Things I Posted Elsewhere, 9.1.14: PED’s Info Spinroom

First of all, happy September everyone!  It’s my favorite month for a variety of reasons, weather prime among them. 

I like the idea of “things I posed elsewhere” and am stealing it this morning (and perhaps forever).  Below is a little ditty I wrote as an online comment to the Journal’s obit story on the SBA published this morning.  Many might feel writing comments to the Journal is about the lowest form of Internet life possible, and you might be right.  Still, I do discern a real exchange of ideas there and am strangely optimistic that the conversation there can rise above “Liberals suck, no you suck!” 

I am incurably optimistic that way;  funny how we cynics are really the most optimistic among us.

Anyway, here’s ya go:

Good to see the Journal and the public, via this newspaper, starting to get some depth in terms of coverage/analysis of standardized testing. Still, there’s one continued piece of the narrative which is going unexamined. In this story, the narrative continues like this:

“As for the slight decline in the overall proficiency rate during the Martinez administration, Skandera said that was due to the students who were taking the SBAs on computers.
When excluding those students, the percentage of students scoring at grade level in reading increased 0.8 percentage points over the past four years. In math, the percentage of students scoring at grade level grew by 0.9 percentage points.”

This assertion has been unchallenged here and elsewhere, despite the fact the PED has not presented the data supporting it. All we have is a spreadsheet column in this past year’s SBA number of the percentage of students taking the test via computer. There’s no direct breakdown of how those computer-based test-takers did.

Here’s that link.

All you can really tell in this regard from the spreadsheet is that computer-based testing in 2014 was largely a small-district phenomenon, Farmington aside. Cherry-picking the numbers, and the students who constitute those numbers, only helps to provide an excuse to PED for this year’s lousy scores, while also vaguely foreshadowing next year’s excuse when, supposedly, 100% of NM students will be taking PARCC online.

Until PED stops using the numbers simply to benefit their own narrative, we as teachers, parents and students will be left in the dark on what’s really happening here. Interestingly, whenever PED is pushed for information beyond their narrative, they get defensive and squawk as Mr. Behrens does here about “defenders of status quo.”

Nobody is “status quo,” Mr. Behrens. EVERYBODY wants the standardized testing system to evolve past the current status quo, one in which PED cherry-picks release of data in order to dictate the narrative and vilifies anyone, particularly teachers and administrators, who question its methods and/or release of data.

Until everyone is presented a fuller, clearer picture of what’s going on, Mr. Behrens, you and PED will continue to get logical, thoughtful questions, respond to them in shrill defensiveness and further drive a spike between those providing/receiving education in New Mexico and your increasingly, and unnecessarily, self-alienated state agency. The act is getting old, PED. Real old.

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