The New York Times reports that problems with the state's standardized tests were years in the making.
The State Education Department this summer raised the bar retroactively on English and math tests given to elementary and middle school students. Commissioner David M. Steiner said the change was necessary to bring the test results back into the realm of reality, because for too long, students' scores had been, in his words, "inflated."
Because of this change in Albany, students across the state whose results had, for years, indicated they were doing well suddenly were cast as falling below standards. And schools that had dramatically improved their scores over the past few years suddenly appeared to be falling short of the mark.
But, according to the Times, there was really nothing sudden about this, other than the fact that new leadership in the State Education Department decided to stop ignoring warning signs:
"The fast rise and even faster fall of New York’s passing rates resulted from the effect of policies, decisions and missed red flags that stretched back more than 10 years and were laid out in correspondence and in interviews with city and state education officials, administrators and testing experts.
"The process involved direct warnings from experts that went unheeded by the state, and a city administration that trumpeted gains in student performance despite its own reservations about how reliably the test gauged future student success.
"It involved the state’s decision to create short, predictable exams and to release them publicly soon after they were given, making coaching easy and depriving test creators of a key tool: the ability to insert in each test questions for future exams. Next year, for the first time, the tests will not be released publicly."