Misleading Reports on Reading and Math Improvements under Diana Lam in Providence

To Abby Goodnough
The New York Times
December 2, 2002

From Elizabeth Carson


I've printed out the Rhode Island reading and math scores reported as averages of 98-00 and 01-02 for grades tested: 4, 8, and 10. Have you looked at them?

Tamar Lewin reported that during the three years of Diana Lam's tenure in Providence, 22 out of 23 elementary schools showed improvements in reading, 19 in math. She also wrote, "The percentage of fourth graders who passed the state reading test increased by 52 percent between 1998 and 2001, while the number that passed the math test rose 67 percent."(Educator Has Accomplishments and Enemies, August 31, 2002)

You wrote, "Mr Klein said he chose Diana Lam, the controversial superintendent in Providence, RI, as his deputy for teaching and learning because she had brought about solid improvements in Providence and other school districts." (Klein Says Others Must Pitch In To Improve Schools, September 4, 2002)

I do not have access to individual schools performance in Rhode Island. However, judging from the available data on the Rhode Island Dept of Ed Web site, any school improvements must have been extremely small and most likely in a single category.

Lewin's report on the state 4th grade math and reading scores is extremely misleading. Reporting a 52% increase between 1998 and 2001 on the 4th grade ELA, she is actually referring to score increases in two categories (effectiveness and conventions)and neglects to report score declines in the other two categories (basic understanding and analysis) Lewin also did not mention that Providence 4th graders tied for last place in the state on the 4th grade ELA.

Lewin's description of 4th grade math improvement as a 67 percentage increase does not jibe with the data and belies the disturbing realities. Small improvements in very low scores did occur in 4th grade math achievement, still Prvidence scores are lower than any other school district except in one category where Central Falls dips even lower. In 2002 among Providence 4th graders, only 36% met standards in skills, 13% met standards in concepts, and only 10% met standards in problem solving!!! Lewin also neglected to mention Providence's appalling math scores and declines at grades 8 and 10.

I'll add here mention of the fact that the math programs used in Providence are TERC and CMP, the same two fuzzy math programs that have ignited the math wars here in NYC.

Providence test scores during Lam's tenure remained at the bottom of the state and declined in many areas and grades in math and reading. Where scores improved in Providence, a similar advance occurred across the state ( grade 4 math) or the improvement was actually far lower than improvements in other school districts (grade 10 ELA)

This data makes Klein look like an idiot.

I can not find any source to confirm press reports of success in Rhode Island. I see no reason to read hope and promise for NYC in Lam's real record in Providence!!!!

Elizabeth Carson

(RI DOE source here:)

Rhode Island Math Assessment -- Grades 4,8,10 tested only. Three testing categories: Skills, Concepts, Problem Solving

Grade 4 Math: Score increase between 98-00 and 01-02 in all three categories (+5, +7, +5) but improvement mirrors a statewide average increase. (my guesstimate) 2002 Scores are lowest in the state. 2002 Skills: 36%, Concepts: 13%, Problem solving: 10%

Grade 8 Math: Score declines from 98-00 to 01-02 in all three categories (-9, -2, -2) but declines are below the statewide average decline (guesstimate) 2002 Scores are lowest in the state. 2002 Skills: 18%, Concepts: 4%, Problem solving: 5%

Grade 10 Math: Score decline from 98-00 to 01-02 in skills category, slight improvement in other two categories. Range of improvement nad decline is very wide across the state. In 2002 Central Falls SD scores below Providence's. 2002 Skills: 21%, Concepts: 10%, Problem solving: 6%

Rhode Island ELA Assessment - Grades 4,8,10 tested only. Four testing categories: Basic Understanding, Analysis and Interpretation, Effectiveness, Conventions

Grade 4 ELA: Score decreases from 98-00 to 01-02 in basic understanding (-3) and analysis interpretation (-4); marked increases in effectiveness (+20) and conventions (+13) In 2002, Providence SD tied with Central Falls SD for lowest scores in the state in basic understanding and analysis and interpretation; Providence shows second lowest scores in state (after Central Falls)in effectiveness and the lowest scores in conventions. 2002 Basic understanding: 48%, Analysis and Interpretation: 28%, Effectiveness: 39%, Conventions: 32%

Grade 8 ELA: Slight score improvement from 98-00 to 01-02 in basic understanding (+1), decreases in three remaining categories: analysis and interpretation (-3) effectiveness (-2) conventions (-3) In 2002 Scores lowest in the state in all but analysis and interpretation (Central Falls SD scores 1% point lower) 2002 Basic understanding: 23%, Analysis and Interpretation: 7%, Effectiveness: 29%, Conventions: 21%

Grade 10 ELA: Slight score improvements from 98-00 to 01-02 in three categories: basic understanding (+5) analysis and interpretation (+3), effectivenesss (+4) However, most other school districts showed double digit score improvements in same three categories. Providence declined in fourth category, conventions (-5) In 2002 Providence has second lowest scores in three categories, just ahead of Central Falls SD, and dips to lowest scoring SD (by 1% point ) in effectiveness category. 2002 Basic understanding: 23%, Analysis and Interpretation: 15%, Effectiveness: 15%, Conventions: 44%

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