The educrats are readying the smoke and mirrors. It is time
once again for The Great Test Score Scam.
This year, they are pulling out all the stops; a meaningless
“assessment,” messing with the standardized tests
to confuse comparison, arbitrary standards of “success” that float like a
lumbering lifeboat, and generous accommodations for the ever larger
numbers of children bearing an official government label. What a show!
The Washington Assessment of Student Learning (WASL) can’t
be compared to those nasty old standardized tests. That’s good for the
educrats, because it hides the massive failure of performance-based education.
The standardized tests are still around to haunt the marketing team, though,
so the state changed the test and moved it from the fourth to the third grade.
It is now impossible to compare scores of past and future students.
The WASL is not valid or reliable by any scientific measure. Valid
means that the test is an accurate measure of what the student knows.
Reliable means completed tests with identical answers should get the same score,
no matter who takes it or when. These definitions no longer apply.
The WASL is “officially” valid and
reliable merely because the state board said so.
But the WASL is an essay test, subjectively graded by many
different people, real people who have good and bad days. A single assessment is
unlikely to be graded the same by different people or even by the same
person at a different time. This year’s “scoring errors’ on the writing portion
illustrate this dramatically.
There are other reasons the WASL is useless. The assessments are
different every year. [Superintendent of Public Instruction Terry] Bergesen
has admitted that the writing test is easier this year, because last year’s was
too hard. What constitutes “passing” is voted on by a committee of
educrats. There is nothing to prevent artificially raising the scores by lowering the
standard. The long list of labels attached to children that will result in
accommodations (more time, help reading directions, etc.) includes “highly
capable!” The possibilities of the abuse are endless.
It used to be enough to reassure our doubts about the local
schools through a little manipulation of test score reporting. Just “excuse” the
right students from the statistics and – bingo – above average. The press never
reports the percentage of students tested and the public naturally doesn’t
think to ask the question. The percent tested varies considerably, but that
information never sees the light of day. This question should be asked of both
the standardized tests and the WASL.
Borrowing an engineering truism, “If you torture the data enough, it
will confess.” The whole exercise would
be laughable, were not the stakes so high.
After all, this is the measure by which the Compliance Police
(A+ Commission) will decide what schools – or districts – get taken over by
the police. Whose district will be the first target?
Chairman, Citizens United for Responsible Education