I am reposting this because I forgot to include a link to the study, its title and the names and affiliations of the authors in the first posting. Pretty awful oversight. Actually inexcusable on my part. I apologize to my readers and to the authors of the study.

We have known for some years that the scoring of state tests is easily gamed. In fact, proficiency rates don’t tell us much, because state officials may raise or lower the passing score for political reasons. It happened in New York for years, when the proportion of students passing the state tests went up and up until it collapsed in 2010 as a result of an independent investigation. The state officials enjoyed their annual press conferences where they announced annual too-good-to-be-true gains. And they were too good to be true. They were fake. When the fraud was revealed, there was no accountability. No one admitted having done the dirty deeds. No heads rolled. Accountability is for “the little people,” as real estate queen Leona Helmsley once said about paying taxes. In education, the little people are teachers and principals. At the top–at state departments of education–heads don’t roll. They crown themselves and use their exalted position to blame those who are far, far below them. Think “Yertle, the Turtle.”

An important new study  by Professors Adam Maltese of Indiana University and Craig Hochbein of the University of Louisville sheds new light on the validity of state scores. This study found that rising scores on the state tests did not correlate with improved performance on the ACT. In fact, students at “declining” schools did just as well and sometimes better than students where the scores were going up. The study was published in the Journal of Research in Science Teaching. Its title is “”The Consequences of ‘School Improvement’: Examining the Association Between Two Standardized Assessments Measuring School Improvement and Student Science Achievement.”

Consider the ACT an audit exam.

Consider the state tests an invalid way of measuring student achievement and an invalid way of judging students, teachers, and schools. Consider them an invalid way of closing schools and awarding bonuses and firing people.

When students are prepped and prepped and prepped to pass the state tests, they aren’t necessarily better educated, just prepared to take a specific test. Too much prepping distorts the value of the test.

When your measure is invalid, don’t use it for rewards and punishments.

Perhaps if we used these exams appropriately, just for information, they might begin to have some value. As high-stakes, their validity is corrupted, as Campbell’s Law predicts.