Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Ugh, assessment

Take this, DoE educrats! A sample:

While standardized tests can be helpful in initiating faculty conversations about assessment, our research casts serious doubt on the validity of using standardized tests of general intellectual skills for assessing individual students, then aggregating their scores for the purpose of comparing institutions.


For nearly 50 years measurement scholars have warned against pursuing the blind alley of value added assessment. Our research has demonstrated yet again that the reliability of gain scores and residual scores — the two chief methods of calculating value added — is negligible (i.e., 0.1).

Read the whole thing.

Discussions - 3 Comments

We conclude that standardized tests of generic intellectual skills do not provide valid evidence of institutional differences in the quality of education provided to students. Moreover, we see no virtue in attempting to compare institutions, since by design they are pursuing diverse missions and thus attracting students with different interests, abilities, levels of motivation, and career aspirations.

The writer, who is a wheel in the teacher-training establishment, insists that standardized tests are unreliable and invalid and that a black-box such as ’electronic portfolios’ can be rendered valid and reliable.

We know college apparatchiks are deeply concerned about the reputation of the institutions they are supposed to govern, but she seems to suggest that valid inter-institutional comparisons cannot be undertaken (except, perhaps, with the use of another black-box?).

Caveat lector.

This is a classic manifestation of the education community’s ingrained hostility to anything that could be used to measure student progress. One need scarcely be a cynic to suspect self-interest - how wonderful to have a job with no benchmarks.

Imagine physicians came forward and argued that there’s no way to measure patient progress after treatment. Or suppose a football coach claimed there was no way to tell, objectively, whether his team was better than anyone else’s. They be laughed out of court.

The truth is that student performance is eminently measurable, that is, if you don’t mind bad news on occassion.

l mcfarlane: Taking your coach example, I wonder if the coach would agree that the numbers that statisticians use to predict team (and individual) performance are so accurate that playing the game is useless?

I don’t believe that serious people are suggesting that standardized tests are entirely useless, but they are approaching the status of end, as opposed to means. And teachers and coaches will tell you that standardized tests are no match for the more molecular assessments and actual TEACHING and COACHING that they are replacing.

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