Fix This Flawed Test
Ross Wiener ["Guess Who's Still Left Behind," op-ed, Jan. 1] writes that kids do well on state tests but not on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). Therefore, he concludes, states have low standards. Actually, NAEP standards are too high. The Government Accountability Office, the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Education and the National Center for Research on Evaluation, Standards and Student Testing have all studied NAEP achievement levels and found them wanting.
The National Academy of Sciences said, "NAEP's current achievement level-setting procedures remain fundamentally flawed, appropriate validity evidence for the cut scores is lacking, and the process has produced unreasonable results."
What does the National Academy of Sciences consider an "unreasonable result"? Just this: In the Third International Mathematics and Science Study, American fourth-graders ranked third in science among the 26 participating nations. Yet only 30 percent scored proficient on the NAEP's science assessment. Only 30 percent of our world-beating kids are proficient? Unreasonable. Ludicrous.
The National Academy of Sciences recommended that the NAEP develop alternative procedures. No alternative exists and no one is developing one. The reason? There is too much political hay to be made accusing American students and schools of poor performance.
In a September article I predicted that "the 2005 NAEP results will arrive shortly and more tongues will cluck about them this time than in the past. When the NAEP results appear, school critics and reporters both will point to the NAEP-state discrepancies and imply that the state is lying about how well its kids are doing."
Alas, I was right.
-- Jerry Bracey
The writer is a fellow at the Education Policy Studies Laboratory at Arizona State University and an associate with the High/Scope Educational Research Foundation in Michigan.