To education ‘reformers,’ test scores are the ultimate measure of success. Test scores are the evidence that the country’s education system is broken. Test scores of certain charter schools prove that most teachers in this country have low expectations and don’t try very hard. Schools have been shut down over test scores. Teachers have been fired over test scores.
Contrary to the narrative of common core proponents, there are currently many national tests that can be used to compare test scores of different states. There’s the NAEP, the ACT, the SAT, and, probably the highest quality of all of them, the Advanced Placement exams. Though I’m not a huge fan of a lot that The College Board does, I find the tests that I’m knowledgeable about, AB Calculus, BC Calculus, and Computer Science, to be good tests.
Education ‘reform’ leaders use low test scores as a way to justify their radical policy changes. “Kids can’t wait,” they say. They promise that they know what works and that they just need some time for their changes to take effect.
As someone who has been tracking the ed ‘reform’ movement for nearly 5 years now, I notice that they have not delivered on their promises to raise test scores. A prime example is in Louisiana where state superintendent and two-year Teach For America veteran, John White, has been celebrating Louisiana’s progress on the Advanced Placement tests for the past three years. Even though their percent passing continues to be near the bottom of the nation, they celebrate the fact that their ‘participation’ has increased. And with that increased participation, this is not surprising, their percent passing has dropped from 43% down to about 30%.
In September 2012, I first blogged about this. Then in August 2013, it came up again, this time with a Twitter exchange between White and me. And then last year, October 2014, I found all kinds of reports from The College Board demonstrating the Louisiana continues to be second to last in the country in AP achievement. And here were are again, my fourth annual post about the stagnant AP scores in Louisiana.
In the August 5th, 2015 Times-Picayune, there was an article called ‘In AP test participation, Louisiana records big gains’. But making kids take the test, and getting tax payers to pay for kids to take those tests, is meaningless. Looking at the newly released data from The College Board, I see that Louisiana has the third lowest percent of passing scores in the country.
So the ‘reformers’ answer to this is that they’ve increased participation so it is possible for percent passing to go down while the number of passing scores can still go up, which is true. But the thing I looked into was how their amazing increased participation compares to the participation in other states. I suppose if Louisiana had some of the highest participation in the country, it would be unfair to compare their very low pass rates with the pass rates of other states that have very low participation. Fortunately the College Board keeps track of this too. It seems that even with this increased participation, Louisiana has the twelfth lowest participation in the country so it is actually more than fair to compare their very low percent passing to the percent passing in other states.
I even tried to make a metric that combined these two numbers by multiplying the percent participation by the percent passing for each state and this resulted in Louisiana still being very close to the bottom of the country.
The College Board will soon release slick summary reports with even more useful information. I’ll surely write about that when it comes our.
In addition to the state-by-state data released by the College Board, the state of Louisiana, a few months ago, released AP data for their districts and their schools. These numbers are shockingly low and certainly seem to be something that ‘outcome driven reformers’ want to ignore. Sci Academy, which is one of those New Schools For New Orleans schools touted on Oprah, for example, had over 110 students take an AP exam while less than 10 of them passed one. Out of about 500 students who took an AP in the entire Recovery School District, only 27 students, or 5.5% passed one.
‘Reformers’ like to say that they get increased freedom in exchange for increased test score accountability. They are truly running out of time to deliver on their promises.