I'm currently reading a fascinating book by Dr. Daniel Koretz, a psychometrician at Harvard's Graduate School of Education, called Measuring Up: What Educational Testing Really Tells Us. In the book, Dr. Koretz talks a lot about the pitfalls of high-stakes standardized testing schemes such as those required by the No Child Left Behind Act. He devotes an entire chapter to the topic of score inflation.
I was reminded of this book today when I read an article in the New York Times about how New York State has reduced the passing score for its math test from 60% correct in 2006 to a mere 44% today. An investigation by the NYT found that a student who randomly guesses on all question now has an 89% chance of receiving a passing score.
Federal tests do not show the same kind of dramatic increase in passing rates that the New York state tests have in recent years. In fact, math scores have been stagnant on the 8th grade NAEP exams since 2003 and 4th graders have only made minimal progress. SAT math scores in the state have actually dropped by 18 points since 2005.
The jump in scores on state tests helped 97% of schools in New York City earn ratings of "A" or "B" on their state Dept. of Ed. report cards. Does anybody seriously believe that 97% of NYC schools actually are doing a good job at educating their students? Nearly 40% of all students in the city do not complete high school, including 49% of African-Americans and 52% of Latinos. Nearly 3/4 of those who do manage to graduate and enroll in college require remediation in at least one subject.
Families deserve to know the truth about how their students are faring. It is unethical to lower the bar and then trumpet the "progress" that has been made :-(