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Testing expert Fred Smith first called attention to the mysterious disappearance of three questions from New York state’s Common Core tests last year. Then the New York Post published an article confirming the unexplained elimination of questions, but determined that four questions were dropped, not just three. When the scores were announced last fall, then-State Commissioner John King boasted that the scores were rising, confirming his belief that raising the bar would lead to higher achievement every year until one day all children would be proficient. Now we know that there was no score increase in ELA, that the reported “gains” resulted from the deletion of four questions that most students found confusing and either skipped or answered incorrectly. I spoke this morning to a high-level official in Albany, who told me that the scores last year did not increase, contrary to the Commissioner’s assertion. Now we know why. Had those missing questions been counted, my informant said, the scores would have declined or remained flat.
King now works directly for Arne Duncan at the U.S. Department of Education. One of Duncan’s favorite refrains is that “we have been lying to our children,” by telling them they are meeting grade-level expectations, when in reality, their performance is rotten. Why does he want parents to believe that their children are doing terribly and their public schools are no good? Why does he defend standards and tests that fail 70% of students? Well, he has made clear by his words and deeds that he prefers charter schools to public schools, and that he admires the policy of closing public schools and firing the entire staff to “turn around” schools, so the “failure” narrative serves his policy goals. Given the revelations about Common Core testing in New York, who is lying to our children?
At some point, the public will get wise and realize that the passing marks on standardized tests are arbitrary, the scoring on written responses is graded by temps hired from Craigs List, and government officials can spin the data to achieve rising scores or falling scores, whatever serves their political interest best.