If This Is How Educational Testing Is Done, Then Why Do We Take the Results Seriously?

I’ve discussed some of the problems with using valueadded testing when evaluating teacher performance. But this seems to be a pretty fundamental problem that goes well beyond statistical methodology, as important as that might be:

…Pseudonymous Kid overheard me ranting talking about this earlier, and asked what stereotype threat was, so I gave him a brief explanation. Then he tells me that apparently the state mandated STAR tests have the students indicate race and gender on them. (And that “on the race question, “white” is separated from all the other categories—it’s right on top, and all the other options are underneath a dividing line.” God only knows what message that sends, but obviously PK finds it offputting.) Because apparently it’s important that we annually remind all students in California which of them belong to groups that stereotypically aren’t good at math/school/science/whatever. Before we have them take a test the results of which determine all sorts of things: what reading level a kid is at, school rankings (hm, maybe stereotype threat has a measurable impact on “failing” majority-minority schools?), whether kids qualify for certain kinds of programs, whether or not kids are “below basic, below basic, basic, proficient, advanced,” at certain subjects, and god only knows what else.

I’m wondering, now, how many states have students fill in this kind of data on standardized tests. Does the SAT still do it? And for god’s sake, why haven’t we yet put demographic information (which yes, there are good reasons to collect it) at the end of the test or even have teachers fill it out so that we don’t emphasize this nonsense to the students themselves?

Many of the effects we’re trying to suss out are relatively subtle effects, especially in states where these exams are also used for teacher evaluation. If this is how California is conducting its tests, this is really stupid. Likewise, if these data are used to shutter schools, a predominantly minority school could be at an additional disadvantage. To be blunt, it is really unfair to minority students and their teachers.

Education ‘reform’ is awesome. And so well implemented too.

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