Posts tagged ‘Standardized test’

October 17, 2013

Trend of high school grades compared to SAT scores

by Grace

Over the long term, average high school grades have gone up while SAT scores have “remained relatively unchanged”.


Average SAT scores going back to 1952, courtesy of Erik Jacobsen, also known as Erik the Red:

20131009.SATScoreHistory2

CLICK THE CHART FOR A LARGER IMAGE


The solid circles and triangles represent scores calculated on the recentered scale.

In April 1995, the College Board recentered the score scales for all tests in the SAT Program to reflect the contemporary test-taking population. Recentering reestablished the average score for a study group of 1990 seniors at about 500—the midpoint of the 200-to-800 scale—allowing students, schools, and colleges to more easily interpret their scores in relation to those of a similar group of college-bound seniors.

By 1995, average SAT scores had drifted downward before recentering brought them back up.

20131011.COCAvgSATScoresTable1

The effect of recentering was to raise SAT scores for almost all tests taken before 1995.  For example, a 540 verbal score from pre-1995 is equivalent to a 610 by today’s standards.  The impact of recentering was smaller for math, with a pre-1995 math score of 540 translating to 560 today.  All scores can be converted by using the CollegeBoard table.

(A comprehensive history of the SAT and ACT tests going back to the late 1800s is also provided by Erik the Red.)

What about high school grades?  Have they also declined over time?  No, in fact they have risen, especially for students with lower standardized test scores.

…  Studies from ACT and College Board, the companies that run the two preeminent college-entrance exams, show GPAs increased while scores on the standardized ACT and SAT did not, a phenomenon they say likely indicates inflation. ACT estimates the average GPA inflation was about .25 on a scale of 4.0 between 1991 and 2003, though the 2005 study’s authors believe even that number understates the actual amount of grade inflation. Whether from hard work or grade inflation, GPAs grew the most for students with lower standardized test scores, and the least for those with higher scores on the SAT or ACT.

20110912.COCHSGradeInflation


Another source indicates evidence of high school grade inflation over the long term.

Camara, Kimmel, Scheuneman, and Sawtell (2003) investigated grade inflation by using self-reported grade data and SAT scores for eight cohorts of college-bound students. The trend of average HSGPA over time was examined to investigate grade inflation. The authors found that 2002 high school grade point average “far exceeded” the grades students reported in 1976, whereas the SAT-V and SAT-M scores remained relatively unchanged.

Related:

August 28, 2013

Public school administration staff surges in growth while test scores plunge

by Grace

The School Staffing Surge: Decades of Employment Growth in America’s Public Schools

America’s K-12 public education system has experienced tremendous historical growth in employment, according to the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics. Between fiscal year (FY) 1950 and FY 2009, the number of K-12 public school students in the United States increased by 96 percent while the number of full-time equivalent (FTE) school employees grew 386 percent. Public schools grew staffing at a rate four times faster than the increase in students over that time period. Of those personnel, teachers’ numbers increased 252 percent while administrators and other staff experienced growth of 702 percent, more than seven times the increase in students.

20130812.COCUSK12StaffingBloat19501

Between FY 1992 and FY 2009, the number of K-12 public school students nationwide grew 17 percent while the number of full-time equivalent school employees increased 39 percent, 2.3 times greater than the increase in students over that 18-year period. Among school personnel, teachers’ staffing numbers rose 32 percent while administrators and other staff experienced growth of 46 percent; the growth in the number of administrators and other staff was 2.7 times that of students.

20130812.COCUSK12StaffingBloat19921


Here are the staggering growth rates for New York State.

20130812.COCK12StaffingBloat1


ADMINISTRATORS OUTNUMBER TEACHERS IN 25 STATES, an increase from the original report.

From the report:

Twenty-one “Top-Heavy States” employed fewer teachers than other non-teaching personnel in 2009. Thus, those 21 states have more administrators and other non-teaching staff on the public payroll than teachers. Virginia “leads the way” with 60,737 more administrators and other non-teaching staff than teachers in its public schools.

Professor Mark Perry updated staffing numbers for 2010, and was amazed to find the “administrative and non-teaching bloat” in America’s public schools has gotten even worse, with 25 states now employing more “educrats than teachers.”  Across the entire country, there is a one-to-one ratio of teachers to non-teaching staff.

PUBLIC SCHOOL STAFFING IN UNITED STATES (2010)

TEACHERS

NON-TEACHING STAFF

NON-TEACHING STAFF PER 100 TEACHERS

3,099,095

3,096,113

99.9


In related news, New York students’ scores take huge plunge in new state school tests.

Statewide, only 31 percent of students in third through eighth grades met or exceeded the proficiency standards in English and math this year, a drop of more than half compared with last year….

February 12, 2013

Even if boys score better than girls on standardized tests, they get lower grades

by Grace

Boys score as well as or better than girls on most standardized tests, yet they are far less likely to get good grades, take advanced classes or attend college….

The sometimes controversial Christina Hoff Sommers wrote about this problem of “Boys at the back” in our public schools, illustrated in this chart posted by Mark Perry.

20130210.COCBoysGenderGap1

Boys score as well as or better than girls on most standardized tests, yet they are far less likely to get good grades, take advanced classes or attend college. Why? A study coming out this week in The Journal of Human Resources gives an important answer. Teachers of classes as early as kindergarten factor good behavior into grades — and girls, as a rule, comport themselves far better than boys.

The study’s authors analyzed data from more than 5,800 students from kindergarten through fifth grade and found that boys across all racial groups and in all major subject areas received lower grades than their test scores would have predicted.

The scholars attributed this “misalignment” to differences in “noncognitive skills”: attentiveness, persistence, eagerness to learn, the ability to sit still and work independently. As most parents know, girls tend to develop these skills earlier and more naturally than boys.

That last sentence, which I’ve highlighted, may hold a key to one reason for the gender gap in school performance.  Girls have the edge over boys not only in earlier development of certain social and organizational skills, but also in reading and writing.  Over time schools have pushed down more rigorous academic and organizational requirements to younger grades, making it more likely for boys to develop early gaps that often persist to the upper grades and college.

A related reason for the gender gap may be what David Brooks called the lack of cultural diversity.

… The education system has become culturally cohesive, rewarding and encouraging a certain sort of person: one who is nurturing, collaborative, disciplined, neat, studious, industrious and ambitious. People who don’t fit this cultural ideal respond by disengaging and rebelling.

Far from all, but many of the people who don’t fit in are boys….

I wrote about this last year.

Brooks is describing what is often called the “feminization” of public schools.  This term is distasteful to some, probably because it reinforces gender stereotypes.  Whatever the label, it does appear that schools have become “culturally homogeneous” in a way that hurts boys more than girls.  It starts in elementary school when an early reader is told that he got the wrong answer because he picked “mad” instead of “sad” to describe how the boy in the story feels after he doesn’t get the bike he wanted for his birthday.*  It continues through high school where group discussions in history class only allow expressions of compassion for victims of war but no praise for brilliant military maneuvers.  The message is clear – only certain types of behaviors and thoughts are welcome in the classroom.

There’s no doubt that students do need to be ”studious and industrious” to perform well academically.  It just seems that public schools are misguided in the methods they use in trying to develop those qualities in all students, particularly in boys.

Suggested reforms

Sommers points out that this gender gap should motivate schools to find ways to promote boys’ academic achievement, as they have done for girls in recent cases when the gender gap has been reversed.  She suggests some changes that the British, the Canadians and the Australians have implemented.

… These include more boy-friendly reading assignments (science fiction, fantasy, sports, espionage, battles); more recess (where boys can engage in rough-and-tumble as a respite from classroom routine); campaigns to encourage male literacy; more single-sex classes; and more male teachers (and female teachers interested in the pedagogical challenges boys pose).

One example of how poor noncognitive skills can create a misalignment between grades and test scores

I know of a case where a middle school boy consistently earned almost perfect test scores in his social studies class and who reached the finals in his state’s geography bee contest.  However, his average grade was significantly lowered by his poor class notes, likely due to a deficit in “noncognitive skills”.  Because of his grades, and because “behavior and work habits” counted so heavily in the admissions process, he was shut out of his high school’s social studies honors track.  If not for his parents’ intervention to override the school’s policies and allow him to enroll in the honors course, he might have languished in courses that were too easy and boring for him.  As it happened, he went on to graduate with honors and enroll in an elite university.

Related:

September 26, 2012

Quick Takes – New York test scores may drop next year, mining jobs pay better than Ivy League degree, girls still avoid shop class, and more

by Grace

—   Changes in New York’s standardized tests next year may cause scores to drop.

That is because the state is moving quickly to put in place new curriculum standards, called Common Core, which stress more critical thinking to help prepare students for college and careers. The state’s math and English exams, therefore, will for the first time be testing students on elements of the Common Core.

Students taking the English exams next year, for instance, will be asked to analyze and compare passages, rather than summarize them. In math, fractions, rather than probability or statistics, will be stressed.

“I would not be surprised if the test scores next year would drop, because it will be a whole new test based on much higher standards,” said one state education official who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the subject. “The Common Core is a much more rigorous set of standards.”

Aaron Pallas, professor of Sociology and Education at Teachers College, Columbia University, who is an expert on city schools data, also predicted there may be a drop in scores next year.

“It’s almost always the case when there’s a fundamental change in a test format that scores go down,” Dr. Pallas said. “So there’s going to be discontinuity. That’s one reason why it’s hard to make judgments from one year to the next when there’s several moving pieces.”

He added: “It will take some time and next year will be a new baseline from which we can look forward to see how things are happening over the next three or four years.”


—  Forget Harvard.  Go for the big bucks in mining careers.

Harvard University’s graduates are earning less than those from the South Dakota School of Mines & Technology after a decade-long commodity bull market created shortages of workers as well as minerals.

Those leaving the college of 2,300 students this year got paid a median salary of $56,700, according to PayScale Inc., which tracks employee compensation data from surveys. At Harvard, where tuition fees are almost four times higher, they got $54,100. Those scheduled to leave the campus in Rapid City, South Dakota, in May are already getting offers, at a time when about one in 10 recent U.S. college graduates is out of work.
Harvard Losing Out to South Dakota in Graduate Pay: Commodities (Bloomberg)


—  Why don’t more girls enroll in shop class?  “Stigma”, according to NPR

The Shop Class Stigma: What Title IX Didn’t Change (NPR)

Forty years ago, President Richard Nixon signed Title IX, which said no person shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from any education program or activity. Vocational education courses that barred girls — such as auto mechanics, carpentry and plumbing — became available for everyone. But it’s still hard to find girls in classes once viewed as “for boys only.”…

Now, for the most part, schools don’t discriminate or deny girls educational opportunities. Yet, the conclusion by a National Women’s Law Center study a few years ago raised a different point.

Boys are still routinely steered toward courses that lead to higher-paying careers in technology and trades. Meanwhile, 90 percent of students in courses that lead to lower-wage jobs, like child care and cosmetology, are female.

I don’t accept that a male/female imbalance for a particular occupation is necessarily a problem that must be fixed by legislation.  But if there is a problem of pushing girls towards lower-wage jobs, the NPR story used a poor example to show this since the girl in the story was steered away from auto mechanics toward engineering.   Her family encouraged her to aim for a higher paying job in a field dominated by men, not exactly a fit with the NPR’s narrative.


—  Reading the classics may improve executive function and other attention-related abilities.

Reading a classic novel such as “Pride and Prejudice” can be entertaining, but, according to new research by a Michigan State University professor, it also can provide many other benefits beyond that….

… blood flow was increased in areas of the brain far beyond those responsible for what cognitive scientists call “executive function,” regions normally associated with tasks that require close attention, such as studying, doing complex math problems or reading intensely….

“It’s early, but what this research suggests so far is that core skills in the liberal arts have immense cognitive complexity,” she said. “It’s not only the books we read, but also the act of thinking rigorously about them that’s of value, exercising the brain in critical ways.”

The work also brings together scientists and literary scholars to explore the relationship between reading, attention and distraction.

Imagine that.  Assigning students books with higher levels of text complexity is good for learning.

Related:  High school students are assigned too many FIFTH-GRADE books (Cost of College)

December 13, 2011

New York teachers will no longer grade their own students’ standardized tests

by Grace

Teachers in New York State will no longer be grading their own students’ standardized tests.  This is a welcome change, considering that New York has a long-standing problem with inflated state test scores and a history of teacher intervention skewing the normal statistical distribution of grades.

The ban, which will go into effect in the 2012-13 school year for all elementary school, middle school and high school standardized exams, will reverse a longstanding practice that State Education Department officials say is inappropriate in an era when student test scores are used to evaluate teachers and principals. It is also a move to avoid the kind of cheating scandals that have erupted in cities like Atlanta and Washington….

October 17, 2011

Teacher intervention inflates New York Regents exam scores

by Grace

New York has a long-standing problem with inflated state test scores, including repeated citings of questionable grading practices but no concrete action to address the problem.

In 2003-4, the testing company CTB/McGraw-Hill rescored a sample of Regents exams and found that its scores were generally lower than the scores awarded by the schools, a sign that score inflation was taking place, according to a 2009 audit of Regents scoring by the state comptroller’s office….

… 2004 e-mail in which a state education official cited statistics that showed how teachers statewide appeared to be helping some students over the bar….

And in 2005, a team of the State Education Department’s own experts rescored some June Regents exams and found a “significant tendency for local school districts to award full credit on questions requiring scorer judgment, even when the exam answers were vague, incomplete, inaccurate, or insufficiently detailed,” the comptroller’s audit reported, adding, “These inaccuracies have tended to inflate the academic performance of students and schools.”

Teacher intervention is skewing the normal statistical distribution of grades

… about three times as many students scored exactly at the passing mark than at each one of the scores below it, a result not in keeping with a standard statistical distribution.

A New York State deputy commissioner of education:

“Obviously, teachers look for points to get kids to pass.”

Despite concerns about conflict of interest, teachers still score their own students’ or school’s test.

“We are relying more than ever on state exams — to measure student achievement, to evaluate teacher and principal effectiveness, and to hold schools and districts accountable for their performance,” Merryl H. Tisch, the Regents chancellor, said last month, in support of tightened grading practices. “If we’re going to use the tests in these ways, we need to be absolutely certain that our system is beyond reproach.”

August 9, 2011

Schools will use tracking and more nonfiction reading to improve achievement

by Grace

Everything old is new again.

New York released English and math state test scores for grades 3-8 yesterday.  Since the state toughened standards, overall pass rates have dropped.  As a way to try to improve sores, some schools are trying different strategies, including tracking students by skill level and using more nonfiction reading material.  I wish our local schools would do this.

Jessica O’Donovan, assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction in White Plains, said despite the relatively low pass rates — largely due to tougher standards, she said — the district is confident its students will be prepared for Regents exams and college.

The district is implementing various changes in teaching and intervention strategies, O’Donovan said.

A program called Intervention Block regroups elementary students based on skill level for more tailored instruction. At the middle school level, teachers regularly meet to craft common assessments and analyze data….

Tougher standards took a hit on scores in the Valhalla school district. About three-quarters of students in grades three through eight met or exceeded standards in English and math, but pass rates fell in both subjects at nearly every grade level….

Myers said the dip in her district’s scores, and those of districts statewide, was due to the last test having more difficult items on it than the exam in 2010, which itself was toughened. She also said certain items were used on the tests for the first time.

Still, Myers said, the district is working to improve performance.

Instructors are using more nonfiction books and analytical questions to improve higher-level comprehension. In math, she said the district would analyze the results to see if a specific type of problem accounted for the decline in scores.

“We have to be focused on a good solid curriculum and targeted intervention,” Myers said.

Nonfiction books provide background knowledge that improves reading comprehension and help prepare students for the type of reading they will need to do in college.

66 percent of Lower Hudson Valley students met testing standards in 2010-11 – LoHud.com

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