If you want to know why parents in New York have opted out in record numbers for the past few years, read testing expert Fred Smith’s account of the chaos and tumult inflicted on the children of the state by the State Education Department.

Disruption! Change! Instability!

Smith, who worked for many years as a testing expert at the New York City Board of Education, writes:

Latch onto this, folks:
Let’s look at the fundamental uselessness of the testing program–a plague visited annually on 1.2 million students, teachers and schools. Several transformative changes occurred over the course of the Common Core era that render efforts to understand the results from year to year a nullity:
· Revision of the testing framework between 2011 and 2012 as part of the “education reform agenda” leading to the imposition of “rigorous” testing;
· A transition period (2012) allowing the new publisher Pearson one year to familiarize itself with the scope of New York State testing prior to full-fledged introduction of the Common Core Learning Standards;
· Initiation of core-aligned tests in 2013 and establishment of a baseline against which to measure student progress in meeting the standards;
· A shift in the statewide testing population in 2014 and 2015, with 20 percent of the students opting out of the exams;
· Removal of time limits from the tests in 2016 taking away uniformity in their administration and making comparisons with previous years of (timed) tests invalid;
· Switch to a new publisher in 2017 (Questar) after a handoff from Pearson, which is an unaccounted for source of variation in the construction of the exams and the results they yield;
· Reducing the number of testing days from three to two and altering the scoring scale in 2018, defying attempts to make sense of results or draw conclusions about progress.
So, in virtually every year from 2012 through 2018 there have been differences in the publishers, the test population and the test parameters. And we’re not even talking about the mysterious derivation of the cut off scores that define student performance level on the exams. Such discontinuity is antithetical to the establishment of a coherent testing system. SED’s admonition about the inability to draw comparisons between 2017 and 2018 actually holds true throughout the unstable Common Core span.