"A child's learning is the funtion more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Norming NAEP Under Bush I

From Bill Wraga in the Athens Banner:
In any organization, agency, or institution, public or private, there always is room for improvement. Such is the case with our public schools. But the National Assessment of Educational Progress performance levels cited in the Banner-Herald's Thursday editorial, "Schools may need money, but must do better job," are inappropriate indicators of the academic performance of public school students.

Here's why: During the late 1980s, rising NAEP scores contradicted the George H.W. Bush administration's platform that the public schools were failing and in need of serious overhaul. In order to be able to use the NAEP scores to criticize the public schools and promote the administration's policies, administration officials invented the "advanced," "proficient" and "basic" performance labels. For each label, they set the criteria so high that few students could meet them, making student performance and the public schools look worse off than they actually are.

Testing experts regard the criteria for the NAEP performance labels as arbitrary, unreasonable and technically indefensible.

In fact, according to the Georgia Department of Education's Web site, NAEP scores in fourth-grade reading and math and eighth-grade reading and math for Georgia public school students have risen for 10 years and are very near national averages.

So, let us continually improve our public schools. But let us also be aware that NAEP performance labels now function more as political weapons than as educational tools.

William G. Wraga
Watkinsville

William G. Wraga is Professor in the Program in Educational Administration and Policy at the University of Georgia.

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