Thursday, July 15, 2010

Drop In Test Scores Should Make Us Think

Valarie Strauss points out in her Post blog column yesterday, that the whole house of cards that has been built by the Rhee administration in which tests scores are the be-all and end-all is brought into question by the reactions of the administration, and for that matter the editors of the Washington Post, to the recent drop in scores. Jay Mathews has had to have a similar "epiphony." The fact is that standardized test scores are not a good enough proxy for learning, or for teacher quality, or for school quality, or for that matter for the quality of a Chancellor. They admit that when the scores drop, but when they're rising, foolishly calibrate the quality of everything on this very imprecise measure.

The other point that Strauss fails to mention is that rises in test scores are frequently followed by a drop because the little cheats -- the test prep tricks or removal of low scoring students, or just the fact that kids get used to a particular test format and process and therefore do better regardless of whether they actually know more or not -- that caused the scores to go up have played themselves out. So the lack of an unnatural bubble makes it look like you've had a drop.

So the new consensus is the drop in test scores doesn't mean much. Test score results are only ever meaningful to the politicans, not so much to the students. Valarie Struass' epiphony is that they perhaps shouldn't have been touted as meaning so much when the scores went up, either.

No comments: