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Fordham Gets Failing Grade for Its State Standards “Report Cards”

Susan Notes: The Think Twice review can be found here (pdf).
The review is short (8 pages), readable, and important. For starters, it pokes a huge hole in Fordham's methodology for rating states.

The review's conclusion:


THE REPORT’S USEFULNESS FOR
GUIDANCE OF POLICY AND
PRACTICE.
Because there is no evidence supporting the
validity of Fordham’s grades, it would be
unwise to base any decisions about policy or
practice on them. It may very well be true
that higher-quality content standards help
improve results on performance assessments.
But the Fordham report fails to offer
a valid and reliable grading system to judge
high-quality content standards. It also fails
to establish that the grades it does present
are associated with improved student performance.

Jacob’s collection of case studies has some
potential usefulness with respect to under-
standing the various dimensions of standard
setting. But the collection pales in comparison
to the kind of understanding provided by
more rigorous and scholarly treatments of
the subject.


For Immediate Release

Contact:

Teri Battaglieri, Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice

(517) 203-2940 (e-mail) greatlakescenter@greatlakescenter.org

Kenneth Howe, University of Colorado

(303) 525-8548 (e-mail) ken.howe@colorado.edu


EAST LANSING, Mich. - A new report from the Fordham Institute, "The State of State Standards 2006," assigns letter grades to each state for its academic content standards and claims that higher content standards lead to better student test scores.

In a Think Twice review of this report, University of Colorado Professor Kenneth Howe found no evidence to support the validity of the grades and also found no support for the report's claim that higher content standards lead to an increase in student achievement.

Howe criticized the report, authored by Fordham's President, Chester Finn and two of his colleagues for hiding controversial, value-laden criteria behind the supposedly objective A-F grades awarded. In fact, he points out that the grading criteria used by Fordham are directly at odds with those of reputable professional organizations such as the National Council of Teachers of English. Howe concluded that the report's grading practices were "selectively data-mined and were seriously lacking in methodological rigor."

According to Howe, "…no evidence is offered that the grades are valid measures of the quality of state content standards. Readers are asked simply to rely on the overall conclusions reached by Fordham and its graders, supplemented by a few cursory statements in the state documents regarding strengths and/or weaknesses."

Howe concluded with an even stronger criticism: "The post-hoc massaging of the data reaches the point of absurdity, as the authors search for some approach to the data that might lend support to Fordham's conclusion that content standards of the kind it rates highly do, in fact, result in improved student performance."

The review recommends that policymakers and educators avoid basing any decisions about policy or practice on the grades assigned by the Fordham report.

Find Professor Howe's review and a link to the Fordham report containing your state's report card at: http://www.greatlakescenter.org

The Think Twice project provides the public, policy makers and the press with timely, academically sound reviews of selected think tank publications. It is a collaboration of the Education Policy Studies Laboratory at Arizona State University and the Education and the Public Interest Center at the University of Colorado and is funded by the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice.


The mission of the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice is to identify, develop, support, publish and widely disseminate empirically sound research on education policy and practices designed to improve the quality of public education for all students within the Great Lakes Region.



— Press Release
Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice

http://www.greatlakescenter.org


INDEX OF RESEARCH THAT COUNTS


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