New York needs tougher tests that measure student progress, writes Diane Ravitch. In response to No Child Left Behind, New York made it much easier for weak students to be classified as “proficient,” she writes.
In 2006, a seventh-grade student needed to get 59.6 percent of the points on the state math test to become proficient (Level 3); by 2009, it was just 44 percent. Remember the old days when 44 percent was a failing mark? Not any more.
. . . In 2006, third-grade students had to get 43.6 percent of the points on the math test to earn a Level 2 — but by 2009, they needed to get only 28.2 percent of the points. On the English language-arts test, the cutoff to earn a Level 2 in sixth grade dropped from 41 percent of the points in 2006 to just 17.9 percent in 2009.
New York City wants to end social promotion by requiring students to reach Level 2 to move to the next grade. But students who guess blindly can do well enough to reach Level 2.
The Regents exam also has been downgraded, Ravitch writes.
To get a diploma, students must get a 65 on each of five Regents exams. Sounds tough — but it’s not anymore, thanks to the State Education Department’s statistical magic.
On the algebra Regents, a student collects a passing score of 65 if he or she earns only 34.5 percent of the possible points. On the biology exam, a “pass” requires earning only 46 percent.
Ravitch suggests giving honors, college-ready and work-ready diplomas that reflect “realistic goals for everyone, rather than a low hurdle that almost everyone can step over.”
I think this makes a lot of sense.