Judge State Education Leaders By Student Test Scores?

New York Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch
New York Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch

Probably the fastest way to end the high-stakes testing culture would be if state education leaders were held accountable and judged by them as well.

Carol Burris is definitely on to something (not that she actually wants this per se, but hypothetically).  If you judged New York Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch by student test scores she’s a definite failure.

In describing her rollout of Common Core testing, Tisch said, “we jump into the deep end,” using the royal “we” to obscure the fact that kids were taking the jump. She also rejected the notion that school and educator ratings be put on hold during the rollout, stating that “we cannot have the implementation of Common Core that is isolated from an accountability system.”

Despite the repeated use of “we,” Tisch has excluded herself, her state commissioner of education and her Board of Regents from the ratings. Accountability is for students, educators and schools, who have little to no input into the commanded change.

Although I do not suggest we subject Tisch to the silly number ratings given to teachers and principals, I do think it is fair to review New York student growth under her leadership. Tisch was selected as chancellor in the spring of 2009. Since 2010, New York’s graduation rate increased only 1.5 percent, which includes two years of no growth at all. In looking at graduation data, one will note that prior to 2010, state graduation rates were climbing, even as graduation standards (meaning the required passing of Regents exams), were increasing. In addition, the earning of the Regents Diploma with Advanced Designation, a consistent bar with no change in standards, has been flat since she became chancellor.

In 2009, the average New York SAT scores were 485 (reading), 502 (math), and 478 (writing). In 2014, they were nearly identical—488, 502, 478 —no improvement there to show.

Tisch “raised the bar” for Grade 3-8 proficiency in 2010, and in 2011 and 2012, there was little or no growth in student achievement. In 2013, the Common Core tests were given and proficiency rates dramatically dropped. Though the chancellor promised that scores would improve the second year of the Common Core tests, there were no improvements in English Language Arts scores and minimal improvement in math.

If teachers and principals are to be judged by score growth, what growth has the chancellor created after nearly six years at the helm?