As a testing specialist, my analysis leads me to a different kind of skepticism. The amount of time children have been given to complete test items this year is significantly less than last. This is a matter of test design, and the pressure caused by shorter time limits is sharply inconsistent with the grandiose claims about what the standards are supposed to mean for students.
For the English Language Arts (ELA) exams, there is an overall 7% decrease in time per item. It is fairly uniform from grade 3 through 8. For math, the average time allocation drops by 13%, ranging up to a 26% decrease in grade 3!
Last year, third graders had three hours over two days to complete 58 math items. Next week they will have two hours and twenty minutes to answer 61 items—that somehow will be the vital first stage in projecting whether they will be ready for college and employment ten years from now.
Alice in Wonderland logic is leading the way. Down is up. Items will be more difficult and we’ll give children less time to read more complex material and solve more challenging math problems using, in testing jargon, “speeded” tests. Things will be harder this year, kids will struggle, results will decline, but that’s a sure sign that we’re on the path tor improvement.