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Saturday, March 19, 2011
SB1282/HB1055: Bills would “repeal norm-referenced testing” in the DoE
By Andrew Walden @ 1:49 PM :: 6136 Views :: Energy, Environment

by Andrew Walden

SB1282 and HB1055 would “repeal the administration of norm-referenced testing” in Hawaii Department of Education Schools. 

Testifying March 16 before the House Education Committee against the twin bills, education reform advocate Malcolm Kirkpatrick points to the possibility that SAT and NAEP could be abolished.   He outlines the history of the DOE on testing:

For decades, between 1960 and 1990, the DOE claimed that Hawaii students performed below average on standardized tests of English but above average on standardized tests of Math. Then, in 1990, the Hawaii DOE participated in the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), and student scores put Hawaii in the national cellar in English and Math. The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) reports NAEP scores in several formats: percentile scores, mean scores, and proficiency scores. The NAEP tests Arithmetic, Algebra, Geometry, and Statistics. No student takes the whole NAEP. The NCES does not make available to the public scores of individual students, schools, or (with the exception of the Hawaii DOE and Washington, DC) individual school districts.…

DOE officials have claimed of some schools that “65% of the students scored above average or above” on the Stanford Achievement Test (SAT). This sounds good until you understand that they use an idiosyncratic definition of “average” in which the range of possible scores is compressed into the bottom 23% (“below average”), the middle 54% (“average”) and the top 23% (“above average”). Over the entire US, the “average” school will have 77% (not 65%) “average or above average”; Quite simply, they lied.

Former Superintendent Paul Le Mahieu made “standards and accountability the pillars of his reform efforts. As it turned out, “accountability” meant “more power to the Superintendent (which he used to launder through PREL a $200,000 non-bid personal service contract to his mistress). During his tenure, Dr. LeMahieu changed the grades to which the DOE applied the SAT from 4,6 to 3,5. and represented the inevitable smaller gap between Hawaii performance and national performance as improvement.  He lied, and the Education reporters for the Advertiser and Star-Bulletin repeated the DOE line. They lied.

Continuing the tradition, today’s Star-Advertiser says “nothing to see here, just keep moving.”  The SA’s in-house DoE flack Mary Vorsino claims it is the Terra-Nova test which would be eliminated.  Vorsino writes:

The Department of Education is proposing to save about $500,000 a year by cutting TerraNova, the test that shows parents how their children are doing compared with students nationally.

Schools Superintendent Kathryn Mata­yo­shi said TerraNova is no longer needed because of the adoption of common national standards. New tests are being developed based on the standards that will allow comparisons across states.

But Matayoshi’s January 31 written testimony before the House Education Committee doesn’t mention Terra-Nova, instead referring vaguely to “eliminating the Norm-Referenced Test”:

Presently, most states compare themselves to the nation through the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), which is given at grades 4 and 8. These benchmark grades give Hawaii a chance to demonstrate where they fall nationally. Additionally, as the common assessments are developed and administered online, participating states will have another national measure.

By eliminating the Norm-Referenced Test, the cost savings to the Department of Education would be approximately $500,000 per year and an administration time savings of approximately 60 minutes per content area assessed. This translates into each student saving approximately two class periods by not having to take the NRT.

The savings could be put towards other educational priorities that are in alignment with the Department of Education’s Strategic Plan or In support of the Race to the Top goals.

Terra-Nova is a norm-referenced test.  Some education officials refer to NAEP as “norm referenced”, others call it “criterion referenced.”

Obviously the DoE is hiding something.  The question is what.  The Star-Advertiser continues:

To cut TerraNova from schools, the department needs the approval of the Legislature, which has to repeal a provision requiring schools to administer "norm-referenced testing," which compares state scores with national marks. A bill is moving through the Legislature to do that, and has so far run into no snags….

Schools Superintendent Kathryn Mata­yo­shi said Terra-Nova is no longer needed because of the adoption of common national standards. New tests are being developed based on the standards that will allow comparisons across states.  But those tests won't be ready to give to students until the 2014-15 school year.

Should the DoE abolish all "norm-referenced testing" now, based on some vague reference to a test that doesn’t exist yet?  Melanie Bailey—key proponent of Hawaii’s 180-day school year law—tells the House Committee on Education: “I am OPPOSED to the elimination of the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) testing until the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) assessment tool is developed.”

Conveniently, results from this alleged CCSS test will not exist until after Governor Abercrombie faces the voters in 2014.

Nationally, schools which do exceptionally well or exceptionally badly are rewarded with federal cash.  Since the DoE is nowhere near the top, it must race to the bottom to collect the payout.  Success costs the DoE money because rising to the middle—all the DoE can hope for--is the least financially rewarding result.  And what is the difference between Terra-Nova and NAEP?  Terra-Nova shows too much success. 

From: A Test of Credibility: NAEP versus Terra-Nova Test Score Results in Arizona:

The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) and the Terra-Nova exams tell different stories about the academic achievement of Arizona students.  Specifically, the Terra-Nova exam finds that Arizona students are above the national average in every subject (math, reading, and language).

Meanwhile, NAEP finds that Arizona public school students are below the national average in every subject and at every grade level. Arizona students have been administered 29 different NAEP examinations since 1992—in reading, mathematics, science, and writing—and Arizona’s students have scored below the national average on all 29 of them.

A substantial gap exists in results from these two exams. For example, on the most recent 4th-grade mathematics NAEP, 30 percent more Arizona 4th graders score “below basic” than the national average. Compared with the national average, 40 percent fewer Arizona students score at the highest level of achievement. Meanwhile, the Terra-Nova exam results find that Arizona students score 10 percent above the national average on mathematics.

But what about angry parents clamoring for answers?  NAEP is only given to selected students.  And, the Star-Advertiser continues: “A student's NAEP results, however, are not shared with parents because they are meant more as a statistical guide for educators….”

The DoE won’t have to hear so many complaints about failure, but they will still receive more Federal Pork for their contractors and consultants.  The best of both worlds for everybody except the students, teachers, and parents.

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