The Treasure Hunter

A blog by Joanne Yatvin

Test Scores Alone Don’t Tell the Truth About the Quality of a School

on December 18, 2017

Although many of you may have read David Berliner’s article on the interpretation of students’ test scores in Diane Ravitch’s blog on December 12th, I feel it is important for me to summarize his analysis here. When it comes to understanding what is really happening in education, David Berliner is one of very few real education experts. I, for one, believe that his analyses of the problems of American education are right on the button.


Recently, Dr. David C. Berliner decided to examine closely the PIRLS* test scores of American students as compared to those of students of other countries where they appeared to be much better. As he explains, “Standardized Achievement Tests are quite responsive to demographics, and not very sensitive at all to what teachers and schools accomplish.”

What he found in examining the 2016 average scores of students from several countries was that the US students had a score of 549, while those in Singapore scored 576, in Hong Kong 569, and in Finland 566. Although on the surface those scores looked bad for the U.S., Berliner felt that it was important to consider the different demographics in each country before making a judgment.

One significant thing he looked at was the percentage of American students on Free and Reduced Lunch in a school. When those percentages were low, students’ test scores were higher than in the other countries mentioned above. In fact, the lower the poverty rate was for an American school, the higher were its test scores.  Berliner asserts, “it’s our social and economic systems, not our schools, that cause lower scores than is (sic) desired by our nation.”

Ultimately, Berliner concludes, “If we want better scores on such tests, we need to get off the backs of teachers and schools. Our teachers and schools are presently educating a high percentage of our kids to very high levels of literacy. But that is not true for another high percentage of our kids. What we need to do to help those kids is to exert a lot more influence on our nations’ politicians to give us the equitable society that will promote higher achievement for all our citizens.”

The only thing I have to add is “Amen”.

 

* “The Progress in International Reading Literacy” is a test given to 4th graders in several countries. Since 2001, PIRLS has been administered every 5 years. It documents worldwide trends in the reading knowledge of 4th-graders as well as school and teacher practices related to instruction.

 

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