Can We Afford Years to Validate Test Scores?

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To the Editor:

A Georgia state investigation into test results in what had appeared to be a public school system that was working resulted in confessions and revelations of dishonesty, according to recent reports (“Test-Tampering Found Rampant in Atlanta System,” July 13, 2011).

This is what happens when you don’t have the proper checks and balances to provide timely, validated measurable results. According to the investigation, there were indications of cheating on statewide tests that went back to 2001 and clear signs by 2005.

Why did it take years to address this problem?

The Atlanta public schools conducted an internal investigation and found nothing; however, when the state investigated, it uncovered widespread cheating. Can you audit yourself? Districts are required to have annual independent financial audits, so why not independent audits of test scores? Given the cutbacks occurring in states, are they prepared to conduct school audits?

When you make performance a high-stakes proposition to keep your job or receive monetary rewards, you will have cheating.

Of course, any measures being used to drive behavior need to be audited to ensure that there are not unintended consequences. On an ongoing basis, district staff members should audit the leading measures: program effectiveness, professional development, teacher collaboration, and effective assets utilization. Meanwhile, outside agencies should audit final outcome measures, like high-stakes test scores, to ensure the proper checks and balances are in place.

Stakeholders—students, parents, communities, local governments, and businesses—should not have to wait years before finding out if districts or schools are headed in the right direction with measurable and verifiable results. This delay cheats everyone.

Frank Felton
RAF & Associates
Detroit, Mich.

RAF & Associates provides consulting services and software in the K-12 education market. The writer is a former administrator in the Detroit public schools.

Vol. 31, Issue 06, Page 20

Published in Print: October 5, 2011, as Can We Afford Years to Validate Test Scores?
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