Fred Smith is a testing expert who worked as an analyst for the New York City Board of Education for many years. In this study, he flips the question: Not, how did the students perform, but how did the tests perform?

He grades the tests and finds a remarkable increase in the number and percent of students who scored a zero, perhaps because they didn’t understand the question or provided a confused or incoherent response.

The increase in zeroes was particularly high for students with disabilities and English language learners. They were higher still for black and Hispanic students.

Smith writes:

”The data show that there has been an increase in the percentage of zero scores since the administration of exams aligned with the Common Core. We anticipate that officials will claim this outcome to be the consequence of tougher standards reflected by more rigorous exams.

“We argue that those assertions are insufficient explanations for what we found. Recall that a zero score indicates an unintelligible or incoherent answer. Certainly, some zeroes are to be expected. But the percentage of zero scores, particularly for students in grades 3 and 4, is unreasonable in our view. With so many answers deemed “incomprehensible, incoherent, or irrelevant,” we must ask whether such a program yielded any valuable information at all about our youngest students, as the testing was purported to do. The failure here is much more likely in the questions themselves and in the belief that it was acceptable to ask eight- and nine-year-olds to sit and take long exams over several days. That the data also indicate a widening achievement gaps cannot be ignored…

“Further evidence of flawed testing can be noted in the decline of zeros in 2016 — when the SED removed time limits — from the surge in 2013, for most grades. After three years of CC-aligned testing, the SED acknowledged that the time constraints imposed by the tests were an issue. This, in itself, is an after-the-fact admission that the tests were poorly developed, as test administration procedures, including timing, should be resolved as part of the test-development process before tests become operational.

“In taking stock of the testing program we must return to the fears and doubts that were expressed by a small number of people early on. Were New York State’s CC-aligned tests appropriate measures? Would they have a negative impact on students, especially the most vulnerable?

“The analyses and findings in this report vindicate these early concerns and give empirical grounding to the opt-out movement that grew to an astounding 20 percent of the test population between 2013 and 2015. Specifically, our findings raise questions about the efficacy of this kind of testing, particularly for our youngest students. They also open a needed discussion about the quality of Pearson’s work, the worth of its product, and SED’s judgment in managing the program.”

The unasked question is why we insist on testing every student in grades 3-8 every year. No other nation does it.

My guess: Congress is still inhaling the toxic fumes of NCLB, which was based on the nonexistent “Texas miracle.”