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When the news broke last week that math scores were up across the Empire State, Gadfly's initial impulse was to be skeptical. We've grown accustomed to watching test results on state assessments go up like a rocket, only to later see flat lines or minimal gains on the National Assessment of Educational Progress and other external gauges. Though Gadfly sometimes discovers that he was wrong and that the gains are for real, in this case, it appears that his doubts were warranted. A New York Daily News analysis by Jennifer Jennings, a Columbia University doctoral student formerly known as the blogger Eduwonkette, found that "it has gotten easier to teach to the test [in New York] as the questions have gotten easier to predict." Jennings told the Daily News: "It's the lesson of the financial crisis, and it's the lesson here--you can't just trust the numbers, you have to look at what the numbers mean." Because similar questions appear on the test every year, teachers can figure out which material is likely to be assessed, and by which kinds of prompts, and can prepare students accordingly. We'd like to believe in the "Buffalo Miracle"--that city's scores rose as much as Gotham's--but then again, we'd also like to believe that the Dow will return to 2007 levels by the end of the year. Neither seem quite credible. We eagerly await New York's 2009 NAEP results.
"State math exam scores have risen--but it's because tests have gotten easier," by Meredith Kolodner and Rachel Monahan, New York Daily News, June 7, 2009