Wednesday, June 20

Klein: ELL students will wait longer before taking tests

Yesterday NY1 reported on Chancellor Klein's new plan to allow English Language Learner (ELL) students more time before requiring them to take standardized tests. Whereas ELL students currently have to take the tests during their first year in school (even students who haven't yet been in the States for a full year), Klein plans to change that requirement, exempting those students from required tests for their first two years.

While I think Klein is probably correct to exempt ELL students from state tests, since those students hardly need to spend time taking exams that won't yield meaningful results, I can't help but be skeptical about Klein's motivation for the change. ELL test scores are, of course, far below the citywide average, especially the scores of ELL students during their first two years of NYC public education. Therefore removing them from the test pool will probably result in a significant jump in test scores, giving the mistaken impression that test scores have greatly improved. With the end of Bloomberg's administration in site, and mayoral control of the city's public schools sunsetting in 2009, I can't help but think this measure could be a last push to show test gains under the Bloomberg-Klein reforms.

Of course, I could be wrong-- one could avoid the misleading test results by removing from past averages the scores of first- and second-year ELL students when calculating improvement statistics. Then the statistics would truly track how the same types of students were performing from year to year-- comparing apples and apples-- which is the only way to accurately measure the effects of school reform over time. We'll see if the DOE takes this step, or if instead they forgo statistical accuracy for the sake of political gain and claim credit for a test gain that never occurred.

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