A Shrewdness of Apes

An Okie teacher banished to the Midwest. "Education is not the filling a bucket but the lighting of a fire."-- William Butler Yeats

Monday, November 28, 2005

Unleash the naivete! NAEP scores, state tests results differ

An article in a recent edition of the New York Times has exposed the fact that students are doing much better on state-administered tests of reading and mathematics than on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, otherwise known as the NAEP. In Tennessee, there was a differential of 68 percentile rankings between the Tennessee tests and the NAEP.

A quick review —and if you know this already, just hum a few verses of Jim Croce’s Working at the Car Wash Blues, a paean to underachievers everywhere, while we sketch in the main facts. To continue: under NCLB, states are allowed to use their own tests to demonstrate proficiency as required by the law, although they are also required to participate in NAEP. By 2014, each state is required to have ONE HUNNERT PERCENT of the young ‘uns testing at proficient or better.

In Mississippi, 89 percent of fourth graders performed at or above proficiency on state reading tests, while only 18 percent of fourth graders demonstrated proficiency on the federal test. Oklahoma, North Carolina, Alabama, Georgia, Alaska, Texas and more than a dozen other states all showed students doing far better on their own reading and math tests than on the federal one.

Say It Ain’t So, Joe!

As noted by the Times, let’s remember that practically every student must take the state tests, while NAEP is given to just a few students, and there are apparently no carrots used to bribe induce the students to actually try on NAEP.

Not all states were willing to play chicken with the federal government, however:

“G. Gage Kingsbury, director of research at the Northwest Evaluation Association, a nonprofit group that administers tests in 1,500 districts nationwide, said states that set their proficiency standards before No Child Left Behind became law had tended to set them high.

"The idea back then was that we needed to be competitive with nations like Hong Kong and Singapore," he said. "But our research shows that since N.C.L.B. took effect, states have set lower standards."

Not all have set the bar low. In South Carolina, Missouri, Wyoming and Maine, state results tracked closely with the federal exam.”

Well, let me tell you, that if push comes to that inevitable shove, SC, MO and all the others will wise up and lower their standards, too. I’d like to be able to sugarcoat this, but there is no way. Missouri set proficient as above grade level way back before NCLB, and with having to test every kid who’s been in the country five minutes or with those with myriad disabilities, you can’t be surprised.


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