Friday, May 11, 2012

More Fuzzy Math - School Report Cards, High-Stakes Testing

In trying to determine the formula that determines which schools are selected for closing in New York City, I came across this article.  Would it surprise anyone that the algorithm is unclear, arbitrary and based on minute differences that are greatly exaggerated in the process (like the unbelieveably stupid teacher data reports, that I highlighted in a separate post.  I remember when the school report cards first came out and I looked to see the grades, and some really awful schools received "A"'s.  And then there's my local school, which, although not perfect, is certainly better than a lot of the "A" schools, routinely received "B"'s.  These grades were supposed to help parents more easily determine a "good" school from a "bad" school, but my judgements were not borne out from these grades; there were a lot of "A" schools that I wouldn't dream of having my child attend.

If you don't get this picture, either
you're not a test question developer, or
I need what ever you're smoking
Since becoming a teacher, I have said that I wanted to be a textbook editor.  It doesn't seem like they do much, based on the errors that I have seen.  Silly things most people wouldn't care about like putting square units on an volume problem, that, when teaching children math, does strike one as important.  In any case, it now seems like there are new "easy street" jobs out there, including statisticians at the Department of Education, and, everyone's favorite new field, standardized test question writer.  Is this a new business model, having your customers "pay" for your research and development (field test questions)?  Could drug manufacturers then "field test" medications by mixing in new pills in with the correct prescriptions?  Could car companies now sell you unproven, not very well thought through, new cars, so they could see which ones "drove well"?  I'm certain there are people sitting in a board room this very moment trying to determine a way to do just this.

"It looks like the vendor has worked out an amazing testing scheme — producing items along the way, paid for by one or another state, owned by Pearson, and then re-sold and re-sold to other states for developmental purposes or operational use."
 My goodness, there is a whole new job market opening up here.  What am I doing still teaching?


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