Another Weekly Roundup of News on the Movement Against Testing Mania

This is from Bob Schaeffer at FairTest, as usual:


How much more evidence do policy makers need before they recognize that test-and-punish policies have failed? Learning gains have stagnated, progress toward closing the “achievement gap” has stalled, and their constituents increasingly reject the strategy. Even some of their strongest newspaper editorial page allies — including the New York Times and Los Angeles Times — are saying that it is time to look at alternative approaches.  Enough is enough!

Major National Survey Finds Parents Strongly Oppose Standardized Testing Misuse and Overuse

Standardized Tests Take Over the School Day

High-Stakes Testing Leads to Increased Incarceration
See FairTest Infographic “How High-Stakes Testing Feeds the School-to-Prison Pipeline

Support for Common Core Testing Declines Dramatically
see FairTest fact sheet: Common Core Assessments: More Tests But Not Much Better

ACLU Sues Rhode Island Over Grad Test Requirement

Florida School Grading System a “Politically Manipulated Scam”
Convoluted School Grading System Fails. Yet Jeb Bush’s Disciples Are Pushing It in Other States

Erase to the Top: Tainted Philadelphia Scores Demonstrate Flaws of Test-Driven School “Reform”

Widespread Test Cheating at New Orleans Charters and “Reconstruction” Schools

Oklahoma (and Indiana) Seek Test-Company Penalties for Exam Screw-ups

Why Are Texas Test-Takers Being Held More Accountable Than Test-Makers 

Standardized Testing’s Casualties — another excellent Letter to the Editor,0,6581072.story

Minnesota Plans K-12 Testing “Without the Tears and Trauma”

Focus on Test Scores Misses the Point on Urban Education

State Testing Makes Kids Hate School

Students Tell Policy-Makers: Stop Corporate Ed “Reform” and High-Stakes Testing

Key School “Reform” Questions Beg for Answers

Five Basic Lessons on Public Education

New Books on Assessment Reform
“The Mismeasure of Education” —
“Left Behind in the Race to the Top” —

Bob Schaeffer, Public Education Director
FairTest: National Center for Fair & Open Testing
ph- (239) 395-6773  fax- (239) 395-6779
cell- (239) 699-0468

Another Credibility Gap? Looks Like Rhee, Fenty, and Reinoso are Gaming the Tests to Try to Look Good

Unfortunately, in the field of education, crime does sometimes pay – at least for some people.

In a number of states, local politicians have tried to make themselves and their pet educational De-Forms look good by gaming the testing system. For example, Rod Paige’s educational “miracle” in Houston, TX – the very model for NCLB – was later shown to be based on pushing out low-scoring students, which makes the scores for everybody else in the system look much better. (And helped get GWBush elected President and Rod Paige to become Sec’y of Education.) Other states have made the cut-off scores and tests for NCLB a whole lot easier. That way, even if students aren’t really doing better, they will APPEAR to the public to be doing better.

An alert reader has sent in some data that suggests that sort of “gaming the system” might be happening here in DC, but not in Massachusetts.  (It’s in a comment on a previous blog.) I wanted to make sure the data was correct before I posted the data here as a somewhat more-legible table, so I double-checked the sources and found that it was all correct.

Then, on a hunch, I went back a few years to see if the problem is getting worse here in DC, and how it compares to Massachusetts.

Result: Yes. There is a greater and greater gap between the NAEP and local DC-CAS scores, but that is NOT happening in the Bay State.

Here are the tables I made:

Notice a few things:

In 2007, in DC, the locally-commissioned DC-CAS test results, in both reading and math, and at both the 8th grade and 4th grade levels said that about 15 to 25%  more students were proficient than the national NAEP scores said.

In 2009, the discrepancies between the local DC test and the national NAEP tests were much larger than in 2007: our local test says that roughly 30% more of our students are proficient than the national test does, in all 4 sub-groups (reading, math, 4th grade, and 8th grade). In other words, the DC-CAS seems to be giving a more and more inflated view of how our students are performing.

In Massachusetts, the trend seems to be the other direction. In 2007, the gap between the state MCAS test and the NAEP ranged anywhere from positive 1% to negative 32%. However, 2 years later, the gap went from positive 9% to negative 5%.  So, in other words, the MCAS appears to be improving its match to the NAEP.

And let me emphasize something: in Massachusetts, the MCAS last year gave LOWER scores than the NAEP in half of the cases I sampled.

You can find the Massachusetts results at . (Notice that they make up new tests every year.)

The NAEP results can be found at (but be prepared to dig a bit).

And Fenty, Rhee, and Reinoso bragged about the DC-CAS at,+Rhee+and+Reinoso+Announce+DCPS+2009+DC+CAS+Scores or here.


There are all sorts of easy ways of doing that sort of score inflation. One method, which works quite well if you use the same test over and over, is simply to have administrators or teachers cheat.  Blatantly.  And get more proficient at it. (We have all heard allegations of this.)

Another, more subtle, way to inflate the scores is to slightly modify the test from year to year so that it uses slightly easier questions.

Another way is to change the cut-off scores so that whereas it might have required, say, 60% to be “proficient” one year, the next year, you only need to get 45%  of them right. (It has been shown that you can get a passing score on certain high-stakes tests in New York by guessing randomly.)

Or, you simply make it so that the entire curriculum IS teaching to the test – which is what Chancellor Rhee apparently thinks is the proper way to teach.

Published in: on April 15, 2010 at 7:29 pm  Comments (4)  
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