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NCLB Outrages

Low-account grading for high-stakes tests

Ohanian Comment: This paper has been consistant in its editorial policy, exposing Standardistos who want it both ways. On the one hand Standardistos claim colleges aren't educating students but on the other hand these same Standardistos insist it's just fine for these college students to grade tests that are used to override teacher judgment about children's school progress.


The Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test is the most important measure of this state's educational quality. Naturally, temps grade it.

Not to worry, said the state Department of Education. These temps have college degrees. Nothing could go wrong. This assertion comes as administrators of the SAT college entrance exam have had to admit that they botched grading on 4,000 of their tests with the error discovered after many colleges had made admissions decisions.

Since Gov. Bush took office in 1999, the desire to measure and label schools has been far greater than the desire to find a legitimate tool with which to measure or a valid system of grading. Gov. Bush latched on to the FCAT, which the state had before he arrived. Rather than use it as designed, to provide a snapshot of student progress, the governor made it the highest of high-stakes tests. Schools receive grades and bonus money based on the test, and in some grades, students graduate or are retained because of FCAT scores regardless of their grades.

Think about that. In some cases, the state puts more faith in the one-shot FCAT than in the day-in-day-out observations and work of full-time teachers. And since the state is using temps to evaluate written portions of the FCAT which are the most subjective parts of the test the state is putting more faith in temporary workers than in its full-time teachers.

Not only does Florida put its faith in temps, so does the federal government, which uses the same FCAT scores to evaluate school progress under the No Child Left Behind Law. And that raises another issue about validity.

Schools that get an A grade on the FCAT can flunk under the federal standards using the same test scores. The discrepancy has led Florida to seek waivers from the federal standards so state schools would look better. Those who sought the waivers now assure Florida students and their parents that the temps will do a good job grading the FCATs. These are the same people who have refused to give parents and students access to graded FCATs to make sure the graders have done a good job.

The No Child Left Behind Law has caused an explosion of high-stakes testing nationwide. There's talk of extending the practice to colleges. But there is no assurance, except from testing companies and state bureaucrats and politicians who concocted these accountability schemes, that there are enough qualified people to grade the tests.

Because the work is "seasonal," it is not practical to hire full-time, year-round graders. The solution would be to put the FCAT and similar high-stakes tests in their proper place. That won't happen as long as giving a test is more important politically than giving a valid test.

— Editorial
Palm Beach Post


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