Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Standardized Test Shenanigans 

Marie Gryphon of the Cato Institute shines light on the games that states are now playing with standardized tests in order to get around the No Child Left Behind Act's requirement that schools demonstrate "adequate yearly progress" of their students. Says the author:

According to the RAND Corporation, Texas boasted an 88 percent pass rate on
its eighth grade reading test last year while South Carolina turned in a miserable 21 percent pass rate.

Texas children read far better than South Carolinians, one might conclude. One would be wrong, though. On the standard National Assessment of Educational
Progress, scores from these two states are nearly identical: South Carolina
has a 24 percent "proficiency" rate compared with only 26 percent among Texans.

Different state exams were useful in a pre-NCLB world. Then, states set standards with an eye toward cleaning their own houses. Now they tailor tests and statistical methods to obscure reality, compromising the integrity of state systems to keep the federal government flying blind.

Last year the state of Michigan reduced the number of "failing" schools under its care from 1,500 to 216. But this remarkable achievement was merely a statistical sleight of hand. Michigan lowered the minimum passing score on the state's assessment from 75 percent to a mere 42 percent, the Heartland Institute reports.

Other states lower standards by manipulating their methods for reporting results. North Carolina increased the percentage of its schools reporting adequate progress from 47 percent to 70 percent last year. The increase is largely due to a technical change in the way the data are reported. Kentucky, Pennsylvania, and Tennessee have made similar adjustments.

Of course, loyal readers of this space could have guessed this would happen.

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