Ten years ago, the New York State Education Department got embroiled in a very embarrassing scandal. A vigilant parent discovered that many passages on the Regents’ exam in English had been heavily rewritten to remove any references to race, religion, gender, sex, and a bunch of other topics. The parent’s discovery merited a front-page story in the New York Times and caused the State Commissioner of Education to promise that it would never happen again. (http://gothamschools.org/2012/04/23/states-promise-to-bar-edited-test-passages-repeats-2002-vow/)
Of course, it did happen again. On the very next administration of the Regents, there was a single stanza from Matthew Arnold’s famous poem, “Dover Beach,” not the full four stanzas of the poem. The last stanza begins, “Ah, love, let us be true to one another!” but the state changed it to, “Ah, friend, let us be true to one another.”
How soon they forget. Now with the Pineapple story, we learn that they never stopped meddling with the text of passages. They can’t help themselves. They think they can write better than Elie Wiesel, better than Isaac Bashevis Singer, better than Daniel Pinkwater.
I told Gotham Schools, trying to be charitable, that maybe they forgot the promise made a decade ago. But I was too kind. The NY SED just isn’t very smart. They send out tests with egregious errors, and the Commissioner blames the teachers who reviewed it. The math tests that will be given tomorrow has errors, but no one at SED will admit they are culpable. Stuff happen is what they say. Don’t blame us.
In 2010, the Regents commissioned a study of the state tests and independent experts said the tests had been dumbed down, the cut scores had been lowered in an effort to meet NCLB’s absurb target. So test scores across the state plummeted to reflect the reality that the SED had gamed the system. But was anyone at SED held accountable? Of course not.
The moral of the story: Accountability begins at the top.