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Argument: NCLB standardized tests are a poor measure of school performance

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Walter Haney. "Evidence on Education under NCLB (and How Florida Boosted NAEP Scores and Reduced the Race Gap)". September 8, 2006] - The No Child Left Behind Act has brought increased attention to the rating of school quality in terms of student performance on state math and reading tests. However, many observers have noted the weakness of rating school quality simply in terms of such measures. Doubts arise not just because of the non-comparability of state reading and math tests and ratings based on them (Linn & Baker, 2002), but for the more fundamental reason that the goals of public education in the U.S. clearly extend beyond the teaching of reading and math skills. To address the former problem, many observers have suggested reliance on results of the state

National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP) results as providing a common metric of student performance in grades 4 and 8 in reading and math (and occasionally other subjects) across the states. The broader question of how school quality might be judged has been raised in the 2006 convention of the National Education Association (NEA). The NEA endorsed a system of accountability “based on multiple benchmarks, including teacher-designed classroom assessments, student portfolios, graduation statistics, and college enrollment rates, among other measures” (Honawar, 2006, p. 8). The problem of reaching summary judgments on school quality is also addressed at least implicitly in the exercise I distributed here, “Rating School Quality Exercise.” This is a sort of exercise I have used for 20 years and the results illustrate the perils and indeed the mathematical impossibility of reaching sound summary judgments on matters of educational quality and educational inequality. Before addressing these matters, I discuss the illusion of progress in Florida’s 2005 grade 4 NAEP results, and the value of examining rates of student progress through the K-12 grade span as evidence of school system quality. In conclusion, I suggest how the upcoming reauthorization of the NCLB Act might be shaped.

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