Mute the Messenger

As students, parents, teachers, principals and other educators receive word of test scores that are [unfortunately] used to determine student promotion from one grade to the next and/or teacher and principal promotion, demotion, or termination, it is critical we understand the tool being used is ineffectual to make such determinations. Sadly, I hurt for those whose lives are dramatically changed because of it. In the article I share, even Pearson admits HALF of what is tested is “insensitive to instruction” (i.e. the tests don’t measure what students learn in the classroom). What other profession do we measure in such an outrageously irresponsible manner? Do juries convict based on the presentation of only half the evidence? Help me here. I’m stumped even constructing an equivalent analogy for doctors because it is so inconceivable.

For years I’ve said to students and educators, “You are more than a number.” Regrettably, my statement isn’t true. Our students and educators are a number…a number preceded by a dollar sign.

Below are but a few highlights of the article. I encourage reading, Mute the Messenger, in its entirety.

For almost $100 million a year, Texas taxpayers were sold these tests as a gauge of whether schools are doing a good job. Lawmakers were using the wrong tool.  The tests, [Dr. Walter] Stroup (a tenured professor at UT with a doctorate in education from Harvard University) said, simply couldn’t measure how much students had learned in school. The paradox of Texas’ grand experiment with standardized testing is that the tests are working exactly as designed from a psychometric (the term for the science of testing) perspective, but their results don’t show what policymakers think they show.

The paradox of Texas’ grand experiment with standardized testing is that the tests are working exactly as designed from a psychometric (the term for the science of testing) perspective, but their results don’t show what policymakers think they show. Stroup concluded that the tests were 72 percent “insensitive to instruction,” a graduate- school way of saying that the tests don’t measure what students learn in the classroom. 

Pearson wasn’t going to let Stroup’s findings go unchallenged. In a public statement posted on the Pearson website, Dr. Walter “Denny” Way, senior vice president for measurement services at Pearson, said the 72 percent number was “not supported through valid research and will not stand up to a rigorous review by qualified experts.” After correcting what Pearson interpreted as the mislabeled column, Way wrote, the tests were “only 50 percent” insensitive to instruction. Even if you accepted Pearson’s argument that Stroup had erred, here was the company selling Texas millions of dollars’ worth of tests admitting that its product couldn’t measure half of what happens in a classroom.

I agree with former Texas Education Commissioner Robert Scott, who called the STAAR test a “perversion of its original intent.”

Source: Mute the Messenger

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