For years, the testing process in North Carolina has managed to avoid in-depth scrutiny by changing the parameters of its measurement methods.
For many years now, we’ve heard school administrators caution against reading too much into the numbers, because last year’s scores measure something different than this year’s scores. We’ve also heard people suggest that changes to the test or what is tested is different, or we’ve heard that it’s unfair to measure just one year with another because trends are more indicative than single data points.
All that may very well be true. It would not be wise to measure last year’s test scores against this year’s because the definition of passing has been changed, allowing for more students to “pass” these tests.
So here’s our suggestion to school administrators, legislators, test makers and anyone else who participates in North Carolina’s most interesting shell game: Leave the testing process along long enough to detect trends that might be truly useful to educators as they try to chart a course for continuous student improvement.
Testing is an important part of the accountability we apply to our education process. Everyone is better served by reviewing data that provides a sound picture of where our strengths and weaknesses are.
If we continue to tweak the process and monkey with the expectations we set in place, it will surely be difficult to know we’ve reached educational goals we’ve set out for ourselves, our schools and our teachers.
That serves no one well, except perhaps those people in the testing industry to elongate their business lives by creating the need to start over, time and time again.