A recent post noted a story in the New York Times that described a design flaw in the Texas tests created by Pearson (at $100 million per year). It reported that the state tests did not reflect the improvements observed in connection with an outside intervention because the tests are designed to show improvement only in relationship to previous and future versions of the test.

I am not a statistician or a psychometrician and do not feel competent to say that this is a Eureka! moment. I leave that to others more competent than I. My reaction is that this finding bears further investigation. Otherwise the only way to improve on the tests is to prepare for the tests and to learn the subject in no other way.

Someone commented negatively in response to this post and questioned the claims and “provenance” of the study.

The central figure in the news story, Professor Walter Stroup of the University of Texas, responds:

It’s hard to know what to make of someone who would find the provenance of a PhD thesis “suspicious” because, in its standard use, the word provenance simply refers to “the chronology of the ownership or location of a historical object.” Anyone who has read a thesis would have to know that in conformity with long-established practices such issues are typically addressed in the first few pages. Given this, one can only assume that “provenance” and “suspicion” are invoked in proximity to one another in the previous post for reasons having more to do with an effort to discredit the particular work being discussed. The implication is that somehow the artifact, in this case a PhD thesis by my former advisee Vinh Pham, is not what it purports to be, and thus is worth less than it might be if its provenance was secure.While one might admire the elegance and subtlety of this form of malice and character assignation directed at both myself and, more importantly, my former student, I would suggest that in general: (1) PhD theses, especially those that emerge from top-rated graduate programs, are routinely cited in nearly any realm of formal inquiry as credible sources of scholarship and (2) that the best way to evaluate the quality and significance of that scholarship is to actually read it.

You might also note the NYT article does in fact refer to myself “and two other researchers” in the second of two introductory paragraphs. Both names — Drs. Vinh Pham and Guadalupe Carmona were given to the reporter, Morgan Smith. My guess, and I should stress it is only a guess, is that she left them out only for reasons having to do with style.

Having now addressed your concerns about provenance, I would close by simply expressing our sincere hope that you might now settle into actually reading the work you seem so committed to disparaging. A place to start might be Dr. Pham’s Thesis: