When test scores seem too good to believe – USATODAY.com

March 31, 2011 at 9:43 am 5 comments

I’m glad that it’s not just Atlanta, but it’s still depressing.  I guess that this is an example of two quotes that Richard Hake recently included in a post:

Dukenfield’s Law <http://bit.ly/bsRokM>: “If a thing is worth winning, it’s worth cheating for.”

Campbell’s Law <http://bit.ly/hMsyUr>: “The more any quantitative social indicator is used for social decision making, the more subject it will be to corruption pressures and the more apt it will be to distort and corrupt the social processes  it is intended to monitor.”

Such anomalies surfaced in Washington, D.C., and each of the states — Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Michigan and Ohio — where USA TODAY analyzed test scores. For each state, the newspaper obtained three to seven years’ worth of scores. There were another 317 examples of equally large, year-to-year declines in an entire grade’s scores.

USA TODAY used a methodology widely recognized by mathematicians, psychometricians and testing companies. It compared year-to-year changes in test scores and singled out grades within schools for which gains were 3 standard deviations or more from the average statewide gain on that test. In layman’s language, that means the students in that grade showed greater improvement than 99.9% of their classmates statewide.

via When test scores seem too good to believe – USATODAY.com.

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5 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Garth  |  March 31, 2011 at 1:27 pm

    I consider this one of the scariest trends in education today; school and teacher quality judged on student performance. School is not the major influence on many students’ lives and there are just too many external variables involved. I personally am in favor of fining parents for low student grades. Put the responsibility where it belongs, on the parents and the students. Can you image if grades and parent income taxes were connected?

    Reply
  • 2. davidtjones  |  March 31, 2011 at 5:47 pm

    I agree with Garth, it’s a scary trend.

    But it is a trend that represents a – not necessarily illogical desire – for people/governments/funders to have some idea of how “good” education is.

    To some extent, the only way I can see of defeating this trend is developing appropriate measures of effectiveness that cater for the desire, but don’t suffer these problems.

    Not a simple task, but one which appears valuable?

    Reply
  • […] How long before one of the Australian newspapers or other media outlets does a similar analysis? Amplify’d from computinged.wordpress.com […]

    Reply
  • 4. gasstationwithoutpumps  |  March 31, 2011 at 10:12 pm

    There is nothing much wrong with testing kids. The problem is tying the jobs and salaries of the testers to the performance on the test. The obvious solution is to have the testers and teachers be completely different groups of people (as is done in parts of the world where testing is long established). The attempt to be cheap and use the same people for both functions is what is raising the problem of cheating. When testing was purely for diagnostic purposes, there was no incentive for a tester to cheat, so it was ok to save money by using the teacher as a tester. But once there are consequences for the teacher, it is unethical (and stupid) to have the same person or group of people doing both the teaching and the testing.

    Reply
  • 5. Leigh Ann Sudol-DeLyser  |  April 1, 2011 at 11:28 am

    Its a hard balance to strike. As a teacher who taught in a district with at least 1/3 of the students on free and reduced lunch, and before that in an inner city school in south Florida, when you are handed a 16 year old who cannot read (FL) and are asked to teach him computing … well there is not much you can do to make him pass the standardized assessments where he needs to read the questions himself. (he actually performed quite well when the questions were read to him)

    As a hopefully future parent (no – nothing definite yet just thinking about it since I was married this year) I want to ensure that my child is getting a good education. As someone who is a resident of this country and a big bleeding hart liberal, I want to make sure that ALL students have access to quality education regardless of place of birth, socioeconomic status, or ethnicity (or gender).

    Marrying these two halves of myself often lend to interesting conversations with friends or family who mostly fall in one category or the other. Can we evaluate our teachers only on the performance of our students? no. Should we discount the data that says a teacher continually fails to progress his/her students during the course of a school year? no. So what is the right balance?

    Unfortunatelly, just as in any large population you will find people who try to game the system. Whether it is to hide a deficiency on their part, or to counteract an unfair system doesn’t matter. They will try anyway. I knew a teacher in FL who called observations the dog-and-pony show. Whenever he was being observed he would make sure that all students raised their hand for every question. If the students knew the answer they were supposed to raise their right hand, left if they were unsure. He used to get glowing reviews by the administration.

    Personal rant: I think teaching is an art. When evaluating art we do not only look at the numbers – number of paints, cost of the art (although that is important for the untrained), number of paintings the artist makes. We also evaluate each piece and try to see the collection as a portfolio. We look at the changes over the course of the artists career and the way in which they grow from using crayons at age 3 to a mature artist. I am in favor of using data from assessments (along with comparative statistics from other teachers in the school and other similar schools in the state) as one factor in such an evaluative portfolio. Just as any professional receives an annual review with goals to work on, teachers can be evaluated on their attempts to work towards goals as well that can be jointly developed with administrators and teacher mentors.

    Overall, this is not an easy question. Just thought I would share my 2 cents.

    Reply

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