Diane Ravitch's Blog: Aaron Pallas on New York’s Common Core Test Fiasco
Aaron Pallas is one of the wisest education scholars in New York, and therefore (as we New Yorkers all believe) in the world.
He consistently brings a fresh perspective to the unfolding drama and spectacle that is now U.S. education.
And he is one of the few academics willing to enter the arena and engage with current events.
That is one of the clear benefits of tenure.
In this post, Pallas says that he predicted--with uncanny accuracy–how proficiency rates would change as a result of the Common Core tests.
He also notes the incomprehensible glee with which Joel Klein and Mayor Bloomberg reacted to the news that only one in five students of color are considered “proficient” after a full decade of their policies.
As he observes, Mayor Bloomberg sees everything on his watch as good news, whether scores go up, stay the same, or go down.
Here’s the dirty little secret: no one truly understands the numbers. We are behaving as though the sorting of students into four proficiency categories based on a couple of days of tests tells us something profound about our schools, our teachers and our children. There are many links in the chain of inference that can carry us from those few days in April to claims about the health of our school system or the effectiveness of our teachers. And many of those links have yet to be scrutinized.
Does Mayor Bloomberg understand the numbers? Perhaps he’d care to share with us the percentage of children in each grade who ran out of time and didn’t attempt all of the test items, and the consequences of that for students’ scores. Or how well the pattern of students’ answers fit the complex psychometric models used to estimate a student’s proficiency. Or how precisely a child’s scale score measures his or her performance. Or how many test items had to be discarded because they didn’t work the way they were intended. Or what fraction of the Common Core standards was included on this year’s English and math tests—and what was left out.
These are just some of the factors in the production of the proficiency rates that have been the subject of so much attention. And the properties of the test are just one link in the chain.
Hmmm. When no one understands the numbers, not the Mayor who is in charge of the schools, not the scholars who study the schools, not the State Education Department, no one: What does that mean?
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