Are Test Scores Inflated?

Though this next story is a few months old, it’s still worth reading. Stateline.Org noted that some states take a rather lax approach to standardized tests while others take a more rigorous approach.

– The reading test in Texas (2006) was multiple choice.

– The reading test in Ohio (2005) had several short-answer questions

– The reading test in Massachusetts (2007) required answering open-response questions.

One reason cited for the multiple-choice questions: It takes a lot less time (and thus money) to grade them.

States complain that the federal government requires them to test students for NCLB, but then doesn’t pay enough money to pay for the testing. Shouldn’t states be interested in measuring the results anyway? Besides, the feds do give states a great amount of leeway in which standards they use, and what counts as making “adequate yearly progress” for a given year.

One interesting fact from the article: Since NCLB was enacted, the amount spent on tests has nearly tripled. One reason for the increase: more students are tested. Another: an additional subject test (science).

Another interesting fact, according to author Pauline Vu, is that NCLB has actually resulted in making it harder to compare states. There’s been a tendency to abandon the use of the Stanford Achievement Test and other tests that have been used by many states, and instead create state-specific states reflecting the various state standards.

This has resulted in “credential creep.” It’s now possible for the same student who be “proficient” in one state and “not proficient” in another–all depending on how states set the curve. (See Grading on the Curve, a commentary from the Flint Hills Center for Public Policy on this phenomenon.) The implications are stark: “to be considered proficient readers in Wisconsin, for example, fourth-graders needed to answer questions about as difficult as one that asked them to note a few differences between cats and dogs. But fourth-graders in Massachusetts faced more difficult questions such as those about a written passage by Russian author Leo Tolstoy.”

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