It's no secret that gifted kids tend to score very high on grade level standardized tests. It's also no secret in this era of No Child Left Behind that schools like to include gifted students' scores in their averages!
This is a problem for two reasons. First, it creates an incentive against specialized magnet programs, since these pull gifted kids out of their home schools. These kids' high test scores (which they might have achieved at any school) are now counted to the magnet school, rather than the home school. It also creates an incentive against acceleration. If a 9-year-old scores at the 99th percentile on 4th and 5th grade tests, but at the 75th on 6th grade tests, 6th grade is probably the right place for her. But the school would much prefer to have a 99 than a 75 included in its average.
So I was intrigued to see a plan announced by the East Baton Rouge Parish in Louisiana to "re-route" gifted kids' test scores. According to this article from the Associated Press, this plan will "help schools' performance by counting test scores from gifted students who live nearby but attend magnet programs and schools elsewhere."
Needless to say, various watchdog groups have cried foul. Per the article, the State Department of Education spokeswoman Rene Greer said, "The department is extremely concerned and plans to investigate" ways to address it.
A group called the Council for a Better Louisiana published a commentary saying that re-routing "should be called deception," and Stephanie Desselle, a senior vice president with the group, told the AP that "School accountability is not about fooling around with scores to make things look better than they are...The heart of the accountability system is to tell us how each school is doing."
But...while it may be a bit deceptive, it does remove the incentives principles currently have to oppose magnet programs for gifted students. I've become more and more convinced that we'd do better off with a uniform national test like the NAEP that is not so targeted to one grade level. Then you should compare scores of all 10-year-olds in your school, rather than all 4th graders. It's a subtle difference, but it removes the other disincentive -- that schools have toward acceleration. Even if you use grade level tests, they should be re-branded as "age-level" tests. A 9-year-old who's in 6th grade can sit for the 9-year-old test. It will be a waste of a day for him, but better than waste a whole year in 4th grade, which is what some educators currently like to see happen.
I'm curious to know what readers think about re-routing scores, or doing them by age rather than grade, or using a national test that allows for higher out-of-level scores. Do any of your districts allow re-routing?