Quick. Download Your State’s Historical Testing Data. It Might Just Disappear.
Why would a governmental agency erase standardized test scores from its site? You can read more at The National Review about the latest data destroyer, the California Department of Education:
California law forbids using comparisons between different tests to set policy or evaluate programs. This makes sense: If last year 40 percent of students received 85th-percentile ratings on a standardized test and then this year 70 percent of students received 85th-percentile ratings on a different standardized test, it is likely that the radical difference is in the test, not in students’ performance. The law, however, says not one word about making historical test-score data available to the public or suppressing that data.
Naturally, California then cooked up a new lie: The data hadn’t been deleted at all, the education department said, simply moved to another part of the website. That might be technically true, inasmuch as the data was no longer available on the section of the website where — get this — historical data about test scores is published; the department says it was still made available to researchers. That’s one definition of public service: making it more difficult for citizens to access information about their government, obstructing informed democracy, and being a general pain in the Trump.
California Department of Education officials have repeatedly cautioned against comparing students’ scores on past state standardized tests with forthcoming results on tests aligned with the Common Core standards. The academic standards have changed and the tests are different, making comparisons inaccurate, they and others have warned.
Earlier this month, as the department got ready to send parents the initial student scores on the new tests sometime over the next few weeks, department officials deleted old test results going back more than 15 years from the most accessible part of the department’s website, impeding the public’s ability to make those comparisons.
The department has removed results dating back to 1998 in math and English language arts from DataQuest, the website where it posts education data it collects. That includes the database of the Standardized Testing and Reporting program, known as STAR, which enabled the public to search results by district, school and student subgroups from grades 3 through 12 since 2003.
Currently, the only test score results that remain on the site are those from science and history tests, which have not changed because the state academic standards in those subjects remain the same. For individuals adept with Excel spreadsheets, the data do remain available as downloadable research files, which can be found here.
When legislators began protesting the Education Department’s actions of removing data from the website, this was the response from the department:
This is the same talking point of The Constitution being a living, breathing document that can be interpreted to mean whatever the powers that be want it to mean at that point in time. This decision was quickly reversed by the director of communications after increasing concerns from legislators:
Update, Aug. 28: The state Department of Education reconsidered its action and began restoring past testing data on Friday. Go here for details and a statement from Bill Ainsworth, director of communications.
From the comments:
Many parents may disagree with Manuel’s statement about not caring whether or not the tests measure fact recall vs how to think. Is this comparison, in fact, the underlying reason the historical data was scrubbed? He argues that parents want to know if their formerly proficient student is still proficient but if the tests are radically different (measuring recall vs how to think), then parents are justifiably concerned with the curriculum their child is being taught which is aligned with the new assessments. What are the Common Core aligned assessments primarily measuring? Attitudes, Behaviors and Beliefs? Academic Knowledge (fact recall) or Attitudes, Behaviors and Beliefs (how to think)? Who knows? The test bank is controlled by a non-governmental organization that is not accountable to taxpayers and/or legislatures (which fund its existence), so those questions remain unanswered and are not discoverable via Freedom of Information Act requests. Manuel is correct in the second comment: I think that we have been sold a pig in a poke. A savvy parent sums it up this way:
Watch your state’s educational website and capture previous test data before and if it disappears. This was one state’s failed strategy to create educational research from the baseline of Common Core testing. This was an attempt to revise/ignore testing results historical data. If you can’t find it, it must not exist. Data is what you want it to be and can be used or discarded depending on if its helpfulness to your narrative and policy. Just ask Chester Finn. Best educational practices in the CCSS Initiative (creation, adoption, implementation, assessments) are analogous to build the plane why you fly it. It’s that living and breathing database school of thought.
Chester Finn of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, however, highlighted the initiative’s flexibility as a positive change from the No Child Left Behind Act’s prescriptive nature. Panelists agreed that ultimately, the success or failure of the Common Core will hinge on these implementation challenges and whether the initiative will complement current reform efforts throughout the implementation process.
Finn’s take on the Common Core only sounds positive if you like education reform based not on field testing, research or data. The “building the plane as you fly it” appeals to these reformers instead of years of pilot testing and verifiable results:
- CCSS is tentative and many unknowns exist
- The extent of how much this is a “leap into the unknown”
- More papers describe what hasn’t been determined than have been (but Finn doesn’t necessarily think this is such a bad thing in such a big, diverse country as we build this plane as we fly it)
- Maybe we have to build 50 different planes as we fly them…or 45 if those CCSS adopting states continue to fly them and think they are designing
- NCLB tried to design a plane before flying it and it sort of crashed
- It may be that designing it while in the air is not such a bad thing
- The Common Core itself is only 2 1/2 years old…out in the public view for that long which is actually a very short time in the life of an education system
- The fact that we don’t know who is going to police it, the fact that we don’t know how it’s going to be implemented in relation to things like school choice and so on….is not a bad thing. States are going to do this in different ways.
- He hopes the metrics of student learning are common enough that some of these naturally occurring experiments around the country will be able to be compared in terms of the results be it on the consortium assessments or the new ACT or the new SAT or NAEP or whatever…
- We want to know which places are making greater progress for kids
- But I think a lot of these things are going to be experiments frankly for quite a while to come and I think there are a lot of different ones going on rather than big national answers
- Re-authorization of ESEA: The Congress will have to determine if, or at all, to deal with the Common Core, really the CCSS assessments, than anything else, in terms of federal accountability….maybe there won’t be any federal accountability the next time around (video ends)