William Johnson is the superintendent of public schools in Rockville Centre, Long Island, New York.
He is an experienced educator.
He can tell the difference between education and miseducation.
For his willingness to speak truth to power, to defend the children and staff in his care, he is a hero of American public education.
When he saw the scores generated by New York’s Common Core tests, he blew his stack.
He said to a reporter:
“Never at the end of the day could you, as a result of what you saw with a child’s actual performance on these tests, know what they know and what they don’t know,” Johnson said in April.
The data that the tests provided the district, Johnson said, is “uninterpretable and unusable.” He gave an example: in eighth grade, Rockville Centre students take the algebra Regents exam, which is usually administered in ninth grade. This year, about 95 percent of students passed it. The eighth-grade state math exam is supposed to determine how prepared students are to take algebra, yet only 39.5 percent of them passed that exam.
“To hell with these scores,” Johnson said. “They do not matter. They’re not informing us in any way; they’re not giving us any new information. In fact, what they’re doing is serious damage. Kids who had a [Level] 3 last year and ended up with a [Level] 1 this year, how do I tell them they can’t read, when in fact we know they can?”
The story says, “Last year, an average of about 81 percent of Rockville Centre students passed the state exams, which are given in grades 3 through 8 in English Language Arts and math. This year, with the new tests the state gave, the passing rate in Rockville Centre plummeted to 48 percent. The state average was slightly over 30 percent.”
In response to the sharp drop in the district’s scores, Johnson said:
“Our conclusion, after reviewing this with my staff in the central office and talking to a number of colleagues, is that we’re just going to put it on a shelf someplace and just leave it there,” said Dr. William Johnson, the district superintendent. “We’re not going to use this information to make any kind of determination about what kind of services we need for children, and we’re not going to use it in any capacity whatsoever to make informed decisions about our staff.”