Monday, October 28, 2013

Are Standardized Tests and School Rankings Unreliable

The American school system is not "falling behind" the rest of the world - or if it is, we don't really have any reliable measurements to conclude that. For years, we have heard that American students trail many industrialized nations when comparing international test scores and test rankings.  Of course, most people don't have the slightest idea what they mean when they refer to such measurements. I've had too many conservations with educated adults who make these claims, yet have no idea what NAEP, PISA, or TIMSS are.  Those acronyms refer to some of the standardized tests by which some people like to compare countries.

That on-going debate continued this week with the release of a federal report that, according to some, indicated "most American states surpass" the scores of countries long believed to outperform America. By many measurements, American students in many states do outperform other countries. And, when American schools with greater than 25% poverty are removed from the equation, American students scores often lead the rest of the world, including countries like Singapore and Finland. The problem with any of these comparisons is the inconsistency in gauging student performance on tests that have no student accountability. Many have long argued that the NAEP is a rather weak indicator of American students' academic skills because American students simply may not try. And that's not the last word on the topic.

Education writer Marc Tucker has some more thoughts on the supposed NAEP-TIMSS study.

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