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Test Scores Rise
But...

The release of test scores in New York City has created controversy. The "good": 82% of its students passed in math, "up sharply" from 42% in 2002.

Shouldn't everyone be happy? Especially the students, teachers, and principals who got paid $50, $3,000, and $25,000 respectively for significant progress?

The problem is that the release of scores also increased opposition by critics who claim the district has an "extreme" overemphasis on developing test-taking skills at the expense of learning and critical thinking.

Even testing specialists agree that the rise in test scores is attributable in part to students’ growing comfort with test-taking (i.e. practice taking previous year's exam) and extensive practice with test-taking skills (e.g. time-allocation techniques and multiple-choice shortcuts), again at the expense of learning mathematics itself.

Fueling the opposition's case is the fact that these same students have not changed performance-wise on national exams such as NAEP, and have actually done worse on the SAT exam....plus the growing suspicions that the test vendor has recently dumbed-down the state exams.

Howard Everson, chair of the Technical Advisory Group overseeing the state testing process, said: "there was a need for greater study to certify that rising scores correspond with a gain in learning...Unfortunately, I think some of the gains that we’re seeing are probably related to test-score inflation, meaning that people are using inappropriate ways of teaching to the test. Instead of really good time spent on instruction, they’re doing a lot of test prep and drill.”

It is time to end the debate about using such tests and get back to both teaching quality mathematics and helping students learn and use the same. What happens in New York City, stays in New York City!

Source: New York Times, August 3, 2009