At the meeting of Jackson Heights Parents for Public Schools on March 16, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortes said that she took a high-stakes standardized test, and her teacher told her she was in the 99th percentile. I thought she must have taken an  Iowa Test of Basic Skills since NCLB test scores are not reported as percentiles but as 1-4 or “below basic, basic, proficient, advanced.”

That sent the far-right blogosphere into a frenzy of self-righteousness, claiming (falsely) that she was lying about her scores.

But testing expert Fred Smith explained to me that AOC was right, and I was wrong. She was tested before NCLB.

Take that, trolls!

Fred, who worked as a testing expert at the NYC Board of Education for many years, wrote:

“Dear Diane,
“I was at that thrilling meeting in Jackson Heights too.  AOC was tremendous and you spoke so persuasively about the legitimacy of opting out.
“Full disclosure:  I’m guilty of asking someone in the crowd to take a picture of AOC and me on my cell phone.  I tell the people (I can’t wait to share it with) that the shot was taken at her insistence.
“But to your point about the veracity of AOC’s percentile score.  New York State tested children in grades 4 and 8 in the years prior to 2006 when the SED under NCLB required English Language Arts and math testing to be done in grades 3 through 8.  McGraw-Hill was the publisher.
“On the state’s website you’ll find archived technical reports going back to 1999, pertaining to the New York State Grade 4 ELA Assessment.  See:
 “AOC is 29 years old. She would have been in the 4th grade when she was nine–and likely took the statewide ELA in 2000.
“Table 1 in both reports presents frequency distributions that allow raw scores to be converted to cumulative percentiles–otherwise known as percentiles.  Thus, her teacher or a guidance counselor easily could have seen how well AOC did on the ELA and informed her that she achieved better than 99 percent of her peers.  In fact, to reach that peak she had to answer almost all questions correctly.
“Here is an example where the test did some good, although AOL’s brightness should have been obvious.  Why do those who want to build walls up also want to tear people down?