Education Chicanery in the District

Monday, July 20, 2009

Bill Turque provided some valuable insights into the manipulation of student test scores for political advantage ["Testing Tactics Helped Fuel D.C. School Gains," Metro, July 17].

Removing low scorers from the testing pool is an effortless way to raise average scores and create the illusion of progress for D.C. schools. But it prevents any fair comparison with test results from prior years.

Intensive teaching to the test, especially for students on the cusp of "proficiency," is even more pernicious. It destroys the validity of academic assessments, which are designed to sample a broad range of skills and knowledge. Narrowing instruction to items expected to be on the test is like holding a match under the thermostat. It produces misleading results, not to mention an impoverished curriculum.

Mayor Adrian M. Fenty and Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee have taken credit for what they call "steady gains" by students. But pumping up test scores by artificial means tells us nothing about whether children are learning.

It's too bad The Post relied on a euphemism -- "improved statistical housekeeping" -- to characterize these deceptive tactics. A more accurate description would be "gaming the system."

JAMES CRAWFORD

President

Institute for Language and Education Policy

Washington


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