School districts serious about their improvement planning relentlessly track their performance trends. This is especially true if they are investing significant time and resources implementing targeted strategies.
For example, to determine whether or not dropout prevention strategies are working, an improvement team will plot dropout rates over time. Are they trending downward? Remaining flat? Increasing?
If dropouts are decreasing, they can be confident they are seeing a return on their investment, that their strategy is robust and effective. If they are flat or increasing, they know that the strategy is weak or their execution poor.
This progress monitoring is crucial to any effective improvement effort. That is why the New York State Education Department’s (NYSED) chaotic, highly variable administration of the Grade 3 – 8 assessments is so frustrating to them. With increasing frequency, the most recent results are apples to the previous oranges or pears or lemons or kumquats.
Look at the history of the test.
- 2006: The NYSED administers the first 3 – 8 assessments.
- 2010: The four-year trend line is disrupted as NYSED implements its own, more rigorous assessments.
- 2013: The three-year trend line is disrupted as they pivot again, implementing the controversial Pearson, common-core aligned assessments.
- 2015: Some 20% of students opt out of the Pearson assessments. The data is, therefore, not reliable or comparable year-to-year. No trend line forms.
- 2016: There will be no new baseline as the NYSED administers the shorter, Pearson “lite” assessment for one year.
- 2017: There will be a new baseline with the administration of the Questar assessments and the “slow” roll out of online testing. Only time will tell if this baseline produces a trend.
Who can guess what 2018 will bring. If we assume smooth sailing, though, here’s the best case scenario: New York’s school districts must wait until the summer of 2019 to get an accurate assessment of the effectiveness of their ELA and math strategies and resource allocation decisions.
And that’s a real shame for those many districts across the state that are serious about disciplined improvement planning.