The NY Opt Out and “Invalidated” Scores
In April 2015, approximately 20 percent of students in New York State opted out of the state’s tests in grades 3 through 8.
An August 12, 2015, Syracuse.com article opens as follows:
A large number of students opting out of New York state exams – about 220,000 or 20 percent – raises doubt about the validity of the results and may make them unsuitable to evaluate teachers or schools, according to a Syracuse University professor.
The problem with such a statement is that under no conditions is it a valid use of student test scores to evaluate teachers or schools.
The students are the test takers; these tests purportedly measure their achievement. There is no way to account for all of the possible variables that would enable the New York State Education Department (NYSED) to accurately evaluate teachers and schools using student test scores.
If NYSED could do so– if that $2.7 million it paid to American Institutes for Research (AIR) for the state’s value-added modeling (VAM) teacher evaluation system yielded a product that were really so accurate– then surely NYSED would publicize the details of its VAM calculations.
As it is, New York teachers are kept in the dark about those AIR-created, $2.7 million VAM calculation details– and apparent VAM capriciousness has resulted in a critical lawsuit from teacher Sheri Lederman– who was rated a 14 out of 20 on her “student growth” VAM component in 2012-13 and then 1 out of 20 via VAM in 2013-14.
The VAM stakes are higher for New York teachers in 2015-16, raised from 20 percent of the total teacher evaluation to 50 percent.
Again, this nonsense of grading teachers and schools using student scores was never a valid use of student tests.
Meanwhile, student opt outs in New York are only likely to increase in 2015-16 as parents seek to have their discontent with test-centric education– dare I write– validated by state legislators and education officials.
But it will be a fight: New York education officials confuse student learning with test score gains and apparently cannot comprehend any means of determining student learning absent cutting a multi-million-dollar testing company check.
Take NY education commissioner MaryEllen Elia, who is in “conversations” with the US Department of Education (USDOE) over possibly sanctioning NY districts that had high opt-out numbers. NY is at USDOE mercy via its No Child Left Behind (NCLB) waiver.
And yet, a revision of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) is in the works, with the Senate version having a rule of construction on opting out in which the feds basically toss opt-out decisions back to the states, and the House version including a blanket opt-out provision that is not dependent upon the state’s position on the matter.
So, NY’s NCLB waiver promising that “all students” will test is travelling ever closer to moot.
Then there is NY Regents chancellor Merryl Tisch. Indeed, in keeping with her unwillingness to forsake test scores as the ultimate measure of student achievement, Tisch vows to try to talk the public into “the value of the tests”:
Without an annual testing program, the progress of our neediest students may be ignored or forgotten….
Tisch holds New York teachers in high esteem. Without annual testing, those imbecilic New York teachers whose careers aren’t iced by an erratic VAM score will purposely ignore “the neediest students”– or simply suffer some sort of short-term memory loss and neglect to teach them.
It must be a special form of memory loss honed in on only “the neediest students.”
What is ironic is that the NYSED press release still includes details on the testing outcomes for student subgroups who chose to opt in.
New York’s public school Class of 2022 is supposed to pass Regents exams that are Common-Core-aligned.
That’s seven more years for parents to register their *valid* discontent with the NYSED/Regents plan.