Thursday, May 06, 2010

Teachers are supposed to monitor for cheating. But what if they are the cheaters?

Sol Stern reports:
In plain English: when school districts, prompted by systems like NCLB, offer teachers and administrators substantial incentives to raise students’ test scores, the teachers and administrators will be tempted to find extraordinary means—but not always ethical ones—to get the test scores up.

That’s exactly what seems to have happened. The best evidence of test-score inflation is the growing gap between the number of students that states deem proficient on their own tests—those they administer under the terms of NCLB—and the number deemed proficient by the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), often referred to as the “nation’s report card.” One reason the federal NAEP tests are the gold standard in student assessment is that they can’t be gamed by teachers or administrators. Every two years, NAEP math and reading tests are given to a statistically valid sample of all fourth- and eighth-grade students in each state; teachers aren’t able to teach to the test, and school districts can’t offer students practice tests because no one knows ahead of time which students will be tested. And in nearly every state in the union, the NAEP exams deem far fewer students proficient than the state’s own exams do.

An even more disturbing phenomenon: states reporting huge gains on their own tests while their NAEP results don’t budge.

Read the whole thing. New York State looks particularly shady.

Gail Heriot talks about the top down approach these days:
After more than a year in office, the Obama Administration has amassed a record not of reform, but of culpable misdirection. Three recent actions tell the story: At the behest of teachers’ unions, Obama himself has signed the death warrant for a cherished Washington, D.C. school choice program. His Department of Education is currently implementing a much-trumpeted civil rights enforcement plan that will make it more difficult for inner city schools to maintain safe and orderly classrooms. Meanwhile, his Department of Justice is arguing in federal court not for the elimination of race-based admissions policies, but for their expansion. None of these is going to do anything to close the racial achievement gap or indeed to improve education for anyone.
Consider first the tiny but beloved D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program. By killing off this education success story, the Obama Administration has proven it can toady up to the teachers’ unions with the best of them.

The D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program is or was the District of Columbia’s federally-funded school voucher program, providing $7500 in tuition per year to low-income students to attend private schools. The overwhelming majority of its beneficiaries are African Americans or Hispanics. At the height of the program, it allowed over 1,700 students to escape the grasp of D.C.’s dysfunctional public school system and attend quality private schools.

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