Differences between state tests and a national benchmark test whose results were released yesterday are ramping up calls for an independent audit of the New York State test.
Results from the test known as the nation's report card, the National Assessment of Educational Progress, showed the scores of New York State students remaining essentially flat in most categories but one, fourth-grade math, where students showed improvements. State tests, meanwhile, have shown declining fourth-grade scores — but improvements in eighth-grade scores.
A Manhattan Institute scholar, Sol Stern, called the discrepancies a "spanking" for the New York State Education Department. "Its claims of fabulous improvements in eighth-grade reading and math scores for 2007 have proven to be just more hype," he said.
A spokesman for the state education department, Tom Dunn, said concerns are flat-out wrong. The NAEP test is not given to all students but to a sample, about 2% of students in New York per grade, and each student takes only a portion of the test, he said. The U.S. Department of Education, which administers the test, advises that results be treated as "estimates," he added.
The president of the teachers union, Randi Weingarten, called the discrepancies a "cloud" on returns showing achievement overall went up nationwide.
"What these tests suggest is New York State has a very serious problem with its testing program," an education historian, Diane Ravitch, said, calling for an audit of the program.
The state education commissioner, Richard Mills, praised gains made by minority students. Since 1998, the report showed, the percentage of black and Hispanic students who are proficient in reading and math increased significantly, with increases hovering around 20 points.