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Proficiency Testing

"Experts said that no one test alone will provide a full picture on how a student is doing and what the student needs. "The most important thing is the parents and teachers have to be informed what the assessments can and cannot do,'' said Suzanne Lane, a University of Pittsburgh education professor. "You have to think of not just one assessment. You have to think about an assessment system.''" Eleanor Chute, Interpreting test scores is multiple choice Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

See also ... Testing and Assessment, Identification and An Inventory of Tests
For Acronyms and Terms, Acronyms, Terms, and other things we need to know

Achievement Trap: How America Is Failing Millions of High-Achieving Students from Lower-Income Families Recommended by Joshua S. Wyner, John M. Bridgeland, John J. DiIulio, Jr., A Report by the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation & Civic Enterprises with original resear ch by Westat
There are far fewer lower-income students achieving at the highest levels than there should be, they disproportionately fall out of the high-achieving group during elementary and high school, they rarely rise into  the ranks of high achievers during those periods, and, perhaps most disturbingly, far too few ever graduate from college or go on to graduate school. [It] is not that high-achieving students from lower-income backgrounds are suffering more than other lower-income students, but that their talents are similarly under-nurtured... (requires Adobe Reader)
Do Grades or Standardized Test Scores Make the Student? Recommended
If you have a very bright student, home-school him. My son was reading a college-level book in third grade. Academically, we figured he'd learn and grow regardless of the environment. We believed childhood should include high school sports teams and clubs... We decided to leave him in public school.  To minimize frustration, we focused my son on learning, not grades. If he could get a 100 on an exam without doing the homework, we believed his time was better spent doing another activity in which he actually learned something...
High-Achieving Students in the Era of NCLB Recommended the Fordham Institute on results of NAEP studies, by Tom Loveless, Steve Farkas and Ann Duffett with forward by Chester Finn and Michael Petrill
While the nation’s lowest-achieving youngsters made rapid gains from 2000 to 2007, the performance of top students was languid.  This pattern—big gains for low achievers and lesser ones for high achievers—is associated with the introduction of accountability systems in general, not just NCLB.  In spite of teachers' own personal beliefs, low-achieving students receive dramatically more attention from teachers.  Low-income, black, and Hispanic high achievers were more likely than low achievers to be taught by experienced teachers... (requires Adobe Reader) Also read Laura Vanderkam's blog on the report Did NCLB hurt gifted students?
Smart Child Left Behind  Recommended by Tom Loveless and Michael J. Petrilli, in the New York Times
The new study, by the independent Center on Education Policy, showed that more students are reaching the “advanced” level on state tests now than in 2002. This led the authors to conclude that there is little evidence that high-achieving students have been shortchanged.

If only that were so. But like many miracle-drug claims, this conclusion is deeply flawed...
Texas Education Agency Released Tests, Answer Keys, and Scoring Guides Recommended
TAKS tests, scored right on the 'net, for grades 3-11 in reading, mathematics, writing, writing prompt, and science, plus exit level / end of course tests in many subjects.  Use these tests to show your child's above-level mastery...
34 Utah schools poised to join NCLB's 'pass' list by Jennifer Toomer-Cook, Tiffany Erickson and Laura Hancock, in the Deseret Morning News
Relatively obscure federal rules are lifting 34 Utah schools off No Child Left Behind's dark side, and more could follow in the coming weeks.  [The] schools that were identified last month as failing to make "adequate yearly progress" on math and language arts tests now are set to pass federal muster based on rules allowing test scores to be averaged over three years...
0%: What this year's top science pupils would have got in 1965 by Richard Garner, Education Editor, The Independent
(U.K.) High-flying GCSE students set for an A or A* pass scored zero points in a mock science exam which included old O-level questions.  The RSC called the test, taken by just over 1,300 of the country's brightest 16-year-olds, the first hard evidence of a "catastrophic slippage" in exam standards.  Too many teachers were "teaching to the test" because of the pressure of performance league tables, so students were missing out on background information to help them understand their subject...
Abolish the SAT by Charles Murray
"The SAT’s independent role in predicting freshman grade point turned out to be so small that knowing the SAT score added next to nothing to an admissions officer’s ability to forecast how an applicant will do in college—the reason to give the test in the first place.  ...If I am wrong, and the pre-1994 SAT measured g much better than the SAT used for the UC study, then I hope some disaffected College Board psychometrician leaks that news immediately. I will thereupon join a crusade to restore the old SAT."
More recently... Debate on Ending SAT Gains Ground by Patricia Cohen, The New York Times... [Murray] concludes that college admissions offices should reject the SAT and substitute other standardized tests: subject or so-called achievement tests that gauge knowledge in specific disciplines like history or chemistry...
Accountability Frankenstein: Understanding and Taming the Monster by Sherman Dorn , podcasts and more at Accountability Frankenstein
Provides a broader perspective on the school accountability debate by exploring the contradictions inherent in high-stakes testing,  and explains the historical and social origins of test-based accountability: the political roots of accountability, why we trust test scores while we distrust teachers, the assumptions behind formulaic accountability systems, and the weaknesses with the current carrot-and-stick approach to motivating teachers.  Answers the questions of educators and parents who want to understand the origins of accountability. Challenges the beliefs of fierce advocates and opponents of high stakes testing, and provides a rescue plan for accountability...
ACT vs. SAT - which test should I take and why? by Eric Hebert
The better test to take? It's really not a question that can be answered completely, and will constantly be one of debate because of its subjective nature. While doing the research for this article, this author has made his own decision based on what each test seems to stand for. The SAT is designed more for...
Advanced Pressure by Vicki Abeles, The New York Times
Video features the stories of students and teachers of Advanced Placement classes and the pressures they face in our achievement-obsessed culture...
In Era of Scores, Schools Fight Over Gifted Kids by Daniel Golden, The Wall Street Journal
In a test-driven U.S. educational system, gifted students — and their test scores — are becoming a valuable and sometimes misused commodity. Spurred by performance standards set by the 2001 "No Child Left Behind" law, many schools are trying to keep their top students, rather than send them on to special programs designed to challenge them...
Educational Testing Service (ETS)
Home of the tests: AP, SAT, and more, with information and practice test questions
EDUTEST® The Most Advanced, Effective Internet Testing & Assessment
On-line tests in math and verbal for grade levels 2 through 8
Examined Life, What Stanley H. Kaplan taught us about the S.A.T. by Malcolm Gladwell
In proving that the S.A.T. was coach-able, Stanley Kaplan did something else, which was of even greater importance. He undermined the use of aptitude tests as a means of social engineering...
The Explore Test: A Talent Search by Linda
Questions and answers about the Explore Test, a commonly used Talent Search identification test
Fourth Grader Suspended For Not Answering A WASL Question by Keith Eldridge, KOMOTV
A fourth grader has been suspended for a week because he refused to answer a question on the statewide test known as the WASL. Opponents of the test say it is proof the WASL has gone too far...
Glossary of Measurement Terms Harcourt Brace Educational Measurement's technical glossary
Looking for a definition of criterion-referenced vs. norm-referenced, grade equivalent, percentile or stanine? Here are the definitions...
Hemingway, Shakespeare Might Flunk SAT Essay Test NPR Weekend Edition (audio)
John Katzman makes the case, in an article in the Atlantic Monthly, that Ernest Hemingway and Shakespeare would not score well on the essay...
High school graduation exam requirement linked to lower SAT scores from Ball State University
High school exit exams have come under scrutiny...  "Our study takes it a step further; not only are the tests not helpful for determining success, but they might actually be detrimental," Marchant said. "When standards that are designed to guide instruction become the focus of high-stakes testing, content and practice can be narrowed in ways that are counterproductive to the overall success of students."
How Proficiency Tests Fall Short (Let Me Count the Ways) by James R. Delisle, in EdWeek
Proficiency tests, this decade's panacea for all of education's ills, are the latest vehicle for removing from teachers their right to be professional
Inside the New SAT Test by John Cloud in TIME Online Edition
America's college gatekeeper is changing dramatically. Get ready for advanced algebra, an essay—and, yes, the return of grammar. An exclusive look at the new exam—and how it may hurt some students' scores
Interpreting test scores is multiple choice by Eleanor Chute, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
A second-grader scores in the 60th percentile in reading -- better than 60 percent of the kids who took the test -- and is deemed proficient. In third grade, the same student ranks in the 80th percentile -- even higher -- but is labeled not proficient. What happened?
It Doesn't Test for Success by Joanne V. Creighton 
[Mt. Holyoke's study] found no meaningful difference in academic performance between students who did not submit scores and those who did. The study shows a one-tenth of a point difference between the aggregate grade point averages of submitters and non-submitters, and this difference is mitigated the further along the student is in her college career....
Left Behind By Design: Proficiency Counts and Test-Based Accountability by Derek Neal and Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach
"We were told to cross off the kids who would never pass. We were told to cross off the kids who, if we handed them the test tomorrow, they would pass. And then the kids who were left over, those were the kids we were supposed to focus on." [Accountability systems] provide weak incentives to devote extra attention to students who are clearly proficient already... (requires Adobe Reader)
The Lobotomized Weasel School of Writing by Crispin Sartwell, Dickenson College
Today's educational establishment is making actual illiteracy look good, like an act of humanity and rebellion. If your no-child-left-behind funds depend on your test scores, you will teach your kids to write essays that move a computer to tears. But the idea that computers can grade essays in the first place is one that could only have occurred to people who have no idea how to write or how to read...
Measure for Measure by Thomas Toch, Washington Monthly
NCLB's accountability system was probaby the best that could be achieved in 2001. But the flaws in its testing mandate have become more and more evident with each passing year. In particular, NCLB's rating system holds schools responsible for factors they can't control. Studies have shown that such things as English proficiency, family income, and parental education have a major influence on test scores, but NCLB, by judging schools on the basis of whether enough students pass a set of tests once a year instead of on how much schools increase students' learning over the course of a year, as the value-added model does, fails to account for that reality. Respected measurement experts have declared NCLB “scientifically indefensible.”
Miscalculation on Scores Shows a Weakness of Tests by Anemona Hartocollis, New York Times
CTB/McGraw-Hill, publishers of the TerraNova! The error on the CTB/McGraw-Hill test, which the company said also affected eight other systems... The problems, critics say, graphically illustrate why many educators and testing companies themselves advise against using a single test given on a single day as the sole criterion for making decisions...
New York 8th-Graders Boycott Practice Exam But Teacher May Get Ax by Juan Gonzalez
More than 160 students in six different classes at Intermediate School 318 in the South Bronx - virtually the entire eighth grade - refused to take last Wednesday’s three-hour practice exam for next month’s statewide social studies test... so let's blame the social studies teacher.  So they're going to fire the teacher?!!?  Seattle teacher, suspended for refusing to give WASL, calls test "bad for kids"  By Linda Shaw, Seattle Times.  Sixth grade science teacher wanted to take a stand against a test he considers harmful to students, teachers, schools and families...  Texas test resister wins multiple scholarships by George N. Schmidt.  A Texas student who resisted the TAKS test has won several college scholarships, in part because of her courageous stand against test mania...  Marin students boycott state test: Achievement test boycotted in Marin district, Schools left ineligible for state reward funds, by Kelly St. John, San Francisca Chronicle. Administrators of an affluent Marin County school district were stunned this week by a student protest against standardized testing that will leave two of California's top high schools ineligible for state reward money. More than 35 percent at Sir Francis Drake High School's and more than 22 percent of Tamalpais High School's ninth-, 10th- and 11th-grade students got their parents to sign waivers excusing them...   Blue Books Closed, Students Protest State Tests by Jacques Steinberg, New York Times.  The largest protest was at Cambridge Rindge and Latin School, about 100 miles east of here and near Harvard, where more than 100 students boycotted the test, many of them assembling in the school auditorium for a teach-in that featured representatives of the ACLU and FairTest... And don't miss Not On the Test Recommended by Tom Chapin
Older forms of CTB's tests yielded less than the 99th percentile for a student who got all questions correct. Is that the case with TerraNova? CTB / McGraw Hill
If 20 students out of 100 make a perfect score, such a score could be assigned a Percentile Rank of anywhere between 80 and 99. One approach would be to assign the lowest score in the possible range of Percentiles (80); another would be to assign the highest possible Percentile (99); and still a third would be to assign the Percentile that is in the middle of the range (90). The last is the practice followed by CTB/McGraw-Hill: we believe that to assign the lowest or highest Percentile would tend to understate or overstate the student's true level of achievement...
One Minute Test-taking Tips by Ronald L. Rubenzer
The "testing triathlon": being fact smart, test smart, stress smart.  Left-brain, right-brain, and both-brain activities to assure test preparedness... (requires Adobe Reader)
Proficient at What? by James R. Delisle, in EdWeek
Musings from a teacher on test day
Reading Between the Lines: What the ACT Reveals about College Readiness in Reading
Based on 2005 ACT-tested high school graduates, it appears that only about half of our nation’s ACT-tested high school students are ready for college-level reading. What’s worse, more students are on track to being ready for college-level reading in eighth and tenth grade than are actually ready by the time they reach twelfth grade....
SAT Gauges More Than Collegiate Success  
new research shows that the test may go far beyond predicting college success; when taken in the early teens, it may actually foretell a person’s success and life satisfaction after university....
The Shrub Who Stole Learning by a teenager
...Yes! Away would go questions and the mess and the noise, that comes with real learning, by real girls and boys, away with the teaching, and laughter and play, for it would be test prep that carried the day...
Study Finds Shortcoming in New Law on Education by Greg Winter, The New York Times
The academic growth that students experience in a given school year has apparently slowed since the passage of No Child Left Behind, the education law that was intended to achieve just the opposite, a new study has found...
Taking TAKS to task by Jenny LaCoste-Caputo, San Antonio Express News
When Kimberly first decided to take a stand against standardized testing by boycotting the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills, critics from all sides begged her to change her mind.  Kim said her parents stood behind her decision to boycott the test, even if it jeopardized her college chances. ... She said she hopes she's proven a point.
Want a job? Hand over your SAT results by Rebecca L. Weber
Ironically, just at a moment when more colleges are questioning the value of standardized testing in the admissions process, some companies are taking a second look at the old scores...
What's Wrong with Teaching to the Test? by  Dave Posner, Phi Delta Kappan
In Darwinian terms, we are in effect putting our kids (and their teachers!) on an isolated atoll under the evolutionary force of a strange selection process based on standardized tests. The inevitable product of this process is a species that is as custom-engineered as any carbon-based life form can be to solve trivial problems. Like most exotic species, this one is unlikely to be able to adapt to and compete in the larger world...
When Testing Fails by David B. Cohen, Teacher Magazine (free registration required)
I’m not suggesting that test scores are without value, or that teachers can’t be assessed and expected to account for their practices. However, it is vital that everyone who cares about teacher quality understand how many variables affect measurements of student performance...

Last updated October 24, 2016

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