Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Mad Scientists at Tweed

Let's say you're a scientist. You've got a great hypothesis on how to end world hunger and global warming at the same time by using carbon emissions to fetilize crops. You go to the chalkboard and work out all the calculations. The data are flawless! It will work! You'll go on to win the Nobel prize! And then, when you show your data to the other scientists to gain their support, they point out to you that every time you were supposed to divide by three, you divided by eight instead, and all that your calculations prove is that it's bad to inhale too much chalk dust. What should you do? If you're an ethical scientist, you admit your error, and go back to the drawing board.

Which is the exact opposite of what the DOE does.

The DOE collected scads of data on student and teacher performance from the NYS ELA tests. Then they discovered that...oops!...the tests were far too easy. So easy, in fact, that a child could pass them by filling out random bubbles. An ethical DOE would throw out that data, admit that it doesn't really mean anything, and go back to the drawing board to try to find some more meaningful metric.

Instead, the DOE has created Teacher Data Reports. If you haven't seen them, they are meant to tell teachers how they measure up against other teachers. The problem, of course, is that the data are meaningless, which pretty much means that any conclusions drawn from that data are horse puckey.

So how it works is this: The DOE gives a test to kids in one grade. The test is fatally flawed. Then, the DOE gives another fatally flawed test the following year. They create something called "value added", which shows how much a teacher helped a child progress had the tests been valid, which they were not. These reports will be used to determine tenure, and, coming soon to a school near you, they will be used to evaluate all teachers.

On the positive side, these reports are great for fertilizing crops. I don't think they'll end world hunger, though.


Anonymous said...

More fertilizer from the DOA, today they released the graduation rates for city students way up to 59%. Pure fertilizer, meaningless diploma's in many instances. The legacy of this administration will come to fruition years after the mess they made and they will long be gone but never forgotten.

Ms. NoExcuses said...

Wait a second, where and how do you have info about how the DOE knows how easy and flawed the tests were? Is there and article somewhere about how a kid could pass by filling in random bubbles? If you have anything, please send it my way. I will do some research, but, I am a 7th grade ELA teacher. So, while I know this to be true & I hate the tests for exactly this reason, I would love to have some concrete evidence to spread around my department - and anonymously put in my principals mailbox :)

Mr. Talk said...

Sure...here you go: http://www.nydailynews.com/ny_local/2009/08/12/2009-08-12_standardized_tests_being_passed_just_by_guessing.html