When the Tests Fail ; Even States Considered Models of Accountability Are Struggling to Come Up with Reliable Tests

By Jonsson, Patrik | The Christian Science Monitor, August 20, 2002 | Go to article overview

When the Tests Fail ; Even States Considered Models of Accountability Are Struggling to Come Up with Reliable Tests


Jonsson, Patrik, The Christian Science Monitor


North Carolina is considered ahead of the curve when it comes to holding schools accountable. So if testing troubles here have officials stymied, it doesn't bode well for other states' efforts at standards-based reform.

The testing program here has been acclaimed by Princeton Review as the best in the nation and was a model for the new federal law that requires states to begin testing students in reading and math this year - with sanctions coming if schools don't show yearly improvements.

But devising and grading tests accurately can be a difficult process, and it seems unlikely most states will meet the requirements of the No Child Left Behind Act right away, given the problems cropping up in a range of states, including some with years of experience doing statewide testing.

Every testing snafu gives new ammunition to critics who say that reliance on standardized testing is misguided in the first place. But even if their arguments fail to change the direction of education reform, that reform could be delayed as states scramble to establish standards and tests that match up.

Embarrassed North Carolina state school board members acknowledged two weeks ago that the results of pilot writing tests for the fourth and 10th grades had to be thrown in the dumpster because more than half the students failed. This came a year after the state experienced problems with the grading scale on a new math test that resulted in nearly everyone receiving A's.

To some, the high failure rate on the writing test indicated that the wording of the questions was confusing, while to others, the results just showed that students aren't performing as well as they should be expected to.

On the writing test this year, it was also disconcerting that nearly 30 percent of 10th-graders refused to write answers, scribbling some often-colorful versions of 'This doesn't matter, so I'm not taking it' across the top.

A sampling of test troubles

The past few months have seen testing problems in other states, whether they use tests created by private companies or homegrown tests such as North Carolina's, developed by experts from state universities. Some examples:

* In July, Nevada officials reported that 736 sophomores and juniors had mistakenly been told they had failed the math portion of a test; when tests were rechecked, it turned out the students had passed.

* In New Mexico, 70 percent of superintendents recently reported testing errors of various kinds, according to FairTest, a group in Cambridge, Mass., that objects to high-stakes testing.

* In Georgia, Harcourt Educational Measurement could not deliver accurate results from last spring's Stanford 9 tests in time for this school year, throwing off students' assignments to gifted and remedial classes. The company called in several experts to help solve the problems with the tests, which were developed specifically for Georgia's third-, fifth-, and eighth-graders. School officials are considering fining the testing company.

"Broad assessments do have real value," says Dick Clifford, a researcher at the Child Development Institute in Chapel Hill, N.C. "But I worry that these mistakes will lead us away from getting the kind of information we need to make good public policy."

Kinks to be expected

Testing proponents warn against overreacting. For Lawrence Feinberg, assistant director of the bipartisan National Assessment Government Board in Washington, it's "logical" that states will have to make difficult adjustments as they assign more weight to test scores in efforts to improve education for all students.

"Whenever you have a new version of a test, and you're trying to compare it to the previous year, that's very hard to do in a uniform way," says Mr. Feinberg.

But even testing proponents acknowledge that the speed with which states are being asked to implement tests is contributing to problems.

The fact that many new state-specific tests have to be developed is putting a strain on the system, says Chrys Dougherty, director of research at the National Center for Education Accountability in Austin, Texas. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

When the Tests Fail ; Even States Considered Models of Accountability Are Struggling to Come Up with Reliable Tests
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.