Tuesday, August 16, 2016

How schools that obsess about standardized tests ruin them as measures of success - Vox

How schools that obsess about standardized tests ruin them as measures of success - Vox:

How schools that obsess about standardized tests ruin them as measures of success

The video changed everything. The surreptitious recording of a teacher berating a first-grader for failing to explain a math problem correctly, ripping up her paper, and then inexplicably telling the subdued child to go sit in the "calm down chair" went viral and jump-started a long-running national debate over the "no excuses" charter school model — a pedagogical approach marked by heavy workloads, rigid zero-tolerance discipline, and a relentless focus on metrics, particularly standardized tests.
The Success Academy Charter Schools are arguably the best-known institutions that follow this model. The storyline its proponents push is that no-excuses schools may be tough but they prepare students well: They represent a kind of educational tough love.
In real life, though, the data seems to show that Success Academy thrives by a combination of kicking out poorly performing students and training the remainder to perform well on tests that kids at other schools don’t really care about — or don’t care as much about.
Other critics have focused on how Success Academy focuses on excluding students who are not likely to perform well on tests — an option public schools don’t have. A parent of a kindergartener with a speech disability complained to the New York Daily News that the academy tried to force her son back into the public schools by framing his frustration in class as a disciplinary problem and repeatedly suspending him. The New York Timesrevealed that one principal at a Success Academy school had a list of low-performing students labeled "Got to Go."

The statistical problem with test score obsession

When a school uses selection and attrition policies that effectively filter out many of the extremely poor, students speaking English as a second language, and the learning disabled, that clearly calls into question test score advantages that such a school might have over an ordinary public school.
But the problems run even deeper than most critics realize: A look at the data combined with some basic principles of social science suggests that the practices of no-excuses charters are undermining the very foundation of data-based education reform.
As statisticians with experience teaching at the high school and college level, we recognize a familiar problem: A test that overshadows the ultimate outcomes it is intended to measure turns into an invalid test.
Back in the old Soviet Union, factories would produce masses of unusable products as a result of competition to meet unrealistic production quotas. Analogously, many charter schools, under pressure to deliver unrealistic gains in test scores, are contorting themselves to get the numbers they've promised. They're being rewarded for doing so. But that monomaniacal focus on test scores undermines the correlation between test scores and academic accomplishment that originally existed.
Thus, when there is a policy of teachers berating poorly performing students, it’s not tough love in the service of preparing students for future academic success. Rather, it’s consistent with a metrics-driven strategy that’s about looking good but not necessarily performing well.
In short, a statistical perspective can help reveal how behavior that seems like an How schools that obsess about standardized tests ruin them as measures of success - Vox:

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