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The Test Doesn’t Count

Many politicians hold the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) testing program as the “nation’s report card”, using its scores to compare American students with their counterparts in other countries.

So, why is there a disconnect between lower scores on the NAEP by high school seniors and their rising grade point averages while taking more difficult courses?

High school seniors are performing worse overall on some national tests than they did in the previous decade, even though they are receiving significantly higher grades and taking what seem to be more rigorous courses, according to government data released yesterday.

The mismatch between stronger transcripts and weak test scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, often called the nation’s report card, resonated in the Washington area and elsewhere. Some seized upon the findings as evidence of grade inflation and the dumbing-down of courses. The findings also prompted renewed calls for tough national standards and the expansion of the federal No Child Left Behind law.

Gerald Bracey has another, more likely, possibility for the disconnect: high school seniors just don’t care about the test.

Mostly, though, I think the kids just don’t give a damn about NAEP and I bet they give less of a damn now than they did 15 years ago. Nor should they care. I once said to then-NAEP Executive Director, Archie Lapointe, that NAEP systematically underestimates achievement because kids don’t take it seriously. Yes, he laughed, the major challenge for NAEP was keeping the kids awake during the test.

Dude, you seriously want me to take this test seriously? It won’t tell me or my parents anything. It won’t tell the teachers or administrators or district anything (NAEP does not report below the state level). It means doodley squat, nothing, nada, nil for my future and you want me to give it my all? It wouldn’t surprise me if teachers and administrators, saturated by tests and test-related anxieties communicate through body language that kids can blow off NAEP with no consequences. In fact, NAEP is having trouble these days getting schools to agree to test.

The bottom line is that NAEP is no more of a report on how well students are learning than is any other standardized test.

It’s only real mission for all these testing programs is to provide more political tools for those who want to expand the stupidity of NCLB and further ignore any kind of real educational reform.

Improving education in America is just not that simple.

naep, nclb, standardized testing

1 Comment

  1. J.D. Williams

    As soon as I read this I thought of the NPR radio page with the song “Not on the Test” on it.

    The scary part is that some schools are going to paying their teachers based on these test scores.

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