“We’ve now had four or five different waves of educational reform,” said Dr. Koretz, “that were based on the idea that if we can just get a good test in place and beat people up to raise scores, kids will learn more. That’s really what No Child Left Behind is.”Regular visitors here know that I've long pointed out the fraudulent claims being made about high-stakes testing. Herbert's observations, however, continue with one of the best NCLB quotes ever (I will bold it for emphasis here).
The problem is that you can raise scores the hard way by teaching more effectively and getting the students to work harder, or you can take shortcuts and start figuring out ways, as Dr. Koretz put it, to “game” the system.
Guess what’s been happening?
A study released last week by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute and the Northwest Evaluation Association found that “improvements in passing rates on state tests can largely be explained by declines in the difficulty of those tests.”
The people in charge of most school districts would rather jump from the roof of a tall building than allow an unfettered study of their test practices. But that kind of analysis is exactly what’s needed if we’re to get any real sense of how well students are doing.
Five years ago, President Bush and many others who had little understanding of the best ways to educate children were crowing about the prospects of No Child Left Behind. They were warned then about the dangers of relying too much on test scores.
But those warnings didn’t matter in an era in which reality was left behind.
“No longer is it acceptable to hide poor performance,” said Mr. Bush, as if those who were genuinely concerned about the flaws in his approach were in favor of poor performance.
During my interview with Dr. Koretz, he noted that by not rigorously analyzing the phenomenon of high-stakes testing, “we’re creating an illusion of success that is really nice for everybody in the system except the kids.”
That was a few days before the release of the Fordham Institute Study, which used language strikingly similar to Dr. Koretz’s. The study asserted that the tests used by states to measure student progress under No Child Left Behind were creating “a false impression of success.”
The study was titled, “The Proficiency Illusion.”