Tuesday, July 12, 2016

If Rewards Improve Test Scores, What's Really Being Tested?

If Rewards Improve Test Scores, What's Really Being Tested?:

If Rewards Improve Test Scores, What’s Really Being Tested?

standardized tests rewards

The support for high-stakes testing rests on a belief that a test score accurately measures what a student has learned. Therefore, many argue, standardized tests should be a major factor in evaluating teachers. Jeffrey Livingston,an economics professor at Bentley University, wondered what would happen if you offered students a financial reward of $90 to do well on a standardized test. Encouraged by his wife – a public school teacher suspicious of the tests’ ability to accurately measure learning – Livingston and some colleagues set up a trial with some students in Chicago. They released the findings in May. Livingston recently spoke with NEA Today about how the results call into question the value placed on standardized tests.
What was the specific question you wanted the study to adress and how exactly did the program work?
The concern we hoped to test is whether students in urban schools who are at risk of failing to meet state standards try as hard as they can on standardized tests when they have no personal stake in their score.
The experiment gives students incentives to improve their academic achievement over a two-month period, culminating with a chance to show what they have learned on an incentivized standardized test. We designed it to cover the same skills and knowledge that are tested on the official standardized test. We wanted to see the extent to which they show this same new knowledge on the test that the school administers.
Students took the official tests over one week in March and our incentivized tests the following week. Unless there is a difference in how hard students try on each exam, one would thus expect similar performance on the two exams. What we found is that students do much better on the test that is incentivized, but do not show the same gains on the official test.
There’s been quite a bit of research into these extrinsic motivators. How did your results compare with previous studies? 
Many similar experiments have been conducted, though there are differences – such as the outcome that is incentivized, the amount of the reward, and exactly what one has to do in order to earn the reward. So to some degree it is difficult to say why their results might differ.
However, most experiments which give incentives to improve grades or test scores have actually found very little impact. For example, Roland Fryer’s experiments which incentivize “outputs” such as grades and test scores have resulted in small or even If Rewards Improve Test Scores, What's Really Being Tested?:

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