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July 2, 2006

The School Testing Dodge

NY Times Editorial:

Many of the nations that have left the United States behind in math and science have ministries of education with clear mandates when it comes to educational quality control. The American system, by contrast, celebrates local autonomy for its schools. When Congress passed the No Child Left Behind Act, it tried to address the quality control problem through annual tests, which the states were supposed to administer in exchange for federal dollars. But things have not quite worked out as planned.

A startling new study shows that many states have a longstanding tradition of setting basement-level educational standards and misleading the public about student performance. The patterns were set long before No Child Left Behind, and it will require more than just passing a law to change them.

Policy Analysis for California Education (PACE), a research institute run jointly by Stanford and the University of California, showed that in many states students who performed brilliantly on state tests scored dismally on the federal National Assessment of Educational Progress, which is currently the strongest, most well-respected test in the country.

The study analyzed state-level testing practices from 1992 to 2005. It found that many states were dumbing down their tests or shifting the proficiency targets in math and reading, creating a fraudulent appearance of progress and making it impossible to tell how well students were actually performing.

Read Wisconsin's "Broad interpretation of how NCLB progress can be "met" through the WKCE", Alan Borsuk's followup article, including Wisconsin DPI comments and UW Math Professor Dick Askey's comments on "Madison and Wisconsin Math Data, 8th Grade".

PACE Report: Is the No Child Left Behind Act Working? "The Reliability of How States Track Achievement" [PDF]

Andrew Rotherham has more.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at July 2, 2006 6:58 AM
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