at state departments of education–heads don’t roll. They crown themselves and use their exalted position to blame those who are far, far below them. Think “Yertle, the Turtle.”
An important new study at the University of Indiana sheds new light on the validity of state scores. This study found that rising scores on the state tests did not correlate with improved performance on the ACT. In fact, students at “declining” schools did just as well and sometimes better than students where the scores were going up.
Consider the ACT an audit exam.
Consider the state tests an invalid way of measuring student achievement and an invalid way of judging students, teachers, and schools. Consider them an invalid way of closing schools and awarding bonuses and firing people.
When students are prepped and prepped and prepped to pass the state tests, they aren’t necessarily better educated, just prepared to take a specific test. Too much prepping distorts the value of the test.
When your measure is invalid, don’t use it for rewards and punishments.
Perhaps if we used these exams appropriately, just for information, they might begin to have some value. As high-stakes, their validity is corrupted, as Campbell’s Law predicts.