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22 Sep 2006 - 18:32
Headline in the TIMES today: N.Y. English Scores Drop Sharply in 6th Grade. There's a link inside the story that allows you to see the pass/fail scores for every county and district in the state. The news in Irvington is the same lousy news everywhere: our 8th graders do worse than our 4th graders on the tests — which, as we've seen, aren't hard. Tests available in pdf form here: 2006 English Language Arts Grade 3-8 Tests
UPDATE: wrong. The 8th grade math test isn't hard; the 8th grade ELA test is hard. My eyes are crossing, looking at zillions of numbers arrayed across many separate documents - where is Edward Tufte when we need him? However, as far as I can tell at the moment, students in most or all Group 17 schools show a drop in 4s on the 8th grade ELA test. Our assistant superintendent for curriculum characterizes the test as "unnecessarily difficult" - his words - which isn't something I want to hear from the number 2 person in the district. I don't see where a sentiment like "Our kids hose the test because it's too hard" merits a 6-figure salary. Nevertheless, I've taken a quick look at the test, and it does look hard. The difference between me and the assistant superintendent for curriculum is: a) nobody pays me $200,000-250,000 a year (est.) plus benefits plus pension to say the test is hard b) my husband and I will set a goal of teaching Christopher enough subject matter content knowledge and writing skill to achieve a 4
pass rates (combined scores of 3 "meets standards" and 4 "exceeds standards") 3rd grade: 92% pass
4th grade: 96% pass
5th grade: 92% pass
6th grade: 95% pass
7th grade: 90% pass
8th grade: 78% pass
And of course the real decline is masked by this data, which aggregates 3s and 4s. Affluent Irvington kids start out higher than low-SES kids and have farther to fall before they hit the 2s. A friend of ours back in Hollywood used to say, "Everyone goes broke at his own level." It's true. Irvington kids — too many of them — go broke at their own level. They start out high, then decline to the middle. The same class of children in which 44% of students scored a 4 on the ELA in 4th grade (2001) was down to just 22% scoring 4 in 8th (2005). No one is talking about it.
UPDATE 9-29-2006: correction. The Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum, salary circa $200,000 per year, perhaps more (est), is talking about it. The grade 8 test is "unnecessarily difficult." Our scores on the grade 8 test don't matter because everyone passes the Regents exam in grade 11. As asst. supt. puts it, "In the 11th grade they're back."
I get fliers home in the backpack every day. Safety, wellness, character ed. Field trips to Stone Barns. Teachers out of the classroom all day long to be trained for the field trip to Stone Barns. Etc.
what's happening in Dobbs Ferry? Meanwhile the real shocker for me was: what's going on in Dobbs Ferry? Dobbs Ferry is next door to us; we live closer to the Dobbs Ferry middle school than to our own. I'd been feeling martyred on that very point, because a few years back the Dobbs Ferry Middle School brought in an International Baccalaureate program. I stopped feeling martyred when I discovered that the IB program has been fully constructivized at the lower levels. See here, here, here, and here. The story on how IB came to Dobbs Ferry, and I have no way of knowing how true this is, is that in the 1990s Dobbs hired a superintendent who brought in open classrooms to the middle school and a sweeping commitment to neoprogressive education across the district. That's the word on the street. The worst disaster was the middle school. People began pulling their kids out & sending them to private school; parents looking for houses in Westchester chose to buy in other towns. Housing prices dropped and have yet to recover. That last part I know is true, because friends of ours bought a house just a year or so ago and reported that the same house in Dobbs is less expensive than in Irvington. Finally the neoprogressive superintendent moved on and a new superintendent brought in the IB program. Which is a radical constructivist program. Meet the new boss. So what does the Dobbs decline look like?
3rd grade 85% pass
4th grade 84% pass
5th grade 87% pass
6th grade 78% pass
7th grade 70% pass
8th grade 70% pass
UPDATE 9-29-2006 On second look, Dobbs may have a more pronounced decline in scores, but they seem consistently to outscore Irvington students.
District Performance for Dobbs Ferry Union Free School District (pdf file)
District Performance for Irvington Union Free School District (pdf file)
[pause for further pdf-file perusing] good grief Hastings (pdf file) is beating the stuffing out of us.
ELA scores of 4, grade 8, Hastings-on-Hudson
March 2002: Irvington: 31% Hastings: 52%
January 2003: Irvington: 8% Hastings: 34%
January 2004: Irvington: 32% Hastings: 50%
January 2005: Irvington: 24% Hastings: 42%
the future I think it's fair to say that our new administration can be characterized as radical constructivist in approach and philosophy:
The District’s 3 year Strategic Plan, approved by the Board of Education in Spring 2005, is in its first year of implementation this year. Ongoing progress towards the attainment of the five districtwide goals is continually monitored by key individuals and/or committees.
the 5 goals:
Goal I - The biggest task of this committee .... has been to identify a K-12 ELA curriculum and/or approach to be implemented in 2006-07. In recent meetings, a decision was made to begin with a focus on the K-12 writing program next year.This will involve bringing in the constructivist professional development company A.U.S.S.I.E., an expensive vendor that has been a source of controversy in New York City. (see the AUSSIE folks here) It will not involve improving students' content knowledge, which as in so many areas turns out to be the essential ingredient in good writing. To write well students need broad content knowledge. More on this later.
Goal II - This committee ... developed and administered a survey this year for teachers to report their understanding and comfort levels in the use of data analysis, differentiated instruction, and portfolio implementation, three areas of focus in the District’s Strategic Plan. Goal III – Since the 2004-05 school year, a K-12 committee comprised of PPS staff and administration from all buildings have been meeting to develop character education principles as well as a common language and expectations districtwide. This year, with PTSA funding, the No Put Downs program, introduced at Main Street School in 2004-05 was expanded to include Dows Lane School. Through IEF funding, secondary character education programs are also in place. Among Goal 3’s objectives is community outreach. To this end, one of our District’s new and exciting initiatives this year has been related to wellness. A broad-based committee has been working hard to assess our strengths and “opportunities for improvement” vis-à-vis the eight modules in the CDC’s School Health Indices. In a report that was recently presented to the Board, we have much of which to be proud. As expected, however, there is always more that can be done. The committee’s next step is to develop a clearly articulated, comprehensive Action Plan that delineates next steps as well as implementation and evaluation details. Goal IV – Committee chairpersons ... co-chair quarterly District Technology Committee (DTC) meetings and oversee the implementation of the 3 year Technology Plan, approved by the Board in 2005....purchase 110 new computers.... At the March 21, 2006 Technology Expo, staff and students demonstrated current uses of technology throughout the District. New cutting edge technologies that may be considered in the future were also featured by vendors. A request for legislative monies to purchase and install up to 25 new Smart Boards.... Goal V – ....updated 5 year Capital Plan was approved by the Board of Education....
And that's it, the 5-year plan. Writing, data warehousing/differentiated instruction/portfolio assessment, character education, technology, & buildings. Content knowledge is absent; student achievement isn't mentioned. The hallmarks of neoprogressivism are:
That's us. My question is: ten years from now, will our scores look like Dobbs'? UPDATE 9-29-2006 answer: no (see above)
* Ed ran into a friend of ours last year who told him everyone in his neighborhood was upset with the district. Half of them were upset because the district was teaching to the test; the other half were upset because the scores aren't great. He himself was swinging back and forth between the two and couldn't make up his mind.
fourth grade slump
NY scores slump
invention of middle school & EM in Schaumberg
Is middle school bad for kids?
linking hs scores to grade school
Brian Lehrer Show on NYC scores 2005
NY scores 2006
-- CatherineJohnson - 22 Sep 2006 Back to main page.
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