Peter Greene reports on a study by Chris Tienken at Seton Hall University, who was able to predict test scores by analyzing demographics. As others have pointed out, standardized test scores are a family wealth/education indicator.

Greene writes:

“In “Predictable Results,” one of his most recent posts, he lays out again what his team has managed to do over the past few years. Using US Census data linked to social capital and demographics, Tienken has been able to predict the percentage of students who will score proficient or better on the tests.

“Let me repeat that. Using data that has nothing to do with grades, teaching techniques, pedagogical approaches, teacher training, textbook series, administrative style, curriculum evaluation— in short, data that has nothing to do with what goes on inside the school building– Tienken has been able to predict the proficiency rate for a school.

[Tienken writes]: For example, I predicted accurately the percentage of students at the district level who scored proficient or above on the 2011 grade 5 mathematics test in 76% of the 397 school districts and predicted accurately in 80% of the districts for the 2012 language arts tests. The percentage of families in poverty and lone parent households in a community were the two strongest predictors in the six models I created for grade 5 for the years 2010-2012.”

“Tienken’s work is one more powerful indicator that the BS Tests do not measure the educational effectiveness of a school– not even sort of. That wonderful data that supposedly tells us how students are doing and provides the measurements that give us actionable information– it’s not telling us a damn thing. Or more specifically, it’s not telling us a damn thing that we didn’t already know (Look! Lower Poorperson High School serves mostly low-income students!!)

“In fact, Tienken’s work is great news– states can cut out the middle man and simply give schools scores based on the demographic and social data. We don’t need the tests at all.”