The trouble with California’s test scores

Special to redefinED

by Alan Bonsteel

Public school test scores are almost always suspect. The tests are rarely secure, and the actual questions are often known to teachers in advance. Excluding low-performing students is easy, and large numbers of the weakest students never get tested because they have dropped out.

On November 7, 2011, Los Angeles Times lead education writer Howard Blume wrote a front-page story about teacher cheating, with one anonymous teacher quote after another admitting that “everyone” cheated. As a result, California’s Standardized Testing and Reporting (STAR) test scores have gone up every year for the last nine years, at a time when objective and secure national measurements such as the National Assessment of Educational Progress and the SAT have remained flat.

This next summer our organization, California Parents for Educational Choice, which is closely allied with the American Center for School Choice, will do a publicity campaign timed to coincide with the release of the STAR test scores dramatizing the profound disconnect of the STAR with the NAEP and SAT, and also publicizing statewide the findings on rampant cheating of the Los Angeles Times.

That test score disconnect is present as well in almost all other states. Such a publicity campaign would be easy for activists in other states as well.

In previous blogs posts, I have pointed out that per-student spending numbers in public schools are deceptively low, and that published high school dropout rates are untruthfully low. Taken together, of course this means that the financial resources going into our public schools are understated, while the two main measurements of outputs, test scores and graduation rates, are deceptively high.

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