We get lectured every other day about this stuff so we're all deaf to it. For the historical record, here's a dose of truth. I'm bolding the elephant in the living room.
Editorial, New York Times, The School Testing Dodge, published: July 2, 2006.
Policy Analysis for California Education (PACE), a research institute run jointly by Stanford and the University of California, showed that in many states students who performed brilliantly on state tests scored dismally on the federal National Assessment of Educational Progress, which is currently the strongest, most well-respected test in the country.
The study analyzed state-level testing practices from 1992 to 2005. It found that many states were dumbing down their tests or shifting the proficiency targets in math and reading, creating a fraudulent appearance of progress and making it impossible to tell how well students were actually performing.
Not all states have tried to evade the truth. The tests in Massachusetts, for example, yield performance results that are reasonably close to the federal standard. Not so for states like Oklahoma, where the score gap between state and federal tests has averaged 48 points in reading and 60 points in math, according to the PACE report. The states that want to mislead the government — and their own residents — use a variety of dodges, including setting passing scores low, using weak tests and switching tests from year to year to prevent unflattering comparisons over time. These strategies become transparent when the same students who perform so well on state tests do poorly on the more rigorous federal exam. Most alarming of all, the PACE study finds that the gap between student reading performance on the state and federal tests has actually grown wider over time — which suggests that claims of reading progress in many states are in fact phony.