Guest post from Michael O’Donnell, Vice President of the New Paltz Central School District Board of Education and the Chair of the Board’s Legislative Action Committee

Every aspect of the Regents reform agenda is aimed at ensuring that more New York State students graduate college and career ready. We have adopted more rigorous Common Core standards and are aligning our assessments with those standards…

That claim, made by then Senior Deputy Commissioner of Education and future US Secretary of Education John King is the subject of the Benjamin Center’s latest discussion brief: “NY State Assessments: Faulty Predictions, Real Consequences.

To assess the validity of that claim I asked a very simply question: “How well do the NY State Assessments, as a predictor of college readiness, align with actual, real-world measures of college readiness?” The state’s predicted value, based on 8th grade performance on the NY State Assessments, is 21.9 percent college-readiness. The observed value, based on the college-enrolled non-remediated student population, is 50 percent college-readiness. This stark divide between the state’s predictive tool and actual, observable outcomes is enough to suggest the need for a complete overhaul of the state’s assessment system.

The implications of this divide are not purely academic. Falsely labeling our students – some as young as 8 years old – as “not on track for college” is damaging to the entire institution of public education in New York State. The results of these assessments have been used to drive a wide range of decisions, including: evaluating teachers, identifying “failing” schools, informing student instruction, and crafting new graduation requirements that could potentially lead to two-thirds of our state’s students not receiving their high school diploma.

Our policy makers need to engage in a more rigorous effort to buttress their “college and career ready” claims with empirical data. We cannot afford to continue using our students as guinea pigs in the NYSED’s experiments. These are real kids, in real classrooms, suffering real damage. It’s time we demand that “accountability” flows in both directions.