The Bloomberg administration’s worst week ever on the issue of education got even worse late last week when a study released by the city Independent Budget Office said a majority of students they studied showed no improvement in English Language Arts and math proficiency between third grade and sixth grade.
The study tracked more than 46,400 city students between their third-grade year and sixth-grade year — between the 2005-06 school year and the 2009-10 school year, before the state changed the way it scored the tests. According to the results the IBO released, 62 percent of students surveyed ended up at the same proficiency level in sixth grade as they were at in third grade, while just over 30 percent were at a higher level and 8 percent actually saw their proficiency level drop.
The city Department of Education quickly rejected the analysis as flawed.
“As we explained to the IBO, their research is invalid,” read a statement from the DOE. “Testing experts know that performance levels on New York State tests cannot be compared from grade to grade without additional analysis, which this study failed to complete or consider. We are surprised the IBO would issue results with this fundamental flaw.”
The IBO’s report noted that almost all of the 30 percent who did improve from third to sixth grade were among those who started at the bottom while most of the those 8 percent who dropped had started at the highest level.
Eighty percent of students who registered in Level 1, described as “not meeting standards,” and Level 2, “partially meeting standards,” improved by sixth grade. Of the 27,700 students in the survey who began at Level 3,” meeting standards, about 80 percent remained there through sixth grade. while another 20 percent improved to Level 4, described as exceeding standards.
Among those who were at Level 4, the highest level, in third grade, only 36 percent maintained that level by sixth grade, with nearly all of the remaining 64 percent dropping to Level 3.
The report acknowledged the city’s criticisms that annual tests cannot be compared to each other grade to grade without more information, but Fred Smith, author of the IBO report, said the study gives “context to the public.” The DOE pointed to another survey, one conducted by Jim Kemple of New York University and the Research Alliance for New York City Schools that countered the IBO claims. Kemple’s study used what the DOE described as “more sophisticated and appropriate methodologies” to show that most students made progress when those methodologies were applied.
UFT President Michael Mulgrew, meanwhile, said the study only encouraged his opposition to state testing and test preparation as a focus in the curriculum.
“Test prep is not an educational strategy, and in the long run it doesn’t even give you better test scores,” Mulgrew said.“If the DOE had given teachers a solid curriculum and the ability to really educate our kids, we would have seen a lot more growth in student learning.”