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Thursday, February 19, 2015

Cheating on Tests Via Cut Scores

It is entirely absurd to me that Governor Cuomo would like 50% of a teacher's worth to be measured by the test scores of students.  Obviously, someone can be the finest teacher alive, but if his students do not study, he will be proven inept.  Even more frightening still, more depends upon the decision of policymakers regarding difficulty levels of tests and where to set cut scores than the talent of a teacher.  The whole thing, supposedly made into a science, is too incredibly absurd to believe.  

Prior to the NY State Common-Core tests of 2013, Chancellor Meryl Tisch and former State Commissioner John King miraculously predicted (with a 1% margin of error) the passing rate of NY's students before the tests were ever administered.  Here, I am sure, politics pushed aside the professional judgment of educators.  

One can find an online primer in PDF-file form for setting cut scores.  One can also read Carol Burris' account at the Washingpost.com.  It seems the ELA cut score was set to jibe with the SATs.  It seems the passing rate was a foregone conclusion.  Ultimately, Burris concludes:  

"When the cut scores were set, the overall proficiency rate was 31 percent–close to the commissioner’s prediction.  The proportion of test takers who score 1630 on the SAT is 32 percent.  Coincidence?  Bet your sleeveless pineapple it’s not. Heck, the way I see it, the kids did not even need to show up for the test."

Diane Ravitch also speaks to the inanity and arbitrary nature of these tests and the level of proficiency demanded in order to pass.  Ravitch has spoken now and again on the manufactured crisis against the backdrop of NAEP.  Tisch promised in 2013 that scores would rise on NY State Common-Core tests.  And, guess what?  They rose the next year.  They had to, given the backlash against the tests.  The Common Core has become a political liability.  The scores seem to increase, not so much through teacher or student effort, but rather through the manipulation of cut scores.  

If 50% of my worth depends upon the political winds and the manipulation of test grades to curry favor variously between those who would privatize public education, enraged parents and possibly others, it says a lot.  One may not need to worry so much these days about teachers cheating to raise student test scores as politicians cheating to obtain the results they desire.  Welcome to the Wonderland of Educational Reform!

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