FairTest Rebuffs Center’s Claims

The following is a response from Fairtest’s executive director Monty Neill to the blog FairTest’s Ironic Misuse of SAT Results posted last week on the Center’s blog The Edifier last week.

It would have helped if Jim Hull paid closer attention to what FairTest actually said in our news release. (I am executive director.)

Hull ignored the test score chart included with our SAT release showing that scores declined within every ethnic group except Asian Americans, demonstrating that the average score plunge is not primarily caused by increased test-taker diversity or is an example of Simpson’s Paradox.

He also conveniently overlooks the fact that the “achievement gap” is growing larger and that we cited the test-maker’s argument ““If you believe the College Board’s claim that the SAT accurately assesses readiness for higher education, the logical conclusion is that test-driven K-12 school policies have been a colossal failure.””

Hull’s other major complaint is that FairTest only consider SAT scores. Well, this was a news release about SAT. If Hull bothered to take even a few minutes to check our work, he’d see that we rely on a variety of pieces of evidence to judge the success or failure of NCLB. The most prominent is NAEP. On our website we have articles tracking NAEP results, showing that NAEP score gains have slowed or halted for almost every demographic group in both math and reading at all testing grades since NCLB came into effect. We sum this up in our January 2012 report, “NCLB’s Lost Decade,” still highly visible on our home page . BTW, ACT scores also have been stagnant the last few years.

It’s hard to know if Hull is more concerned about his (false) claim regarding our reliance on SAT scores or he really wants to defend NCLB. In any event, since the justification for NCLB was (and is) that it will improve learning outcomes, and NAEP was to be the the primary independent indicator, the evidence shows that NCLB has failed.

Why? Like many things, there are probably multiple reasons. But since testing (along with punishment) is absolutely central to NCLB (and RTTT and the waivers), and NCLB massively increased testing and the sanctions attached to the tests, which in turn led to narrowed curriculum and teaching to the test, the reasonable conclusion is that the overuse and misuse of tests is a primary reason NCLB has not succeeded.

In essence, reliance on testing turns out not to improve scores on independent tests, most importantly NAEP but also reflected in SAT and ACT.

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