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In the state of the union speech Bush said that the 'No Child Left Behind' program is working and the test scores prove it. What do you think?
There is a book called How to Lie with Statistics by Darrell Huff. The book outlines the common errors, both intentional and unintentional, associated with the interpretation of statistics, and how these errors can lead to biased or inaccurate conclusions.
I tell you this because it can be viewed as a textbook on what Bush is doing with his statements on test scores; Lying, and using misinformation to back his statements.
Sure test scores are going up, test scores usually go up on a CERTAIN test because teachers learn not only what material is on the test, but how the questions are asked. Then they are better prepared to teach the following groups of children to take that specific test. For example, in my state 2nd graders are expected to add and subtract with regrouping. In my first year with these standards I made sure that my students knew how to add and subtract inside and out. Yet, they didn't do all that well on the test. Why? All the math was asked for in word problems and I had just focused on mechanics. So the next year I modified my teaching, focused on adding and subtracting in word problems and my scores went up.
But after a few years, they changed the test. The standards were still the same, but now the questions were predominately asked in data analysis form. Used to word problems, my students' test scores went down. So the next year my instruction focused on addition and subtraction in data analysis and they went up again.
Switching tests when they come into office is a common tactic politicians' use. They change the test their first year in office, scores go down and are printed in the paper with "horrifying" headlines about children's scores being the lowest in *** years! (Notice that rarely they tell you that they changed the test. If they do, the headline will read something along the lines of 'New Test Indicates Students Really Do Not Know the Baseline Material'.)
Over the years that the politician is in office, the test will remain the same. The teachers will get better and better at modifying their curriculum, and new text books and programs will come out that are "aligned with the standards", (making millions, if not billions for the text book companies). Then in re-election year, there are all these graphs published comparing students' scores the last year before re-election to the scores the first year in office and, lo and behold,..... there is an increase! Gotta re-elect the guy, education improved while he was in office!
Another way of playing with test scores is to "recalibrate" a test. This usually happens with Norm Referenced Tests. Those are the tests that compare students to a larger population. They give the students the test and then plot the scores making a bell curve with them. The middle of the graph becomes "average"- the 50th percentile, and the rest is either "above average" or "below average". Norm referenced tests have their value, but it is even easier to mislead people using their results because as teachers and text books get better at modifying their curriculum for them, the more test questions students get correct. Then the actual number of questions a child needs to get correct to be labeled as "average'"goes UP. In other words, as students do better on a test, what constituted as "above average" one year will be "below average" a few years later!
But the easiest way of playing with tests scores is to simply lower the testing standards. Sadly, across the country, to ensure compliance with NCLB and therefore securing federal funds, many states have done exactly this. They lowered their expectations of our children.