Testing and the law

Except that Vermont's NECAP scores weren't in either the federal study or the USNWR article and chart, so a reader couldn't see how much they exceeded the state's NAEP results.

Intrigued, I inquired at the education department's NCLB office in Washington, and soon received an e-mail from one Bert Stoneberg, NAEP coordinator for Idaho, and then from one Susan Hayes, NAEP coordinator for Vermont. From the former came the suggestion that I look at a report from an educator forum in Nashville last year, convened to discuss the increasingly embarrassing NAEP-to-State-tests score discrepancy pattern.

As I reported in this column space last week, a funny thing happened at (or on the way to) that forum: the participants decided to solve the problem by re-defining the NCLB all-students-proficient-by-2014 requirement as merely an all-students-basic requirement, that "there are two definitions (who knew?) for "proficient," one for NAEP and one for NCLB" and that students who can make basic on the NAEP tests should be considered proficient for meeting that onerous NCLB AYP all-students-proficient-by-2014 legal requirement.

You can read the above quote for yourself in "Using NAEP to Compare States or to Confirm State Test Results" published by the Idaho State Board of Education, Dr. Stoneberg's home base. As an exercise in brilliantly flexible semantics, it's another example of your tax dollars at work in the sophisticated leadership of public education, I would opine.

From Hayes I received a four-page study commissioned by the Vermont Education Department to make up for the embarrassing blank space for Vermont on the federal "Mapping 2005 State Standards onto the NAEP Scales".

It reports, on page 3, that Vermont 4th graders in 2005 made the NAEP equivalent of 236 in math and 215 in reading on the state-preferred NECAP exams, those same exams which local districts cite in claiming about a 2/3-of-all-students-proficient accomplishment in their annual reports.

These numbers are well below their actual NAEP scores: 244 in math and 227 in reading, but even so the study author then says that "Vermont's NAEP Scale Equivalents are very high...Vermont is at among (sic) the top performers in both reading and math at grade 4" and so on.

More on this happy interpretation of the 236 and 215 out of a possible 500) numbers next week.

Former Vermonter Martin Harris lives in Tennessee.

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