An Empire State illusion?

Rumors that New York's state assessments are getting easier in the era of No Child Left Behind have repeatedly surfaced (see here and here). A close look at this National Center on Education Statistics report from last June indicates that proficiency "cut scores" there may have in fact dropped from 2003 to 2005 (at least in fourth-grade and eighth-grade math and reading)--explaining in part the Empire State's big test-score increases over those years. Now comes more evidence from an intrepid New York City parent (and former teacher) that a high-school mathematics test has gotten dramatically easier over the previous decade. According to Steve Koss's analysis, out of the test's 30 multiple-choice questions, a student now only has to get 13 right in order to "pass" the test. That's many fewer right answers than a student in the 1990s would have had to earn. Of course, it's possible that the questions themselves got harder--possible but not likely. At the risk of repeating ourselves: the whole testing enterprise needs a whole lot more transparency and consistency if standards-based reform is to stay afloat.

"NY State Math A Regents Exams - The Soft Bigotry (and Political Payoff) of Lowered Expectations," by Steve Koss, NYC Public School Parents Blog, January 24, 2008