Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Random Reflections - Testing

According to The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP)  only 32% of males and 38% of females in 4th grade scored proficient in reading on their 2013 test. My first thought was who decides what is proficient at the 4th grade? Are our students really non-proficient or are the standards unrealistic? Someone, or a group of someones, had to decide what a 4th grader should be able to do.

Think about it: 4th graders probably range in age between 8 years 11 months to 10 years 9 months, depending on the state’s age requirements and a child’s birthday. This age grouping doesn’t take into account the child who was held back or who skipped a grade. The slow maturing 8-year-old is a far cry from the fast maturing 10-year-old. Published test results includes scores by race and poverty and (surprise!) that makes a difference in scores.

So I checked on the validity of this test. In other words, is it measuring what it says it measures?  A  2011 Washington post article quoted two experts associated with NAEP’s National Assessment Governing Board as saying, “The proficient achievement level does not refer to “at grade” performance. Nor is performance at the Proficient level synonymous with ‘proficiency’ in the subject. That is, students who may be considered proficient in a subject, given the common usage of the term, might not satisfy the requirements for performance at the NAEP achievement level.”

According to Fair Test  “The National Assessment Governing Board (NAGB) oversaw setting of NAEP levels. A set of experts hired to evaluate the results were fired after sharply criticized the levels-setting process. Subsequently, the National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Education, General Accounting Office and many independent researchers all reached the same conclusion: the levels-setting process was flawed.”

My personal opinion is our school children are exchanging valuable learning time for testing prep and test taking. This in only one test (for which our government has spent billions on in the last 20 years), but how many other state and national tests have proficiency levels determined by some faceless group, many of whom have never worked in a classroom or even meet a 4th grader?

The sad thing is I believe many children are not getting the education they need. However, to   build on the quote “Quality cannot not be tested into a product,” I would say it also can’t be tested into a child.

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