Undernews is the online report of the Progressive Review, edited by Sam Smith, who covered Washington during all or part of one quarter of America's presidencies and edited alternative journals since 1964. The Review has been on the web since 1995. See main page for full contents

July 21, 2009


James Crawford, President, Institute for Language and Education Policy in letter to Washington Post - Removing low scorers from the testing pool is an effortless way to raise average scores and create the illusion of progress for D.C. schools. But it prevents any fair comparison with test results from prior years.

Intensive teaching to the test, especially for students on the cusp of "proficiency," is even more pernicious. It destroys the validity of academic assessments, which are designed to sample a broad range of skills and knowledge. Narrowing instruction to items expected to be on the test is like holding a match under the thermostat. It produces misleading results, not to mention an impoverished curriculum.

Mayor Adrian M. Fenty and Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee have taken credit for what they call "steady gains" by students. But pumping up test scores by artificial means tells us nothing about whether children are learning.

It's too bad The Post relied on a euphemism -- "improved statistical housekeeping" -- to characterize these deceptive tactics. A more accurate description would be "gaming the system."


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