Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Is This What Happens When You've Got a Multi-State Testing Consortium?

In the NCLB era, it has become a rule of thumb that Test Scores Go Up. That is, they are required to go up, and in aggregate, they do. This is partly because schools, teachers and kids adjust to the demands of a particular test over time, including but not limited to actual improvements in teaching and learning.

It is to at least to a small extent due to an increase in various kinds of cheating at the school level as pressures rise over time.

Finally, there is pressure to quietly make the tests easier in content or scoring. As Todd Farley recounts in Making the Grades, this may require no more than a visit to the scoring center from a mid-level state official and a quiet conversation behind closed doors about the "proper application of the approved rubric" to generate a different score distribution.

Or perhaps the cut scores are quietly moved in a technical meeting.

Or there's a presumption that making the tests a graduation requirement will lead to a large bump in scores, as was the case with the MCAS in Massachusetts.

From 2007 to 2012, the percentage of students in Rhode Island scoring Substantially Below Proficient has moved from 51% to 40%. The entire premise of using the NECAP for a graduation requirement is dependent on that number going down to no more than about 10% (at most!). That has to happen, or it will be politically untenable.

If you're used to looking at changes in state test scores over time in the abstract, it was reasonable to assume that this would "just work," because Test Scores Go Up but perhaps that doesn't factor in the quiet shenanigans by states and testing companies.

Because this is a multi-state testing consortium, RIDE can't wink-wink nudge-nudge the testing company and to get the scores up. Vermont and New Hampshire would have to agree as well, and since they aren't using the NECAP for graduation, they have no incentive to play along.

Again, this may be the shape of things to come in the Common Core era.

1 comment:

Sean said...

Thanks for this Tom.

Re: shenanigans.

Gist obfuscates and dissembles when asked about the removal of complex items when a student is taking NECAP for the third time.

From the EG Patch:

"If the NECAP needs to be taken a third time, Gist said, the hardest questions would be culled from the test, with the idea of making it less intimidating. "But it doesn’t mean that it’s easier for them to get the score that they need to graduate."

When asked why that version of the test wasn't used for the second go-around, Gist said, "The range of why those students didn’t score a 2 varies really wildly – everything from they did their very best and they didn’t do very well, to they got really nervous and they didn’t do very well, to they just flat out didn’t try because they didn’t think it counted or it mattered. So there no need for us to make that determination until we’ve at least given it a second try.""