Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Thoughts on administering standardized tests

K1 is having her ERBs this week. It wasn't clear to me what she was taking but from her description and the description on ERB's website, it sounds like the CTP4. The tests are administered by administrators at her school rather than the classroom or language/math teachers. Back in my days of standardized testing in Malaysia, these were administered very differently.
1. They were held simultaneously at the state and more commonly at the nationwide level.
2. Teachers were randomly assigned to different schools to administer the tests so that no teacher administered the school from which they were in (from). They called themselves "invigilators".

Perhaps such a system would avoid stories such as this (from PBS Online Newshour in 2000):
"Moscowitz feels she betrayed the kids because she cheated. She gave her students the correct answers on New York City exams, which boosted their scores as well as her school's academic standing. The tests that Moscowitz and other teachers P.S. 90 in the South Bronx cheated on are called high-stakes tests because their results are used to make students and teachers accountable for their performance".

Or more from NYT:
"A seventh-grade teacher was accused of leaving a sheet of answers to a citywide math test near a pencil sharpener, then urging the class to sharpen their pencils and leaving the room. More than half the students marked the answers correctly."

Perhaps the logistics of having simultaneous testing does not pass the cost benefit test. The NYT article reports:
"The eight schools affected are about 1 percent of the city's 675 elementary and 197 middle schools. No high schools were implicated."

Or perhaps, in Malaysia, the Education Ministry does not trust its teachers while in the US the school administration does. Again, from the NYT:
"Ms. Weingarten said she was heartened that in six of the nine cases, educators were turned in by their own colleagues, suggesting, she said, that most teachers have no tolerance for cheating."

But more soberly, Reason reports:
"From underreporting violence to inflating graduation rates to fudging testscores, educators are lying to the American public.
Forty-seven states and the District of Columbia proudly reported that they were home to not a single unsafe school. That would be news to the parents of James Richardson, a 17-year-old football player at Ballou Senior High in Southeast Washington, D.C., who was shot inside the school that very year. It would be news to quite a few people: The D.C. Office of the Inspector General reports that during that school year there were more than 1,700 "serious security incidents" in city schools, including 464 weapons offenses."

Unfortunately, with the advent of high-stakes testing used to evaluate teachers and to tie pay to performance, incidents of cheating will likely more increase. Or perhaps what is best is that economists should stop advocating pay for performance -- is there more evidence that awarding stocks and options have resulted in better run companies or is there more evidence that this kind of pay for performance have resulted in accounting irregularities and stock manipulation?

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