Arizona’s school testing future: NY Common Core results

by David Safier

The results are in from New York where students took Common Core-based tests rather than the tests the state has been administering for years. The new tests, which are similar to ones that will eventually be rolled out in Arizona, are tougher, and the significantly lower numbers are unsurprising to anyone who has been paying attention to the wonderful world of high stakes testing. In New York City, 26% of students passed the English portion of the new Common Core-based test, down from 47% on the earlier state test. In math, 30% passed, down from 60%. Remember, that's the city average, which includes students from high and low income areas. In one school in East Harlem, only 6.8% passed the English portion (down from 31%) and 9.5% passed in math (down from 44%).

And if we tightened the testing screws still further, we could bring the numbers even lower. We're racing toward a perverse inversion of the Lake Wobegon model, where we declare, "All the nation's children are below average."

Numbers like New York's will be coming to Arizona as soon as the transition to the Common Core is complete.

The test-'til-you-drop crowd is laboring under a strange misconception: Once teachers, parents and students realize what a rotten job they're all doing, they'll slap themselves on the forehead and say, "I had no idea! I'll do better, I promise!" Tests scores will soar, and we'll all live well educated ever after.

Unfortunately, the truth is far more complicated than that. For instance: Today's students actually outperform students of 40 years ago, based on the NAEP, the only test administered consistently since the 1970s; A careful comparison of our students with those in other developed countries reveal small differences between our students and comparable students elsewhere; The most reliable indicator of students' achievement isn't the schools they attend, but the income of their families; And charter schools and private schools are no more successful educationally than the much-maligned schools run by school districts here and across the country (As a matter of fact, the most recent national study shows Arizona charter school students to be significantly behind similar students being taught in schools run by public school districts).

Eventually, our obsession with high stakes test will collapse under the weight of its own failure. Meanwhile, we're preparing to trade a bad state-based testing system for the even worse national Common Core testing regimen.

5 responses to “Arizona’s school testing future: NY Common Core results

  1. Betts Putnam-Hidalgo

    Great article. Testing is indeed a mythical measure of student learning, and high stakes testing is even more so. So so many factors can come into why kids don’t do well on high stakes standardized tests, but for some of the most important of them, please read an excellent front page series in your local newspaper (Az. Daily Star) NOW.

  2. Larry Caplan

    David, I believe you are the same David Safier who moved to Portland in Summer of 1970? Last time I would have seen you and your wife would have been at my Bar Mitzvah in September of that year. My maternal grandmother, who’d passed in Oct ’69, her last name was Safier, married to Sig Weisser. Anyway, if this is you, please reply to: Thank you.

    Larry Caplan

  3. Fordham Institute, third time is the charm.

  4. For Ham Institute

  5. Massachusetts and California adopted the highest standards in the nation in 1992 and 2002 respectively (For Ham Institute). Since theses adoptoons, Massachusetts NAEP went up 19 points and CA went up 13 points.

    PARCC represents the first generation of tests that truly measure greater rigor. Taking knowledge far further than ever before, truly inspiring great teaching, not rote memorization.