More Standardized Testing Troubles
Under No Child Left Behind, states are supposed to test their students every year, and show "adequate yearly progress." NCLB is federal, but in a nod to the states, the federal department of education said states could use their own tests. Since 100% of students are supposed to reach proficiency in math and reading by 2014, it doesn't take a genius to see the temptation states face.
Why not make a really easy test? One that doesn't require much heavy lifting to get 100% of students proficient in the next decade?
This appears to be exactly what most states are doing.
This article from the NY Times notes that 87% of Tennessee's 8th graders were "proficient" on Tennessee's math tests. Alas, only 21% of Tennessee's 8th graders were "proficient" on the National Assessment of Educational Progress exam, the results of which were released last month.
Other states show similar gaps. In Mississippi, 89% of 4th graders were proficient in reading on the state tests; only 18% were proficient on national tests.
Of course, it's difficult to say what the right level of difficulty should be on a test (though having looked at NAEP questions, I'm not inclined to say that's a particularly difficult test either, which means Tennessee and Mississippi are probably merely asking students to count and identify letters).
That said, states do their citizens no favors by lowering the bar. South Carolina isn't -- that state's test produces similar (lowish) results to the NAEP. Making progress is difficult. But if SC achieves anywhere near 100% proficiency on that test by 2014, you will know something exciting has happened there. We'll be seeing every business in the country trying to relocate to Charleston twenty years from now.