reb•e•lu•tion (reb’el lu shen) n. a teenage rebellion against the low expectations of an ungodly culture.

8/11/2005

TWIF (Part 5): The Scam of "Higher Test Scores"

My last post, "America IS History: Leaving Behind Our Heritage," sparked some great discussion in the comment section. One reader directed my attention to a recent article published by Alexandra Starr, a writer for Slate Magazine, who argues: "They're Not Stupid--They're Lazy!" in reference to American students international test rankings. While I don't believe American young people are stupid; and I mostly agree that they're lazy, I had to take issue with a few of Ms. Starr's assertions.

I posted the following critique in the comment section of my last post. I'm posting it here as an addition to our series because 1) it exposes another aspect of the tyranny of lies that governs our culture, and 2) supplies you rebelutionaries with the truth. Since the following post is responding to Ms. Starr's article I would recommend that you read it here before moving on; though my post does stand on its own.

When Ms. Starr says that Texas high school performance on assessment tests jumped nearly 20 points in 2004; there is much she fails to tell you. The indication, of course, is that the NAEP I cited had no impact on their graduation (and so they underperformed) while the TAKS (Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills) did, and was thus a more accurate assessment of American students abilities.

There are several necessary corrections:

1.) According to the Houston Chronicle TAKS passing scores were lowered in 2002. A student can pass the high school exit exam, for example, by answering correctly only 25 of 56 math questions, 23 of 50 social studies questions, 41 of 73 reading and English questions, and 27 of 55 science questions (this according to Connie Mabin, "Questions, Answers About TAKS," Associated Press, December 2, 2002). Then in 2003, Mike Moses, the superintendent of Dallas Independent School District and former Texas Education Commissioner, proposed that the passing scores be "re-examined" (read "lowered") after the spring results were in. In fact, a report on TAKS by his school district argued that TAKS was too "difficult." (From the Houston Chronicle, January, 2003)

Bruce N. Shortt comments on this situation by saying: "Perhaps Texas needs a 12-step program for "test result manipulation recidivists." In any event, be on the watch for future newspaper headlines and television stories breathlessly reporting how Texas children are passing the TAKS at the "highest scores ever!"

2.) I would expect Julie Jary (who oversees test assessments in Texas and whom Ms. Starr quotes) to say that there were no "substantive alterations" to the test before 2004; but we've clearly seen that there were. And even if there weren't, the passing scores were too low already to be considered encouraging.

3.) Also, notice that the article says that math and English portions improved 20 points. This wasn't an overall improvement; just two subject areas.

4.) Next, the article says that from 1994-2004 SAT math scores have increased 14 points and verbal scores inched up 9 points; and this is despite a 6% increase in the amount of minorities taking the SAT. Even though it doesn't sound too good to be true, it isn't.

What the article doesn't tell you is that in 1995 the ETS (Educational Testing Service) "re-normed" the scoring of the S.A.T. This mean that a performance that would have earned a verbal score of 428 before the "re-norming" was reported as a 505 after the "re-norming." According to the New York Times reporter Diane Ravitch (in an 1996 article) the change in testing standards caused roughly a 100-point upward shift in combined S.A.T. verbal and mathematics scores--the two areas Slate Magazine reported have improved.

Granted, the newspapers "dutifully" reported in 2003 and 2004 that these "36-year high scores" did take into account the 1995 re-norming. But what they didn't tell us is that the 2003-'04 S.A.T. test was a very different test than the test the ETS administered in the 70's, 80's and early 90's. For instance, since 1994 students have been able to use calculators on the mathematics test, and, in same year, an antonym test, which many considered one of the harder sections of the verbal test, was dropped in favor of a easier "vocabulary in context" test. Plus, in order to ensure that no one is left behind students with learning disabilities get extra time on the test (Please reference the comment section to learn how this last change could be considered the most significant).

I don't have time to address the ACT scores the Slate article mentions, but I think I've made my point. The improvements cited by the ETS are not improvements, they are smoke screens. Realize that I'm not disagreeing with Nqoire (who shared this article with me) or even Alexandra Starr herself. Remember this is the information no one is supposed to have (if the ETS had their way). Ms. Starr was probably oblivious to the lies she was spreading.

My conclusions are as follows: perhaps American government school students are lazy, but they clearly aren't in an environment that encourages them to pursue excellence. The public school system is failing to inspire them or educate them, and is now trying its best to veil its own shortcomings.

Note: Again, my information has come from great books such as Bruce N. Shortt's "The Harsh Truth About Public Schools." I would encourage all of you to check out his book and to feel free to ask me for specific sources for anything I say. I have them ready.

In Christ, Brett Harris


Continue to Part Six...