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Intriguing alternative to rating schools by tests

I have to question my own judgment and fairmindedness when I ignore--for three years!-- a report that raises important questions about the way we have been using test scores to rate schools.

I have always been open to better ways of assessing how our children are taught. But I usually say standardized tests are the best available tool at the moment. So I am embarrassed that it took me so long to read “Keeping Accountability Systems Accountable” by Martha Foote, published in the Phi Delta Kappan education journal in January 2007.

I am indebted to the Monty Neill, executive director of Fairtest: The National Center for Fair and Open Testing, for pointing me toward the article and its author. Foote is director of research for the New York Performance Standards Consortium, which she describes in her article as “a coalition of 28 small, diverse public high schools across New York State that exemplify education reform based on strong commitment to school-as-community, to ongoing professional development, and to innovative curricula and teaching strategies.” That sounds good to me, but it gets better.

“Recognizing that their students learn best when actively engaged, consortium schools typically use inquiry-based methods of learning with classrooms steeped in discussion, project-based assignments, and student choice. Consortium schools are also committed to using complex, performance-based assessments to gauge student learning, with four specific performance tasks required of all students for graduation.”

They are using assessment methods developed from those first pioneered by Deborah Meier and her colleagues at the Central Park East Secondary School in the 1970s. These days, each consortium student must complete “an analytic literary essay, a social studies research paper, an original science experiment, and the application of higher-level mathematics," Foote said.

What I liked about Meier’s assessments, and these, is that they do not depend entirely on the judgments of teachers who might be tempted, at least subconsciously, to give students they know and love better grades than they deserve, and undercut the school's standards. As Foote says, not only are consortium school tasks “graded with detailed rubrics by teachers,” but “through an additional layer of accountability, by external evaluators, constitute a major portion of the consortium’s assessment system.”

I have been influenced by teachers who feel their power to assess their own students and cover up their own mistakes or low standards is a weakness in our secondary school system. One of the great strengths of high school programs like Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate and the Advance International Certificate of Education is that outside experts write and grade the final exams. So the consortium's use of external evaluators makes sense.

I was vaguely aware that the consortium assessed students like that because I knew its connection to Meier, whose Harlem school I had visited and with whom I have exchanged many emails. What escaped me was the fact that the consortium schools were producing better results than similar schools being assessed by standardized tests.

In her article, Foote presented college performance data for consortium graduates. This kind of information that will hopefully, someday, be the gold standard for deciding which high schools are doing their jobs. Each year all 28 consortium schools are invited to ask their seniors to let their college records be examined. Foote examined documents for the class of 2001, when 18 of the 28 schools cooperated with the survey, and 2002, when 15 of the 28 participated. The average participation rate for each school’s seniors was 74 percent. The population of the entire sample was 44 percent Hispanic, 26 percent black, 20.1 percent white, and 9.8 percent Asian and others. Of the entire sample, 60.3 percent were from families poor enough to qualify for federally subsidized lunches.

Foote summed it up: “In the sample, 77 percent of consortium school graduates attended four-year colleges, 19 percent attended two-year colleges, and 4 percent attended vocational or technical programs.” In the sample of students attending four-year colleges, 7 percent enrolled in the most competitive colleges, 14 percent enrolled in highly competitive colleges, and only 2 percent enrolled in noncompetitive colleges.

Of those who entered four year colleges within a year of high school graduation, 78 percent enrolled for a second year, compared to a national average of 73 percent, and 59 percent enrolled for a second year in a two-year college, compared to a national average of 56 percent.

Foote said, compared to averages for New York City high schools in general, "consortium schools post a lower dropout rate, higher college-bound rate, and higher daily attendance." I would like to see comparison of academic results, but the consortium schools are excused from the state standardized tests, and the regular schools don't require a literary essay, a research paper, a science experiment and a higher math application with external evaluation, more's the pity.

The consortium's graduation, college-going and attendance rates are impressive, however, when you consider, as Foote said, that its schools "have more students of color, more students who qualify for free and reduced-price lunch, more students receiving special education services, and more entering ninth- and 10th-grade students scoring below the state standard on reading and mathematics tests than the average New York City high school."

This is worth watching. I also want to see some of the essays and reports submitted by consortium students in lieu of standardized tests, and see if they match my unofficial external evaluator standards.

It is harder to assess students this way. Usually it costs more money. But it is not some dreamy program suggested at an academic conference, or proposed by the latest blue ribbon committee. It is a working program at 28 public high schools full of disadvantaged kids.

That is worth noticing, even three years late. Next time I write about this I promise to have more recent data.

Read Jay's blog every day, and follow all of The Post's Education coverage on Twitter, Facebook and our Education web page

By Jay Mathews  | July 8, 2010; 7:30 PM ET
Categories:  Trends  | Tags:  28 schools in New York state, New York Performance Standards Consortium, assessing high schools without standardized testing, assessing with independent review of essay, better results than similar schools in New York City, reports and science experiments  
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Very interesting Jay. The requirements that you write about sound meaningful to the students. I am wondering if these schools accept all kids or do they have to apply? Is it targeted at college bound kids? ( I know you say they have lower than average scores, but do they attend randomly or is it like a magnet system or...)

Posted by: celestun100 | July 8, 2010 7:59 PM | Report abuse

Deborah Meier is one of my educational idols. I'm glad to see you investigating this. The fact that standardized tests are the best option we have now (putting aside whether that is true or not) is no excuse for using such inadequate a tool.

Posted by: Jenny04 | July 8, 2010 8:32 PM | Report abuse

Reply to celestun100: The vast majority of schools in the Consortium are in NYC, and NYC employs a choice system for public high school admission in which students list and rank their choices. That said, the schools in the Consortium serve a huge variety of students. Several are International High Schools, serving recent immigrants who had to have failed an English proficiency test to be admitted. Even more are transfer high schools, meaning they accept students who are behind in their high school credits and are in danger of dropping out (or have dropped out). Several are in neighborhoods (e.g., the South Bronx) of extreme poverty. Only a small handful of the schools attract typical "college-bound" kids to their diverse mix of students, and these students tend to come from families that are looking for an alternative to the traditional high school.

Posted by: martha_foote | July 8, 2010 10:19 PM | Report abuse

I think a much better way to hold teachers accountable would be for outside evaluators audit portfolios of students taught by the teacher, along with the grades the teacher assigned the students for their work. These days, portfolios of student work can easily be scanned and stored electronically. One can also do standardized testing (with well-constructed tests) at a few gateway grades, but it is unnecessary and wasteful to test every student every year.

Posted by: dz159 | July 8, 2010 11:02 PM | Report abuse

Thanks for the answer to my question, Martha Foote.

Posted by: celestun100 | July 8, 2010 11:33 PM | Report abuse

This is all so fascinating to me. We *know* where the good schools are. Everyone is well aware. It's not a secret. Where are the highest house values? Why are people paying that money? I mean, sometimes it doesn't matter, sometimes it's location or some other reason - but many times it is due to schools. Talk to parents, look at a school. It's quite easy to know which schools are good and which are not.
We are mostly well aware of good schools and where they are. I think it's a travesty all this testing. It's really not telling us so much (the school my son goes to can't really have any Adequate Yearly Progress - how do you really go about 98% or whatever? It's absurd, the standards are ridiculous).

Posted by: atlmom1234 | July 8, 2010 11:37 PM | Report abuse

As the "top" education reporter in the country, surely you read the PDK every month from cover to cover?? It would be irresponsible of you not to do so. It would certainly give you a more well-rounded perspective of the issues facing education. Please subscribe.
(I'm just a regular classroom teacher who reads PDK religiously).

Posted by: pattipeg1 | July 9, 2010 6:14 AM | Report abuse

PDK said the first link to the piece was a copyright violation and somebody pulled it down last night. We will try to get a new link later today, but if you google it you should get it. Thanks for the good comments, and pattipeg1 is right. There is no excuse for my overlooking that piece.

Posted by: Jay Mathews | July 9, 2010 9:26 AM | Report abuse

Thanks for raising awareness of what the NY Performance Standards Consortium is doing, Jay. I profile another school that has used this method to great success in my book, "American Schools" -- I believe you have a copy. In the interim, anyone can learn more about the school at

Sam Chaltain (

Posted by: schaltain | July 9, 2010 9:37 AM | Report abuse

Thanks for the long overdue recognition that there are better ways to assess students' capabilities than via standardized tests, even if they are not "cheap and easy."

To this end, there have been some shocking articles in the news in Texas this past week, detailing how the Texas Education Agency is misusing "growth projections" through the use of a disengenuous tool called the Texas Projection Measure. First reported in a series of columns by the Houston Chronicle writer Rick Casey, a more detailed story is available today at the Texas Tribune (, entitled "Faking the Grade."

These articles reminded me of the fact that over 15 years ago in Texas, the state education agency did pilot studies of "performance tasks" as a means of assessment, not unlike what you note in the article. They involved student activities such as guided research and analysis (in social studies) and conducting experiments and writing analysis of the results (in science). They were time-consuming and challenging (and many teachers disliked them) and yet they were the best measure of students' talents that I observed in my 20 years of public school teaching.

It is my hope that some sanity and balance can be restored to education through the use of such "real world" tasks, and that testing can be returned to its proper place--for the purpose of assessing students' existng knowledge and uncovering their needs. It is incumbent upon us to discover what students already know and NOT teach it to them if we want students to develop a love of learning.

Posted by: tweinberg | July 9, 2010 9:58 AM | Report abuse

So the question needs to be asked--without all the standardized tests--how are teachers evaluated? It seems that many districts (and a focus of RTTT) plan to use standardized testing to measure the performance of teachers. Wouldn't it then make sense to find a similar way to evaluate teachers? MCPS uses something similar for staff which also includes portfolios and outside evaluators.

Posted by: musiclady | July 9, 2010 10:12 AM | Report abuse

Thanks, Jay, however belatedly, for reporting on the excellent work of the NY Consortium.

We might hope that the two multi-state Consortia that have submitted applications to create new testing systems with Race to the Top Funding would go the route of the NY group, or do what is done in many European nations (see Multiple Measures at, or have developed something akin to the three-part system I outlined on the Post's Answer Sheet and in more detail in an Education Week Commentary (also at (That idea was developed collaboratively in Massachusetts.)

This approach includes primarily local assessing with checks on it(as with the NY Consortium), then limited large-scale low-stakes standardized tests (say once each in elementary, middle and high school), plus a school quality review/inspection system as used in England and New Zealand. Through this far more than reading and math can be evaluated without the stultifying effects of standardization and over-testing. Far more than only academics can be reviewed. Parents, students and communities, after all, know school is about academics and much more.

But no, hobbled by the unreasonable limitations imposed by the Department of Education and the imposed need to be technically defensible for high stakes misuses (such as evaluating teachers and determining high school graduation), the multi-state consortium applications are simply a modest step toward improving large-scale testing. It will probably succeed in those limited terms, though the reliance on artificial intelligence to score extended tasks and projects, the ability to make them fair and reasonable for English learners and students with disabilities and much more are difficult tasks to solve within the constraints imposed on the system.

This is a very disturbing missed opportunity. We could learn from much of the test of the world, as well as what is done by the NY Consortia, what was developed in Nebraska till Sec. Spellings helped kill it, the Learning Record until NCLB crowded it out, and other U.S.-based positive developments. We could develop a comprehenive, fair, larely locally-based but with a variety of checks system in which high stakes decisions are not based on a few hours work but on an extensive array of evidence of student learnig and school quality.

Those of us who understand this can work to persuade Congress to at a minimum support pilot projects in this direction. How that could co-exist with massive mandated testing developed by the two multi-state consortia would a serious problem, so Congress will would have to also address that problem. Congress needs to hear from teachers, students, parents, researchers, and community people that better alternatives exist and can be brought to scale for reasonable and beneficial assessment uses.

Posted by: montyneill | July 9, 2010 10:24 AM | Report abuse

Why do you think this method of assessment is more expensive? To a large degree, this is assessment embedded in instruction, even with the outside evaluations. Machine scored multiple choice tests cost far more than the cost of giving and scoring them. There are the additional costs of lost instruction in preparing for and sitting for such exams. And what is on them often tends to drive instruction in a fashion that narrows the curriculum. That too is a cost.

Kudoes for acknowledging your failure to have noted Foote's article earlier. Now also consider expanding your notion of what costs of particular choices involve.

Posted by: teacherken | July 9, 2010 10:41 AM | Report abuse

To learn more about the New York Performance Standards Consortium, please visit its website:
On the homepage, there is a link to the PDK article (there is a fee) plus a link to examples of Student Exemplar Papers (the performance tasks described in Jay's column).

Posted by: martha_foote | July 9, 2010 10:53 AM | Report abuse

It is encouraging to see this column embrace assessment that does not rely on standardized testing, but less encouraging to see a persistence in the perception that standardized testing is less expensive. It would be interesting to do a survey of school districts across the nation to identify what percentage of their budgets are dedicated to the preparation for and administration of said tests.
One of the keys to deep learning that is missing in the over-reliance on standardized testing is student ownership. By and large, assessment and education is something done TO students rather than WITH them. Very little, if any, standardized testing effectively measures the understanding and performance domains of learning. Rather, they are stuck at the knowledge level simply because this is "easy" to measure. The over-reliance on standardized testing that measures bits of information or knowledge has created a shallow school culture which revolves around said testing and encourages students to memorize facts (i.e. knowledge) solely to pass the test, then discard it once the test is over. Moreover, virtually all of the testing currently in use in the United States ignores the importance of assessment FOR learning. This is done in conjunction with students, maps where they currently are, what their strengths and areas of improvement are, and plots a course of action that both teacher and student are responsible for to move them towards learning goals. Assessment for learning provides students with the opportunity to take ownership of their learning and success, encourages reflective thinking, problem solving, and long-term planning skills.
The requirements of Race to the Top to tie teacher "performance" or "effectiveness" to standardized tests will only increase the current culture of pseduo-learning in the name of reform i.e. so long as we look good on paper it doesn't matter what or if students are actually learning.
And nothing I've seen in either the LEARN Act or Race to the Top will encourage students to be readers and learners OUTSIDE of the classroom, or to take ownership of their learning. Both will merely expand the culture of shallow learning that weds the curriculum to whatever is tested; which by and large remains at the lowest levels of learning.

Posted by: PGutierrez1 | July 9, 2010 11:38 AM | Report abuse

I think it is a little odd that student assessments are being analyzed in order to evaluate teachers. The assessments should be to evaluate students, not teachers.

Posted by: celestun100 | July 9, 2010 11:40 AM | Report abuse

I do agree that standardized testing is more expensive.

Posted by: celestun100 | July 9, 2010 11:41 AM | Report abuse

Thank you for allowing this critical information to change your perspective and deepen your understanding of the complex issue of assessing student and teacher performance. You've demonstrated what it means to be a lifelong learner!

And, of course, this is precisely the kind of learning Deb Meier and the NY Consortium and the rest of us who are promoting genuine progressive education are striving to offer to all schoolchildren!
Aleta Margolis, Center for Inspired Teaching

Posted by: Aleta1 | July 9, 2010 1:06 PM | Report abuse

This is just absurd. Does anyone really think that students from every point on the ability scale are able to complete "an analytic literary essay, a social studies research paper, an original science experiment, and the application of higher-level mathematics"? I mean, seriously?

What happens to the kids who can't do that--which, in most urban schools, is upwards of 75% of the population? Are they being dragged through the process so the work product isn't their own, or are they flunking?

Or are the assessors pretending that the product is passing?

This is absolutely absurd.

Standardized tests aren't necessarily cheaper--for one thing, developing a good standardized test is expensive--but they are more accurate. They are less open to gaming by the scorers. They are also far more democratic, if done properly.

But it's just ludicrous to pretend that all students are capable of producing this work product.

But it's okay, I guess, because we aren't judging students with this. Just teachers.

Posted by: Cal_Lanier | July 9, 2010 1:16 PM | Report abuse

As celestun100 says, student assessment is assessment of students, not teachers, ethically.

TAP is an attempt to evaluate teachers by ratings of teacher performance. This holds promise for the improved assessment of teachers, not students, ethically.

It's time politicians and business leaders to quit playing game-theories that risk the lives of children by deprofessionalizing and dehumanizing education: pay-per-score anyone?

Managerial efficiency tactics are inappropriate when they strategically erase the complexity of meaningful learning experiences in their expressed attempt to define what's really real: did they choose more correct answers?

Results of such tinkering is meaningless and harmful: how many multichoice answers did you answer correctly at work today?

Posted by: mrcbrlw | July 9, 2010 1:29 PM | Report abuse

Great post, Jay - it's about time. Is everyone just beginning to understand that there actually may be better ways to assess than "this is as good as we can get" or because we've done it this way?
We posted the story today - It was just too good:

Posted by: catherinej | July 9, 2010 2:14 PM | Report abuse

Hi Jay, Have you looked in the Big Picture High Schools. They do not test students, students demonstrate what they have learned through projects. The have a high graduation rate and university acceptance rate.

Posted by: suenoir | July 9, 2010 2:16 PM | Report abuse

This reminds me a bit of something that Alverno College in Milwaukee does/did. In order to graduate the students have to present information that they have learned to professionals in their given fields. It has been awhile since I attended, but in the 90's they were doing this. I am sure they have refined it since then.

Posted by: celestun100 | July 9, 2010 2:34 PM | Report abuse

I have always been open to better ways of assessing how our children are taught. But I usually say standardized tests are the best available tool at the moment.
Typical that Mr. Mathews, in an article regarding New York schools, fails to mention that over 50 years ago New York State had probably the largest system of standardized testing in the nation, called the Regents.

These tests were not used to evaluate schools or teachers but were used for the purpose that tests are designed for. Students who failed these tests were given a failing grade and had to repeat the class and pass the test if they wanted to pass the class.

Wow what a novel idea New York State had for standardized testing.

Testing does not improve education.

Mr. Mathews the problem in education is Title 1 public schools which are only a minority of the schools in the United States. Most schools in this nation do not need more standardized tests or any other new idea regarding testing as these schools are doing quite well.

In 2003 when Mr. Mathews first got on the band wagon of testing I emailed him and told him that if testing was so important than you should test all children entering public schools and then you might be able to use test results to provide information on education at the school. Some children enter kindergarten knowing how to read while other children enter kindergarten totally unprepared.

The Bracken School Readiness Assessment test can be used for all children entering kindergarten in a Title 1 public school. Use this test and you will have a guidepost for later using test results for something other than whether a child has passed or failed.

Without testing children when they enter the school system, you can not use later test scores for anything other than whether a student has passed or failed.

Perhaps testing when entering Title 1 school is not being done already since this test will probably show that the major problem with the Title 1 public schools are that children are dramatically unprepared when they enter the public school system in comparison to children in non Title 1 public schools, and school officials will actually have to deal with the problem instead of blaming teachers.

Mr. Mathews please stay out of general discussion of public education in this nation. Since 2002 enough damage has been done to public education in this country by policies geared to the poor performance of Title 1 schools being forced upon public schools that were not Title 1.

The majority of public schools in this nation are fine and are not Title 1 public schools. They do not need more expensive standardized testing or new expensive methods of testing.

If you want to comment about education start exploring the specific problems of Title 1 public schools and dealing with those specific problems.

Posted by: bsallamack | July 9, 2010 3:19 PM | Report abuse

I think a much better way to hold teachers accountable would be for outside evaluators audit portfolios of students taught by the teacher,
Comment of reader
Americans, contrary to Mr. Mathews there is no missile gap in America.

The majority of public schools and teachers in America do a fine job.

Affluent and middle classes have told teachers to not come back in September because of lack of funds. They do not need more expensive testing or the nonsense ideas of Race To The Top.

The problem schools are the Title 1 public schools where in DC national tests indicated 56 percent failing reading tests in the 4th grade test. The overwhelming number of schools in DC are Title 1 public schools.

The majority of public schools do not have these problems.

The vast majority of public schools are not Title 1 schools, and these schools have been harmed by this pretense of a crisis or problem in public education that has been going on since 2002.

Americans should be calling for the federal government to provide money to public schools so that they can rehire the teachers that were dismissed because of lack of money.

Instead Americans are listening to the fake missile gap of Mr. Mathews and the idea of more expensive tests for the majority of public schools that do not need them but do need more funding to bring back the teachers that have been let go.

Sometimes I believe that Mr. Mathews who sent his children to private schools really hates public education in this nation.

Posted by: bsallamack | July 9, 2010 3:53 PM | Report abuse

Improve public education in America.

Write to the Washington Post to get rid of Mr. Mathews.

Public schools do not have sufficient funds for teachers in September yet Mr. Mathews has not written a single article or line about this problem.

Instead we get a "let them eat cake" article regarding new expensive testing methods.

Based upon the articles of Mr. Mathews, the public schools of America are riddled with lazy, inefficient teachers that have to be threatened constantly about being fired to perform any work. The teachers belong to unions that are doing everything in their power to destroy public education. Because of this the majority of public schools are doing a miserable job in education even though all tests indicate otherwise.

At one point even the Washington Post has to recognize that the views of Mr. Mathews only damage public education in the country.

The articles of Mr. Mathews are like the act of an irresponsible individual in a theater who yells out fire when there is no fire. There is no fire but the crowd hears fire and panics. Is this that very different to Mr. Mathews who has helped to create in Americans so much animosity towards teachers in public schools when the majority of public schools are doing well?

Since 2002 Mr. Mathews has contributed to damaging the public education system in this nation. The Washington Post should act responsibly. Free expression is not the same as falsely yelling out fire in a crowded theater.

Posted by: bsallamack | July 9, 2010 4:34 PM | Report abuse

There's a Sufi story of a man hunting for a key under a street lamp, even though he lost it in a darkened alley. His explanation was that it was easier to see with the light. If we want to find the key (to evaluate student's readiness for college or anything else), we need to assess them in valid ways. The consortium method appears to work--its expense is just an objection we need to overcome. It would be easier if we could put water in our gas tanks and eat dirt, too, but we're not silly enough to refuse because gasoline and food cost more.

On to another issue,DZ159, holding teachers accountable through judging their students' performance, whether by standardized tests or by portfolios of work is fraught with difficulties. Clearly, we don't use doctors whose patients always die (except, of course, that all of them will), but neither do we blame them if the medical condition proves fatal or the patient is noncompliant. Some doctors seem quite successful because their patients are inherently healthier than others. Except for epidemics, the health of one patient rarely affects another within a single doctor's practice, but the composition of a teacher's class has occasionally been found to explain all of the learning that occurs (or doesn't).

Teaching is often--and foolishly--compared to business or coaching, where the combination of individuals does matter. Teachers, however, do not recruit their students, nor are they able to fire them or, by putting them on the bench or making their lives miserable, "persuade" them to quit or resign. They can not shift students who are poor matches in position and task(Memphis sales or running back) to others in which they are likely to succeed (Boulder service department or place kicker).

Posted by: sarahinez | July 9, 2010 5:58 PM | Report abuse

Jay, hopefully this isn't groundbreaking to you with your experience with and investigations in IB. This is exactly what the IB Middle Years Programs do. I hope eventually you can turn your attention to what those programs are providing our children, in both preparing them for the rigors of the Diploma Program but also for the 21st century.

Posted by: 21ceducator | July 9, 2010 6:21 PM | Report abuse

For sarahinez.

Your statements about test scores being dependent upon the students in a class are against the ideas of Mr. Mathews. If you were a teacher and made these statements Mr. Mathews would want you fired.

Direct quote from "Does Sousa story prove Rhee is right?"
The story also has a memorable quote from a teacher still at the school (I would guess not for very long) who does not accept Jordon's view that all kids can learn much if taught well. "If a teacher is sincere, I don't think everything needs to be stacked on test scores," the teacher said. "Also, it depends on the children you get."

The teachers who have most influenced me say that is the sign of a bad attitude, someone who should not be teaching.

Posted by: bsallamack | July 9, 2010 6:44 PM | Report abuse

Except for epidemics, the health of one patient rarely affects another within a single doctor's practice, but the composition of a teacher's class has occasionally been found to explain all of the learning that occurs (or doesn't).
Posted by: sarahinez
Again this in opposition to Mr. Mathews and Ms. Rhee where to them there is no possibility of significant differences in a class of 1st grade children in a Title 1 public school compared to a class of 1st grade children in an affluent or middle class public school.
but the problem is that too few people are willing to commit to working that hard, and taking the risks that change requires. Jay Mathews
If Mr. Mathews and Ms. Rhee viewed doctors in the same light that they view teachers they would fire them if they did not raise the dead.

Posted by: bsallamack | July 9, 2010 7:35 PM | Report abuse

As a Consortium teacher, this makes me very happy to see and I am grateful for this article, and for the thoughtful comments.
As to Cal_Lenier's comments:

"This is just absurd. Does anyone really think that students from every point on the ability scale are able to complete "an analytic literary essay, a social studies research paper, an original science experiment, and the application of higher-level mathematics"? I mean, seriously?"

Yes, Mr. Lenier, seriously, we do. I am not sure what you mean by ability scale, but students who are designated special needs are given modifications, just as they would be given in any assessment situation from the Regents to the SAT.

"What happens to the kids who can't do that--which, in most urban schools, is upwards of 75% of the population? Are they being dragged through the process so the work product isn't their own, or are they flunking?

Or are the assessors pretending that the product is passing?

This is absolutely absurd."

We believe that every student is capable of meeting this standard. My Title I school is open enrollment -- which means we do not screen students -- if a student has us somewhere on their list of schools, we may see them in our halls in the fall, and therefore we get students at all levels of preparation. It is our responsibility to engage the resources of the student, schools, family and community to make sure our students are prepared for college. Students who do not meet the standard are given an opportunity to represent. Evaluators from outside the schools (professors, teachers from other schools, professionals) are part of the evaluation, and believe me, if we don't think a product is passing, the student does not pass. Our goal is college readiness, not just passing.

"But it's just ludicrous to pretend that all students are capable of producing this work product.

But it's okay, I guess, because we aren't judging students with this. Just teachers."

We are not judging teachers with this. We are having students demonstrate their understanding to a panel of evaluators who may have never even met them before. As teachers, we use student performance on the assessments to evaluate our own teaching, and make adjustments as needed to our instruction. This is simply good teaching.

I am proud of the work at my school and of our students. We open our door to visitors and outside evaluators because we are confident in our process and know that outside feedback is healthy for us and for our students. Our anecdotal feedback from students is that they go to college knowing how to defend their ideas, do research, write essays, and work in groups.

This year, a student who came to our school functionally illiterate passed every one of her assessments. How did she do this? Through early academic interventions, ongoing assessments, parental support, excellent teaching, and, simply, 4 years of hard work. That's how we do it. I wish our numbers were 100%. We're working on it.

Posted by: trinirita | July 9, 2010 11:17 PM | Report abuse

This was my first year as a teacher in a consortium school. As an educator, with a Master's degree from Bank Street College, one of the premier progressive schools in New York State, if not the nation, I was incredibly happy to get a job in a school that follows the progressive model. I am very proud of the work we do in this school each and every day. My school is in the South Bronx, we teach students in the lowest quartile, or even quintile of New York City, meaning these students come from some of the poorest, most undereducated areas of the city, and for that matter the country. Our students come to this school usually because it is close to their home. We work incredibly hard to help these students, and the students work incredibly hard to perform and prove their knowledge each and every day. I personally teach self-contained special education, a class of 15 or less of the most challenged students, both academically and emotionally the school has. For these kids a test is a nightmare, their skills at recall on demand are very low, which makes their test taking abilities very low. We focus, as stated in the article, on performance based assessment. The kids prove they know the material by writing a long paper, (in Math and Science as well) or by creating an experiment to prove their hypothesis on a particular problem. When I speak to my special ed colleagues at non-consortium schools I hear horror stories of kids being battered down and forced to prepare for the test. It is no wonder teacher turnover rate in NYC is so high, especially in Special Ed. Jay, You speak at great length on assessment, but one piece you are missing, that I believe is one of the most important features of my school, and for most of the consortium, is the belief that we must know each and every student we teach. In my school in particular we have block schedules, for the first two years students attend an interdisciplinary class (humanities or math/science) for up to two hours a day. They also have a teacher that acts as an advisor for their first two years, then another teacher/advisor for their second two years. This advisor becomes the familial leader for their advisory. Students come to the teacher with any issue. Students see only 4 or 5 teachers in their first two years: one in each interdisciplinary class, an advisor (sometimes one of their teachers), a foreign language teacher, and the gym teacher.) These students and teachers form incredibly close bonds. This may seem superfluous to some, but it is this bond that allows for the students to feel as if they can succeed. Most of our students come from incredibly negative educational backgrounds. Our biggest challenge in the first year is to reverse their perceptions of school as being a negative place. It is the bond between teachers and students, and the incredible hard work both by teachers and students to complete these performance based assessments that leads to success in college.

Posted by: johnboniello | July 9, 2010 11:28 PM | Report abuse

"Students who do not meet the standard are given an opportunity to represent. "

Ooooh, urban speak. It's okay, they flunked me, but I got a chance to REPRESENT.

"We believe that every student is capable of meeting this standard. "

Well, that's good. Because your belief is all it takes. Oops! I forgot. It also takes just a liiiiittle bit of pixie dust.

I am utterly unconcerned with what you believe. What matters is whether or not the students pass. And as you say, they aren't 100% or (I suspect) even close. But that's okay, because you have "anecdotal" evidence--one girl went from illiterate to passing her assessments. Was that before or after she "represented"?

Look, I'm sorry I can't be particularly respectful of your nonsense, but it's so tedious. I know you care. Believe it or not, so do I. So do most people who work with low achieving kids. What I can't stand are well-meaning nincompoops who do more harm than good. If you are truly incapable of seeing that most kids will not be able to legitimately pass your assessment, then go sit on that bench.

"We are not judging teachers with this. "

But see, that's why Jay brought it up. So it's on that standard that it will be judged.

"I hear horror stories of kids being battered down and forced to prepare for the test."

Yeah, you don't FORCE them to prepare for a test. You just make them write four long papers. What, pray tell, do you think you are doing if not exactly the same thing? Except your way is longer and more tedious and has a moral value system interwoven into it.

"their skills at recall on demand are very low, which makes their test taking abilities very low. "

Oh, I see. So it's okay to let them be "helped" with recall while they're writing their papers. Some people might think that is cheating.

Besides, "recall on demand" is pretty important in both college and the real world. What exactly are you teaching them in those four years if they can't recall on demand now and then?

Posted by: Cal_Lanier | July 10, 2010 12:15 AM | Report abuse

Thanks for pulling discussion broader with this article. Of course, actual work, worthy of a graduate can be used as criteria for evaluating a school/teacher as well as being the most valid way to evaluate a student. Any school which does not contain staff capable of evaluating writing, research, presentations should have them inserted immediately or be shut down. Expressing individual thought is a primary skills in any occupation. Other teachers can easily verify each other and can offer feedback in real ways to both student and teacher. As to any student being capable, if they are not capable they are in need of societal support so we as a society are not finished, keep going. Passing a test doesn't lead to employment.
As the mother of an autistic child who cannot manage some settings, like Jr Hi tests, the opportunity to represent what she knows by generating a paper worthy of college level assessment is perfect. It is also necessary and, frankly, basic respect. It would be unreasonable to judge her teachers by her ability to take a test standardized on Neurotypical students. The best part about representational assessment is the student is responsible for the result, the same as they will be in any post-school life. The best part about using random comparisons of student presentations for teacher and school evaluation is it does not detract from learning time. Adding learning time for cramming for tests, time for taking tests, skilled test administrators, skilled test preparers is not adding real value to an educational system. Adding time for Peer Review certainly would add value.

Posted by: kdg-surf | July 10, 2010 7:44 AM | Report abuse

Im Sorry Cal_Lanier, maybe we had completely different college experiences, but in my experience, as a History and Spanish major, and in my time as a graduate student in Bilingual Special and general education I can count on one hand the number of high stakes tests I had to complete. This is what I refer to when I say "recall on demand." The stress of taking a test is so high for these students that they do not even think about what the question is asking most of the time. As I said, much of our work in these schools is tearing down the horrible educational experiences the kids had before us. In my experience as a student after high school my papers, my research, my ability to think critically and my insight into a broader issue were all much more important than whether I could remember a fact on a test. Again, maybe we had completely different experiences, that is possible. I know for a fact that my colleagues, my friends, and myself all had similar experiences in college, we were asked to write long papers. The only class I was ever asked to write in in high school was my English class. Why? Because we were preparing to take a test, the Regents exam in NY. In the school I currently teach at students are asked to write papers in every class they attend. Literacy, (and maybe you don't know this, but literacy includes writing,) is one of the areas most of these kids lack. Literacy is also one of the areas most needed in college. You MUST have the ability to read and write. With this goes the ability to think critically and form your own thoughts on an idea. For special education students we do not batter them with a test every 6 weeks as other schools do. Our long papers are the culmination of an entire unit's worth of work, in which they have done most of what is required to finish their paper by the time it is due. These students are not forced to sit and finish a long paper in a matter of hours, or even days, they have been forming the pieces over weeks, and have to put the pieces together. They have to do some research and writing when the time comes, but I assure you, they are much less stressed over this than a test, in which they are expected to answer a series of questions, usually out of context, that come from an entire year of work. I suggest you read a review of the regents exam here in NY written by college professors. has reviews and critiques of the four major exams given here in NY. As for the teachers feeding them the information I can assure you that no teacher here does that. If we did we would never have a child fail, which still happens. The students who do the work and do a good job at it pass. The students who do not, or who do not care and do not prove their ability to think on their own fail. College readiness, and workforce readiness should be our goal, do tests do that? I argue no as stated above, you may disagree.

Posted by: johnboniello | July 10, 2010 12:20 PM | Report abuse

Standardized testing is a superficial way of testing knowledge. As a teacher myself in the suburbs of NYC I hear from colleagues who have students that when given the test at the end of the year can answer the questions they have been prepared for, but ask them for the same information, in a different question, that has not been prepped, and you get a blank stare. This happens every year when new students come in the fall. They score high on the test, but when asked for the same knowledge in a different context they cannot give any answer. The question becomes, does testing really test the student's knowledge of a subject, or is it testing the ability to take the test and answer specific types of questions. In NYC they have contractors (namely Mcgraw-Hill (acuity)) that prepare test-prep materials based on the types of questions most commonly asked on the test. These tests do not test knowledge for long term use. The consortium's idea sounds like it does though, requiring students to "think critically" as a previous poster states. What do we really want for our students? The ability to answer a question on something they were prepped for and probably wont remember a week from now, or the ability to remember what they have learned because they completed a project and paper on it? This is also negating the fact that tests can be used for political purposes, or at least suspected to be used in a political way. Look at NYC last year, the math scores soared mysteriously, oh, wait, it was an election year. Bloomberg got the increase in test scores he needed, his campaign on education "worked" and he was re-elected.

Standardized tests create students who do not know how to think critically and come up with different solutions. Education in the U.S. has become a series of instructions, if you see A, do B. What happens when A and B are not there? Maybe this is why we have to hire so many foreigners to do skilled work in our country.

Posted by: mooduck56 | July 10, 2010 1:13 PM | Report abuse

"In the school I currently teach at students are asked to write papers in every class they attend. "

Yes, I know. That way you can give a student an A in math even though their abilities are far below basic skill level. That's okay, though, because they can write extensively about the processes that got them to the wrong answer.

" College readiness, and workforce readiness should be our goal, do tests do that? "

Yes, they do. Not a college in the country will accept your essays as evidence of knowledge. You know what colleges *do* accept as readiness?

Test scores.

Pretty much every college in the country will laugh at your students' essays and ask to see their test scores. If their test scores aren't high enough, those colleges will give them another test.

So if you aren't teaching your students recall on demand, they will end up in remediation at college anyway.

"in my experience, as a History and Spanish major, and in my time as a graduate student in Bilingual Special and general education I can count on one hand the number of high stakes tests I had to complete. "

I don't know how old you are, but if you are younger than 30 and in any sort of competitive academic environment, you took close to 20 high stakes tests.

There's nothing wrong with high stakes tests, provided they are fair. Standardized tests are fair--that's why they are called "standardized". Essay tests can be standardized somewhat. I very much doubt yours are, though.

Posted by: Cal_Lanier | July 10, 2010 1:49 PM | Report abuse

great comments here from some new voices, and a few of us old ones. I have NOT examined the cost question very closely, and would welcome any research any one has on that sent to me at My impression that standardized tests are cheaper came from the Vermont experiment with portfolios of student work as a substitute for standardized tests. My memory is that the portfolio system was more expensive, but it was also very complex, since it wanted to set the same standard for the whole state. I will look for more and better information.

Posted by: Jay Mathews | July 10, 2010 2:41 PM | Report abuse

And my thanks to 21ceducator for pointing out that IB, both the diploma program and MYP, is a big step in the right direction. (I havent looked at PYP enough yet to make a judgment.) But it IS very expensive, for sure, and I am not sure we could sell that as a program for every school.

Posted by: Jay Mathews | July 10, 2010 2:44 PM | Report abuse

Before judging a program as expensive, look again at MS costs such as those the recently celebrated Sousa MS in DC: $20 short of $19K per student next year, without capital / building costs.

As economists estimate equations of benefit with wonderfully sophisticated notions of generalized "error structure", medical biostatiticians evaluating diagnostic and treatment estimate incidence and costs of getting it not just right but the costs of getting it wrong, and then having to repair the damage. The Food and Drug administration does not knowingly allow medically supervised testing of unknown and poor reliability. It forbids such as at-home pregnancy test kits which are unreliable, due to sophisticated consideration of those costs, even if the tests were free.

In contrast, schools are routinely buying tests which lack reliability and known performance statistics for the student populations. The market has gone completely unregulated. (Disclosure: I'm a former employee of an old-line test-developer, ETS). Who knows what the error rates and costs of errors are? Not the school districts. Most analyses of educational program impacts are being done today by economists who would convincingly argue that reports of missed periods are good enough to estimate pregnancy prevention programs; and then let administrators defund pregnancy test kits. Saves money, and the model estimates of program effects don't differ much.

The US approach to school construction and organization has for over a century endorsed obvious cost savings from just two measures: 1) minimizing top-administrators per student and 2) maximizing arithmetic choice by putting larger numbers of students together to offer greater diversity of courses. It isn't that small is beautiful and necessarily good. The matter is that few of the costs, except perhaps student travel distances and political costs of being less local have ever been part of the equation.

With respect to inexpensive evaluation of outcomes: Per-pupil cost minimization from use of standardized tests which any minimally trained advanced clerk can read the reports from have been ascendant, even as we know less and less about non-deviant students. Fix the budget for "accountability" while increasing the number of tests, and of course the price per test must go down. At the same time schools are profoundly ignorant, above the general and anecdotal level, about their students. I am unaware of any school system which knows and monitors WITH STATISTICALLY ROBUST METHODS more about the background of its student body than can be gleaned from home-residence rents and values and eligibility for subsidized lunch.
Finally, connecting to a recent Class Struggle entry on the SAT. Grades are more valuable than SAT scores because they encorporate so much more multi-modal data on the students as evaluated by teachers who course-long daily observe them, even if grades do not come up Meier's standards.

Posted by: incredulous | July 10, 2010 4:43 PM | Report abuse

Cal, for your information many of our graduates this year are going to four year SUNY schools, Albany, Plattsburgh among them. Some of the students were accepted to Sarah Lawrence, Hofstra, Amherst and others, laugh they did not. Compare this success with the students in schools that neighbor ours and I am sure to see your theory of high stakes testing being the solution go down in flames. I am under 30, but not by much, and I can guarantee you are wrong when you state with confidence that I took 20 high stakes tests during my time IN college or during my graduate program. As I said before, I did not. As I also said, you can disagree, that is the great part of this country. High stakes testing does not work, and whether or not you see this as true, our method IS working with kids in one of the poorest neighborhoods in the country. And no, we are not feeding them their answers, nor are they only writing about their experiences in math. They are asked to write about every aspect of the math they are speaking about. What a parabola means, what the coefficients of said parabola do to the parabola etc... One kid proved the pythagorean theorem this year in his geometry class among other proofs he explained. In his 25 page paper on geometry he spoke about many different aspects of geometry, his experiences were on 1 page, the reflection of what he did. NONE of this was fed to him by his teacher. Do not take the work we do as minimal efforts and expressing our feelings. That is an ignorant view on progressive education too many people in this country have. As one of the other posters stated, high stakes testing proves superficial knowledge. I never intended to get into an argument with someone on this message board, frankly I see it as a waste of time. I simply wanted to post my experiences as a teacher in this type of school. I cannot, however, sit by idly as someone such as yourself, with obviously little to no experience in this setting to treat what we do with such little respect and with such disdain.

Posted by: johnboniello | July 11, 2010 12:05 AM | Report abuse

Responding to Cal...

The progressive nature of consortiums is a welcome alternative to strict testing. It's good to be able to test and recall (but then most parrots can do that better than many people), but it's better to know how to think a problem through and not give up. This is the heart of entrepreneurship - learning by doing. Doing well on test scores is nothing more than training drones for somebody else's ideas.

One of the big complaints from college professors is that the majority of students coming in do not know how to reason or think for themselves. They are waiting for someone to provide them information that they can regurgitate later on some test and get an "A" (as if that's meaningful).

I work in the real world, Cal. What's gotten me ahead is being able to provide solutions from a big picture perspective - not spit up minutiae. I leave that task to the people under me.

Posted by: sherrysoares | July 11, 2010 9:18 AM | Report abuse

Jay says:

"I have been influenced by teachers who feel their power to assess their own students and cover up their own mistakes or low standards is a weakness in our secondary school system."

Who are these teachers? Are you out there in blog land? Speak out, because I haven't heard you on Jay's Blog.

Posted by: Nemessis | July 11, 2010 10:36 AM | Report abuse

John, I said nothing of them getting into college. Of course they get into college. Then they spend all their time in remediation

"but then most parrots can do that better than many people"

Progressives are quite tediously ignorant on the subject of tests. They read all their responses from Big Book of Progressive Dogma. Oh, and while you're at it, do give me a cite about parrots having better recall than humans. Or is that total garbage, like most of your data?

Again, to both Sherry and John: blather on endlessly about your feel good nonsense all you like. But if the kids in this discussion AREN'T in remedial classes in college, then it's because they did well on a test. Not your nonsense. And if they didn't do well on a test, either before or after they got to the college, then they are in remediation.

And if they're in remediation, then you failed to prepare them for college.

Posted by: Cal_Lanier | July 11, 2010 10:43 AM | Report abuse

I want to thank Jay for his openness in looking at Dr. Martha Foote’s research demonstrating the success of the schools that comprise NY Performance Standards Consortium.

As the retired principal of a Consortium school (Fannie Lou Hamer Freedom High School - co-founded by Deborah Meier)) in the South Bronx, -a school with perhaps the highest poverty level in NYC, it is amazing to me that a testing regimen that has existed in NYS for many years and has been a complete failure, is now emulated around the country. If high stakes testing is a viable way to assess students, why do so many young people, graduating from test-driven high schools, require remediation in college, often leading them to drop out?

My staff at Fannie Lou and I would typically greet a new ninth grade class where over 95% were labeled as below grade level in math and over 80% in reading. We saw this as a failure of the system, not of the students who were, in fact, its victims. We spent the next four, five and sometimes six years teaching these young people the skills they would need to be successful in college – how to analyze, synthesize, effectively engage in research, write in-depth papers, engage in hands on science experiments, apply higher level math concepts. Each year we sent 80% of our graduates on to college. While I have retired, I am happy to state that Fannie Lou Hamer Freedom High School remains a place where young people are taught the skills essential for college success.

While the schools in NY Performance Standards Consortium engage students in all the higher order skills named above, No Child Left Behind unfortunately focuses on having students pass tests that have absolutely nothing to do with preparing them with the skill requisite for college success.

Posted by: dfreeman52 | July 11, 2010 2:59 PM | Report abuse

I went to the performance assessment org web site and did a little research on the first 3 schools on their list, the last 2, and one in the middle. Four of the six screen their applicants, two quite rigorously, and one I couldn't tell. The one that does not screen has not had any graduates yet, it's a relatively new school. To the extent that I could get believeable statistics it looked to me like the schools I checked also had smaller class sizes, more highly qualified teachers, and FEWER disabled students, and FEWER economically disadvantaged students than the average NYC public school, not more. And contrary to the report they DO take the same standardized tests as every other school for purposes of the New York State School Report Cards, and do ok, but not great considering the initial screening. Out of the school I looked at the one to watch would be Brooklyn Secondary School for Collaborative Studies since the only screening they did that I could determine was to give admission priority to siblings of current students and to students who attended a school tour. In terms of ethnic makeup, rate of economic hardship, and percentage of disabled students it looked to me to be pretty typical of NYC schools as a whole or maybe even somewhat disadvantaged. They haven't had any graduates yet so that will be interesting to watch. My guess is that probably their approach to teaching and testing is better than the approach used in typical urban public schools, but they sure haven't proved it yet by any thing I've seen. To really show that their techniquest are better they'll have to find some way to control for the screening of students, including screening via self selection.

Posted by: david_r_fry | July 11, 2010 3:40 PM | Report abuse

Responding to comments by david_r_fry: I am Ann Cook, co-chair of the New York Performance Standards Consortium. Of the schools Mr. Fry refers to as "screened," only one is an academically screened school. It is one of the small handful that Martha Foote earlier described as attracting typical "college-bound" students. The two other "screened" schools are screened in the sense that one has to make sure that the students are recent immigrants who have failed an English proficiency test and the other that students had been attending another high school and are behind in their credits. Yes, this latter high school does have admissions requirements but these are to help the transferring students determine if, after having failed at another high school, they can function under this school's approach or would be better off at a different transfer school (the Consortium has five transfer schools altogether) that might suit them better. And yes, most of the Consortium schools do have smaller class sizes. The reason? Though schools in NYC are budgeted equally, Consortium schools do not allot their funds to top-heavy administrative structures, but use the funds for paying teachers in order to reduce class size. More highly qualified teachers? I would think so. Teachers clamor to work at our schools - they are treated as professionals and can teach in ways that they know are meaningful to students. As a result, teachers stay at our schools and when vacancies arise, they can be filled by stronger candidates. And, as it is impossible to get a full picture of a consortium's population by only looking at a few schools as Mr. Fry did, I stand by the report's findings that we have a greater percentage of students in special education and who qualify for free or reduced lunch. As for tests, these schools are only mandated to take the English Language Arts exam, as was stated in Foote's article. They do NOT have to take the same standardized tests as every other school in New York - they have a waiver granted by the state.

Posted by: cookann | July 12, 2010 11:35 AM | Report abuse

"But I usually say standardized tests are the best available tool at the moment."

Did you just change your mind when you heard DCPS elementary reading and math scores went down?

Posted by: aby1 | July 13, 2010 5:21 PM | Report abuse


You didn't change your mind to cover Michelle Rhee's back, did you?

How could you NOT know about these types of assessments before?

Posted by: aby1 | July 13, 2010 5:32 PM | Report abuse

To all out-of-towners, perhaps you didn't know that today it was announced that the DC elementary schools standardized test scores decreased this year and the secondary schools increased only a little.

Jay Mathews is a strong Rhee supporter. He also wrote an article about the inanity of the achievement gap when it was reported that the achievement gap grew in DC.

Posted by: efavorite | July 13, 2010 9:31 PM | Report abuse

Jay, me thinks you are writing this to mitigate the impact that the recent released test scores will have on Michelle Rhee. Sorry, but I have grown jaded after reading so many of your articles extolling testing and test scores.

Posted by: lacy4 | July 14, 2010 11:16 AM | Report abuse

This in response to Ann Cook's response to my previous post. I've checked out a total of about 1/2 of the schools listed at the performance assessment web site
and stick by my previous comments.
Here are a couple of sites that you can use to find out for yourself what the admission requirements are for each school.

You can also search by the school name to try to find an individual school's web site. Some, but not most, list additional admission requirements on their web site.
Only a few of the schools could be called a "we take anybody" type school. Here's a link to a description of how students apply to high schools in NYC.
There are number of ways to get more information on a high school, including the percentage of students with disabilities. Probably the simplest is do and internet search(i use google) using the name of the high school + nystart "report card" 2008. The best figure I could find on the percentage of NYC students who are disabled is 17.8 % and so far I have found only one of the schools on her list with a percent disabled higher than that - The Brooklyn Secondary School for Collaborative Studies, which had almost 30%!!!! This school looks too good to be true. I wonder if they're fudging something. Most of the other schools had less than 10% disabled. If Ms. Cook is going to dispute my conclusions I'd like to see some links to independent data sources to back up her contentions. If she does that I'll continue checking out the rest of the schools on her list, otherwise I feel like I've adequately made my point. A few other points of information, if you check the report cards you will notice that all these schools take both MATH and ELA exams, and that the true graduation rate, and by extension the percent of students that attend college, is less than many schools advertise. The true graduation rate is the % of the class cohort(# of students who entered as freshmen in a given year) that end up graduating in 4 years - not the percent of seniors still in school at the end of a school year who graduate, which is what a lot of schools like to claim as their graduation rate.

Posted by: david_r_fry | July 14, 2010 2:36 PM | Report abuse

Statistics from the PDK article came from New York City Department of Education, “Annual School Report Cards” (2002-2003) and New York State Department of Education, “New York State School Report Card Comprehensive Information Report” (2002-2003). The Consortium schools’ data were compiled from each school’s individual report card or information report. The overall New York City high schools’ data at that time was found on every New York City school report card for comparison purposes.
Current statistics for NYC high schools and Consortium high schools, which uphold the study's comparisons, are found at and derived from high school profiles at the NYC Department of Education website: as well as NYStart (a NYSED website):

Posted by: cookann | July 15, 2010 1:06 PM | Report abuse

Below is a table I created that corresponds to most of the High Schools on the Performance Assessment Web Site. I couldn't find data on some of the high schools. The table is truncated to fit here. The first column is a truncated hs name. The second column is a number provided by NYC Dept. of Ed called a Peer Index to indicate the needs level of the school. 2.4 is the average for all NYC High Schools. The average for these schools is exactly the same as for the city as a whole. The third column is the level of screening done by the hs. Low screening is basically the hs takes anybody with no real screening. This describes most NYC high schools. High is extensive screening including preference to 8th graders from an associated selective middle school or extensive interview, grades, and portfolio review.
Middle is everybody else. The last number is the percent of entering freshmen who graduate in 4 years. The average for these schools in 58.3% and the average for NYC as a whole is 63%
Here is a description of how the needs number is created -
Please note: peer indices are calculated differently depending on School Level. Schools are only compared to other schools in the same School Level (e.g., Elementary, K-8, Middle, High, Transfer)
Elementary & K-8 - peer index is a value from 0-100. We use a composite demographic statistic based on % ELL, % SpEd, % Title I free lunch, and % Black/Hispanic. Higher values indicate student populations with higher need.
Middle & High - peer index is a value from 1.00-4.50. For middle schools, we use the average 4th grade proficiency ratings in ELA and Math for all their students that have 4th grade test scores. For high schools, we use the average 8th grade proficiency ratings in ELA and Math for all their students that have 8th grade test scores, % SpEd, and % Overage. Lower values indicate student populations with higher need.
BEACON HIGH 3.35 High 84.9
BROOKLYN IN 2.50 High 78.1
BROOKLYN SE 2.10 Low New School
BROOKLYN SC 2.08 Low 38.6
COMMUNITY S 2.09 Low 52.5
EAST SIDE C 2.27 Med 58.3
EL PUENTE A 2.02 Med 48.4
ESSEX STREE 2.30 Low 85
FACING HIST 2.00 Low New school
FANNIE LOU 1.79 Low 55.6
GOTHAM PRO 2.45 Med New school
INSTITUTE F 2.72 High 76.1
INTERNATION 2.58 High 63.2
LANDMARK HI 2.08 Med 58
JAMES BALDW 2.34 Low 65.2
HIGH SCHOOL 2.57 Med 48.5
HUMANITIES 2.54 Med 59
MANHATTAN I 2.53 Med 57
MIDDLE COLL 2.58 Low 44.6
NEW DAY ACA 2.81 Med New school
SATELLITE A 2.30 Low 12.5
SCHOOL OF T 2.75 High 92.4
URBAN ACADE 2.88 Low 32.1
VANGUARD HI 2.03 Med 60.3
I'm not trying to pick on the Performance Assessment Org, because as I said before my guess is that probably their approach to teaching and testing is better than the approach used in typical urban public schools, but they sure haven't proved it yet by any thing I've seen. We need good valid research that will have to involve extensive testing - high stakes or not. Good testing can also be an important learning tool.

Posted by: david_r_fry | July 16, 2010 6:11 PM | Report abuse

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