Testing: Maybe We Should Require Statistics?

Seeing the World with Rose Colored GlassesThe Commissioner of Education, Pam Stewart did a presentation today about testing in Florida’s public schools.  Part of her comment about the impact of testing on student achievement in Florida was  unsettling, or just plain wrong.  In the video of the Education Appropriations Committee meeting today, she said Florida’s children from low-income families tested number one in the country and other groups were in the top 10.  It is a rosy view of the situation.

 

What would have been better to say is that in reading, Florida’s fourth graders are doing well compared to other fourth graders nationally.  In fact, the fourth grade students on free and reduced lunch in Florida ranked at the top of similar groups in other states on the National Assessment of Educational Progress in 2013.  This is great!

Perhaps the State’s support for reading is paying off.  Even the mathematics scores for this free and reduced lunch group of fourth graders rank in the top 15 states. It is curious, however, that all Florida fourth grade students in mathematics score in the middle of the state rankings.  Something just is not ringing right.

Legitimate comparisons of scores are not always made.  Bad news is not popular.  So you have to look beneath the numbers.  Florida retains third graders who fail the FCAT.  Wouldn’t that make fourth graders look better?  Not all states hold back third graders who fail their versions of the FCAT.  Since Florida does, we would have to know which other states do to see if it is another example of comparing different groups.  This is the subject of a 2012 Education Next article called Florida Defeats the Skeptics.

Possibly fourth grade reading is good news.  Here, however, is the rest of the story.  In grade 8 reading and mathematics, Florida is in the middle of the pack, sometimes the lower middle.  We all want to believe that fourth graders do well.  But,  some of those fourth graders are now eighth graders.  What happened over the past four years to those students? Are they falling behind, or are the numbers for fourth graders abnormally high?  Maybe we should make Lies, Damn Lies and Statistics required reading.

 

Posted in Achievement, Department of Education, Education Committee, Florida Senate, Testing.

5 Comments

  1. Does anyone ever consider that these stats don’t tell us anything other than where the poor kids go to school? Because that’s the only direct, statistically-supportable conclusion that can be made from test data. Everything else in Florida’s testing/school grading system has been gamed to the point where it’s meaningless numbers. Frankly, none of these tests are helpful to teachers–the results don’t even come in until after the students have left for the year, and by the next school year, a zillion new variables affect what and how those kids learn.

    Tallahassee knows we test too often (they demand all the benchmark results for tracking). They know the scores are manipulated (they do the manipulating). They know the tests aren’t transparent (they refuse to release the questions). They do not listen to teachers (they are beholden to lawmakers who are beholden to campaign contributors who make money off testing and privatization). So much is WRONG about our entire testing program. Why don’t we question THAT instead of all this hand-wringing over spreadsheet numbers? ^0^

    • I hear you! If you know my background, you know I have seen all of this close up. Test scores, properly administered and used can be an invaluable instructional tool. We need to get back to that. Part of the process of turning this testing mania around, I believe, is understanding what those scores mean and do not mean. Teachers know, but not everyone else does.

  2. We know there is too much testing. What is less clearly stated is: How much is enough? Which tests are useful to teachers to help students? I was surprised that the Commissioner had not received reports on the amount of testing from the districts.

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