Old News: The New School Grades Are Here!

Fortunately for everyone involved, especially me, the New Mexico PED announcement of school grades (replacing the, I’m guessing, deservedly vilified AYP reports of NLCB ghosts past) was made while I was cycling around Northern Europe.

I can report that I did not miss them.

Since returning, I have had a chance to not only take a gander at who got what letter grade, but to also check out the “technical assistance for educators” on how grades were calculated found via the PED website in “Module One” and “Module Two.”

A more elaborate attempt to put very pretty lipstick on a very ugly pig could not be found anywhere.

In years past, I’ve made extremely inadequate efforts to fully (and I mean “fully” to a mind numbing degree of boredom) explain what I understood from the AYP numbers and calculation.  I will spare all of us any such “depth” from now on.  I will say that those in charge of gathering, crunching and disseminating scores and news about standardized testing have gotten much, much more sophisticated in doing their jobs.

This is not to say, however, that the entire standardized testing system isn’t a bunch of bullshit.  It is.  Really.

For a variety of reasons, and I would put issue complexity in there somewhere rather high up, 99% of the news/debate about standardized testing in New Mexico centers on how much weight to put on testing and whether teachers should be evaluated professionally via test scores.

My only little wrinkle to that debate is that we’re ultimately talking about a very, at this point, ornate, almost baroque level of statistical power devoted to test instruments which are deeply, deeply flawed.  In cliche form…it’s a simple case of “garbage in, garbage out.”

Over the next few months, I’ll round up some specifics illustrating this, but do note one thing now.  Nothing destroys test “fidelity” like talking about the actual questions on the test.  You can’t do it.  Kids and possibly schools in California are in some boiling hot metaphorical water for having taken pictures of test items and throwing them on Facebook.

Well isn’t that nice?  We have an ever more important system here that cannot be concretely discussed for fear of losing “fidelity.”  It’s like analyzing a baseball player’s power without knowing where the fences are in his home park.  No, that’s not quite it.  It’s like analyzing every baseball player’s power without taking a look at the ball they are hitting.  What’s in the ball?  Without really taking a look at the questions, to really consider what knowledge standardized testing seeks to uncover, we’re creating a “black box” that we’re choosing to hide at the bottom of the educational ocean.

Hard to figure out why the plane crashed that way, isn’t it?

More to come…murky as it might be.

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