On the Meaninglessness of ‘Proficient’: The Vermont Edition

Last week, I argued that the new Common Core-aligned tests are setting ‘proficiency’ and ‘college ready’ at ridiculous levels, such that the majority of Europeans and 46% of Japanese students wouldn’t be considered ‘proficient’–which is, of course, ridiculous. Which brings us to this letter sent to parents by the Vermont State Board of Education (boldface mine):

We call your attention to the box labeled “scale score and overall performance.” These levels give too simplistic and too negative a message to students and parents. The tests are at a very high level. In fact, no nation has ever achieved at such a level. Do not let the results wrongly discourage your child from pursuing his or her talents, ambitions, hopes or dreams.

These tests are based on a narrow definition of “college and career ready.” In truth, there are many different careers and colleges and there are just as many different definitions of essential skills. In fact, many (if not most) successful adults fail to score well on standardized tests. If your child’s scores show that they are not yet proficient, this does not mean that they are not doing well or will not do well in the future.

We also recommend that you not place a great deal of emphasis on the “claims” or sub-scores. There are just not enough test items to give you reliable information.

The letter notes that these tests are used to “show the progress our schools are making, and to help teachers adapt the curriculum to fit the needs of their students.” This is how testing should be used, not as a way to bust teachers unions.

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