Friday, July 13, 2007

Georgia: Dumbing Down the Test

I knew it. Many Georgia teachers know it. We’ve questioned our administrators and higher ups in control only to receive round about replies that leave one perplexed and confused regarding what the original question was.

Now maybe those in control will admit to problems with Georgia’s testing…maybe, but I doubt it.

Recently I came across a link over at Joeventures, a blog on the Georgia blogroll that elementaryhistoryteacher has put together. That link took me to a blog titled 13th Floor From and an article titled A Test of Standardized Tests.

The article states:

The report presents the percentages of students meeting proficiency standards on their NCLB tests (which states design) compared to the percentage who are proficient on “the Nation’s Report Card”—the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). The subtext: If students in a state are scoring much higher on the NCLB tests than they are on NAEP, then that probably means the NCLB tests are too easy.

…The five states where the gaps between the two tests are largest are Tennessee, North Carolina, West Virginia, Georgia, and Mississippi. In Mississippi, for example 88% of fourth graders scored proficient on the state reading test, but only 18% did on the NAEP reading test.

The report looks specifically at fourth grade reading, fourth grade math, eighth grade reading, and eighth grade math. In Georgia we have pass/fail requirements for certain grade levels tied in with the CRCT, our state test. Students must pass the CRCT at the third grade, fifth grade, and eighth grade levels in order to advance to the next grade.

Here are the specifics regarding Georgia from the report:

87% of fourth graders in Georgia scored proficient in reading while only 26% did on the NAEP reading test.

83% of fourth graders in Georgia scored proficient in math while only 25% did on the NAEP math test.

75% of eighth grade in Georgia scored proficient in reading while only 30% did on the NAEP reading test.

69% of eighth grade in Georgia scored proficient in math while only 23% did on the NAEP math test.

Over the last few years what I and many of my colleagues have noticed is third and fifth grade scores are generally higher than fourth grade. There is generally a marked dip in fourth grade scores every year in comparison not just in my district but across the state. It if was just our school or our district I would say there is something wrong with the instruction or discipline at those schools, however, it’s more than just a few fourth graders having a dip in their scores.

Our reason my colleages and I think is causing this is someone, somewhere has manipulated those tests in order to make it easier for third and fifth graders to make the benchmark and pass on to the next grade. Since fourth grade does not have the pass/fail option it has remained the same over the last few years.

The report cited in Josh Goodman’s article, however, points to the fact that even if the state is manipulating the third and fifth grade level tests to make them easier….even our fourth grade test does not compare in difficulty to the NAEP.

Getting back to Josh Goodman’s article he asks:

What’s most interesting to me is the question this report raises as Congress considers renewal of NCLB: Should the federal government design the nation’s standardized tests?

He makes an interesting case concerning a national test. However, will it really help? Will it help like the state test has done? Will states and school systems still have the final say over who heads on to the next grade level and who doesn’t?

Will the cut score be based more on a traditional test than the ridiculous scoring system used in Georgia?

Will requirements regarding pass/fail be upheld and not ridiculed by holding a meeting and passing along every student even though they didn’t make the required score?

Will it be a real measurement tool I can use with some certainty that it’s valid?

Seems like with every new improvement to education we simply open the door to more questions….questions with fuzzy answers.

1 comment:

Dr. P. said...

This sham testing has been going on for a long time. Twenty years ago an M.D. in West Virginia named John Jacob Cannell discovered that all states claimed that they were testing above the national average.

“My education about the corruption of American public school achievement testing was a gradual process. It started in my medical office in a tiny town in the coal fields of Southern West Virginia, led to school rooms in the county and then the state, to the offices of testing directors and school administrators around the country, to the boardrooms of commercial test publishers, to the office of the U.S. Secretary of Education, to schools of education at major American universities, to various governors’ offices, and finally, to two American presidents.”

You can read the whole story here. What is very sad is that twenty years later the same scam is being run.

Similar shenanigans occur when it come to teacher testing. For example it is actually possible for an Arkansas high school math teacher to pass the required Praxis II test with almost no actual math knowledge, just by getting a little lucky with guesses. See here ans here.