Link to Sponsoring Departments Problems with the Standardized Testing of the No Child Left Behind Program

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California State University, Dominguez Hills
University of Wisconsin, Parkside
Created: March 10, 2006
Latest Update: March 10, 2006

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Index of Topics on Site Problems with the Standardized Testing of the No Child Left Behind Program

There are a number of problems with the Standardized Testing Program. One of those was higlighted today in the New York Times: scoring errors. "SAT Errors Raise New Qualms About Testing," By Karen W. Arenson and Diana B. Henriques, Friday, March 10, 2006, at p. A1. Backup

One of the most devastating pieces of information in this article is that the testing services themselves did not catch the error. Two students who complained about their scores brought it to their attention. As one college official noted, "To depend on test-takers who challenge the scores to learn about system failure is not good." With such a huge bureaucratic system with new tests offered each year, the opportunity for such errors is enough to concern many educators.

Consider the sociological implications. Challenging the system requires not only a knowledge of how the system works, but also enough experience in dealing with the system to not be intimidated and silenced by the system. Research has shown that those in positions of authority in bureaucratic systems are usually those with such knowledge.

Discussion Questions

  1. How does the most obvious problem with test scores affect our young people?

    The most obvious effect is that mistakes in test scores, especially when they go unnoticed, mean that students who actually passed "exit" exams may fail to graduate, or may fail to get into the college of their choice, or may fail to get scholarships they earned. If you are poor, this result may simply end your chances to achieve whatever you are capable of.

  2. How does lack of skills for challenging authority further damage "those who have not"?

    Consider that those with parents who have authority and power will be most able to challenge the bureaucracy either legitimately or through the use of privilege. Those who have no power and authority often relate to institutions as they would to others. They tell a clerk their problem, their story, and having done so, they expect that the clerk will take care of it. But often in a bureaucracy the clerk only deals with those specific pieces he/she is told to record on a form. The form, not the story is passed on to the next official. But the client assumes that the all officials now know his/her story. The officials at each level, with no idea there is a story, continue to respond on the basis of their scant information. And the poor client often doesn't even know this is a problem. The skills of learning to challenge authority must be taught. They don't come naturally. They are in fact part of critical thinking.

    All this translates that "those who have" will be more able to challenge than "those who have not." That's privilege, folks.

  3. There is another important error that is not noticed in this debacle with the testing services. What is it?

    Random error. On standardized tests that are normed over the country or the state as a whole, there is a mthematical assumption that there will be random error, but that the error that leads to one student getting a higher score than he/she would normally get will be balanced out by the error of another getting a lower score than he/she would normally get. So if I have a splitting headache when I take the test, you may have the best day of your life. The errors in our respective test scores, caused by situational factors that are never measured, are presumed to balance one another, so the the ecological correlations (the meanings of the test score when you consider them over the whole group) are valid. But ecological correlations on paper and pencil tests are not valid for individuals, precisely because the random errors that cancel one another out are never taken into account for their effect on the interpretations of the measures. Why? Bottom line. It would cost more to know the situational factors and the individual. Factory production of education!

  4. Why will the random error problem affect inner city schools more than others?

    Consider the health and nutritional factors and how they effect how children feel. Consider the attitudes that permeate the inner city schools that these tests are being given because inner city children must prove that they ARE learning something because our infrastructure assumes that they are of inferior intelligence or ability.

    Jason, that's institutional discrimination, institutional racism, and structural violence. I'll get file up this week. jeanne


  • LA County Test Scores Pdf file. Needs Acrobat Reader. Gives comparison scores for LA County Schools.

  • Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders Labor Market Status and Challenges By Deborah Woo and Paul Ong. PDF file. Needs Acrobat Reader. This piece contains a reference to the cultural constraints on "challenging authority."
    "Despite their long history of fighting for fairness and equality under the law,” he observes that in the present period Asian Americans file comparatively fewer complaints than do other minority employees. Some reasons offered for why Asian Americans have been less forthcoming include cultural taboos against challenging authority, standing out, or creating controversy,along with an emphasis on maintaining "face" and resolving problems communally rather than through individual litigation.Ishimaru encourages Asian Americans instead to emulate the “culture of zero-tolerance for employment discrimination ” exhibited by African Americans and to form coalitions."

  • Civic Leadership for the Common Good: Leadership Development in Appalachian Kentucky A Report by the Civic Leadership Working Team Kentucky Appalachian Commission. June 1996. Published by the Appalachian Center, University of Kentucky. Backup. This piece has some interesting comments on the problems of educating for leadership in a real area of need in the US. Consider the problem of students in this area challenging the accuracy of the scores as announced by the SAT test services. Consider the problem of credibility. Who's going to be believed?

  • Practicing Democracy: Leadership, Community, and Power PDF file. By Marshall Ganz. Needs Acrobat Reader. Has a great bibliography. Good resource, and it goes back to people like Goffman, our classics. Didn't check the date. So it might be old. it's on a Harvard server. Might have been in a teacher training program.

  • Youth in Central Asia: Losing the New Generation International Crisis Group (ICG) "The International Crisis Group is an independent, non-profit, non-governmental organisation, with over 110 staff members on five continents, working through field-based analysis and high-level advocacy to prevent and resolve deadly conflict." Helps give you a sense of how the problems we face are global.

  • And speaking of illocutionary discourse, In Their Own Words: Reading the Iraqi Insurgency Middle East Report N°50. 15 February 2006. "This report was featured on ABC's Nightline (U.S.)." I couldn't resist adding this when I came across it. If we don't listen to our children because we are the strict father, what does it say about our refusal to rely on the information cited below? Do you think this might be why there is so much concern about colonization and oppression? Isn't this a version of paternalism? check it out. It looks like a good source.
    "Failure to sufficiently take into account what the insurgents are saying is puzzling and, from Washington’s perspective, counter-productive. Abundant material – both undervalued and underutilised – is available from insurgent websites, internet chat, videos, tapes and leaflets. Over the past two years such communication has assumed more importance, both among insurgent groups and between groups and their networks of supporters or sympathisers. This report, the first exhaustive analysis of the organised armed opposition’s discourse, seeks to fill the gap, and the lessons are sobering."

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