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Testing        < Previous        Next >

 

Are Public Officials Explaining Test Scores Adequately?

 

Q. What are we to make of situations in which the same set of students look pretty good on one standardized test, but pretty so-so on another? How can you tell which test is accurate?

 

Officials can jimmy the "cut scores" and "pass rates" of statewide standardized tests to suit their purposes - create a "crisis" that "requires" more tax funding, for example -- or make themselves look better than they really are. The statistical gymnastics are endless, to the point where we need a Consumer Reports type evaluation of information dispensed by our own state officials, whose salaries are paid by . . . us!

 

According to Matthew Ladner, vice president of research at the Arizona-based Goldwater Institute, it's difficult for the public to sort through all the information about what test scores mean, especially when top state education officials don't understand what the scores mean, either, or perhaps fuzz up the meaning if it makes them look bad.

 

He wrote this message to supporters in April 2008:

 

"Recently I appeared on the Horizon public affairs program together with State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne, to discuss the No Child Left Behind law and our state AIMS test.

During the discussion, Superintendent Horne said the main reason Arizona students perform poorly on the national NAEP test, also known as the Nation's Report Card, is due to a non-alignment of standards.

 

"If, for example, Arizona does not teach the math concepts in fourth grade that appear on the fourth grade math NAEP, one could expect lower average grades.

 

"The explanation seems quite plausible, and doubtlessly there are some states that have better aligned their standards to NAEP than others. But how big a deal is this, in terms of Arizona's performance? As a study done by the American Institute of Research shows, not much.

"The study compared international science scores for eighth graders to eighth grade NAEP science scores. Singapore came in first, with 55 percent of students ranked as "proficient" or above. Massachusetts was the highest-performing U.S. state, with 41 percent proficient. Just 20 percent of Arizona eighth grades ranked proficient. 

 

"Alignment error ought to be much greater between nations than between American states. Furthermore, one would be hard pressed to buy into the notion that countries such as Singapore, Korea, Estonia, Hungary, and Slovakia simply have national standards more closely aligned to the American NAEP test than Arizona.

 

"When we get clobbered in science proficiency by countries like Estonia, we have problems that go much deeper than standards alignment.

 

 

Nation (or State) 8th Grade Science Scores

Percent Scoring "Proficient" or Above

Nation (or State) 8th Grade Science Scores

Percent Scoring "Proficient" or Above

Singapore

55

Lithuania

25

Taipei

52

Slovenia

24

South Korea

45

Russia

24

Hong Kong

44

Scotland

24

Japan

42

Belgium

22

Estonia

41

Latvia

21

Massachusetts

41

Malaysia

20

England

38

Arizona

20

Hungary

38

Israel

18

Netherlands

31

Bulgaria

17

Australia

30

Italy

17

Sweden

28

Norway

15

New Zealand

26

Romania

14

Slovakia

26

Serbia

12

 

 

Homework: For more good education coverage, see the archives of the Goldwater Institute.

 

By Susan Darst Williams www.ShowandTellforParents.com Testing 07 2008

 

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