Published Online: August 11, 2009
Published in Print: August 12, 2009, as Study Says 'Plateau Effect' Not Pervasive

Report Roundup

Study Says 'Plateau Effect' Not Pervasive

"Is There a Plateau Effect in Test Scores?"

One of the common beliefs about testing in the era of accountability holds that student test scores improve rapidly in the first few years of a new testing program, but are followed by a plateau in scores as it becomes harder for educators to bump up the performance of students with learning challenges.

But a recent reportRequires Adobe Acrobat Reader offers evidence that, while this “plateau effect” in test scores does appear in some states, it is not pervasive across the nation. In fact, test-score trends are as likely to increase or to decrease as they are to plateau.

The study, released last month by the Washington-based Center on Education Policy, examines 55 state test-score trends across 16 states. Each of the trend lines represents at least six years of test-score data between 1999 and 2008. Noneof the states studied changed those tests over that period or lowered their “cut scores,” the number or percentage of questions students must answer correctly to be deemed “proficient.”

Of the 55 trend lines studied, 15 exhibited a plateau. Twenty-one trend lines showed steady increases in the percentage of students scoring at the proficient level on the tests, while 19 states showed a zigzag pattern that, despite some downturns, indicated overall upward momentum.

The findings contrast with earlier studies that found evidence of the plateau phenomenon. The authors suggest that those earlier studies were largely conducted with data from the 1980s and 1990s. In those years, before state and federal accountability regimes began putting a premium on using fresh test items each year, it was easier to prepare students for tests.

Vol. 28, Issue 37, Page 4

Related Stories
You must be logged in to leave a comment. Login | Register
Ground Rules for Posting
We encourage lively debate, but please be respectful of others. Profanity and personal attacks are prohibited. By commenting, you are agreeing to abide by our user agreement.
All comments are public.

Back to Top Back to Top

Most Popular Stories

Viewed

Emailed

Recommended

Commented