Re: DSM: People measurers

Dale R. Reed (
Mon, 25 May 1998 21:52:39 -0700

Teresa Gallagher wrote:
> Well, I couldn't possibly disagree more. A great deal can and has been
> learned about the human species and the human condition because of
> statistics. <snip>

Teresa, before you invest to much time and money on the results of your
precious tests, you should pay more attention to what is really going on
as we get closer to Goals 2000. For instance I copy below a story and a
recent editorial in the Seattle Times about the discovery of cheating on
a recent test in the Seattle School System. And there was an expose on
column 1 page 1 in the Wall Street Journal last fall on similar goings
on and worse in the State of Kentucky.

When I ran for School Board last fall here in the Highline School
District I warned everyone who would listen that we had not seen
anything yet.

I am, on principle, against the government ranking people for the
purpose of classifying them for any reason. No matter how noble the
goal. But as a practical matter the money and time spent gathering the
data and working up the results is generally wasted at best and at worse
has lead(or at least justified) to huge bussing and affirmative action
and other very expensive and destructive government programs.

Hey Teresa I have funny stories to tell about what the Reed's do when
the census takers come to visit our home after we have refused to fill
out the census forms to their satisfaction.

Besides, what would you test for at Sudbury Valley? All they claim to
do is allow the students the freedom to make responsible individuals of
themselves. A noble goal that in most parents minds is of first
priority. I too think that is the most important attribute that a
youngster can acquire. But how are you going to measure that? Dale

Posted at 11:46 p.m. PDT; Saturday, May 16, 1998

State tells schools: Donít cheat
by Jolayne Houtz and Dick Lilly Seattle Times staff reporters

Reports of irregularities in the administration of new state tests this
spring prompted the stateís schools chief to send a memo yesterday
reminding principals, superintendents and others of the consequences of
cheating in preparing students for the tests.
"These improper actions by a few reflect negatively on all of us and can
seriously erode public confidence in . . . our schools," said the memo
from Terry Bergeson, superintendent of public instruction, and Chuck
Collins, chairman of the state Commission on Student Learning.
The reports involved the Washington Assessment of Student Learning, a
new statewide performance-based test of fourth- and seventh-graders.
There were reports of teachers and other school staff members copying
secure test materials to share with students and staff members, reading
passages on a reading section of the test to students, and correcting
studentsí spelling on the writing section.

Those reports were brought to state officials by school administrators,
Bergeson noted. The state did not release the number and location of
districts that have reported irregularities.
Bergesonís memo went out the same day that the Seattle School District
acknowledged it is investigating allegations that students at T.T.
Minor Elementary received improper coaching in advance of the districtís
standardized testing.
The incidents involve different tests and are unrelated, but they raise
similar issues. In an era of heightened public demands that schools be
accountable for their studentsí performance, some experts say educators
are increasingly pushed to do things that might artificially inflate
their test scores.
The pressure is tangible. Seattle schools Superintendent John Stanford,
for example, is pushing principals to improve student performance, and
their schoolsí standardized test scores comprise part of principalsí job
"Teachers recognize that principals are under a lot of pressure," said
Karen Morgan, a teacher with the districtís STAR program, which coaches
new teachers during their first year in the profession.
"I think that Stanfordís pressure does have the potential of sort of
screwing people up," said Morgan, "but it has the other effect of
getting people to try harder (and) it might be worth it."
One thing is clear: Schools ignore the pressure to improve at their own
peril. There are increasing calls for state or district takeovers of
low-performing schools and sanctions for principals and teachers who
fail to improve student performance.
A task force led by Bergeson and Frank Shrontz, retired Boeing chairman,
is developing an accountability system for Washington schools that will
reward good performance and lead to official intervention and sanctions
in low-performing schools.
"Around the country, we know the higher the stakes, the more
testing-security issues you have to deal with," Bergeson said. The memo
she and Collins wrote emphasizes the consequences of cheating, noting
that it violates professional ethics, testing protocols, state law and
state Board of Education rules covering acts of unprofessional conduct.
Civil penalties and sanctions for educators who break testing rules
include fines up to $500 and revocation of professional certification.
Formal review system needed
The memo was sent to every principal and superintendent in the state,
school-board presidents and other organizations.
"The bottom line is people can get their credentials pulled. They canít
just willy-nilly do whatever they want to do," Bergeson said.
She noted thereís also been some misunderstanding in schools that have
kept or copied test items after the test was administered, for use in
staff development. Thatís not allowed, because most test questions are
rotated and will be reused.
A more formal system for reviewing allegations of improper practices is
needed, said Gordon Ensign, who oversees testing for the state
Commission on Student Learning.
State officials typically have gotten just two or three such reports
about testing improprieties each year, and often there have been none.
"The stakes just werenít that high before," Ensign said.
While he doesnít want to become "the test police," Ensign said the
increasing attention being paid to test scores means a greater need for
vigilance to be sure those scores arenít tainted.
Legitimate ways to prepare
Identifying whatís tainted can be difficult, however. Teachers can do a
number of things to prepare students for testing, some legitimate, some
not, said Monty Neill of the National Center for Fair and Open Testing,
a Cambridge, Mass., organization critical of standardized testing.
Talking with students about testing, giving them practice tests and
discussing general test-taking strategies are all considered legitimate
practices, he said - while teaching specific items known to be on a test
is clearly cheating.
In between, there are layers of gray - tutoring, practice tests that
mirror the real thing and other activities designed exclusively to boost
test scores that dance around the line of whatís educationally
"The bulk of inflated score gains is not cheating," Neill said. "Itís
just tailoring the curriculum closer and closer to the test."
Jolayne Houtzís phone message number is 206-464-3122.
Her e-mail address is:

Dick Lillyís phone message number is 206-464-2479.
His e-mail address is:


Posted at 06:25 a.m. PDT; Tuesday, May 19, 1998

Donít let preparation blur state test results

TERRY Bergeson, superintendent of public instruction, is worried that
problems with the new state tests could seriously erode public
confidence in schools. She should be.
The Washington Assessment of Student Learning for fourth- and
seventh-graders is designed to accomplish two goals: give an
individualized account of each studentís skills, and create a
comprehensive portrait of the relative ability of schools to educate
their students.
The test results have been touted by education administrators and state
legislators as an accurate and profoundly important tool for
accountability in public education. Penalties for low scores are
Schools that fare poorly lose respect and students; principals with low
scores suffer in their evaluations.
Under this kind of pressure, it is no surprise to learn that
"irregularities" may be occurring at schools. Irregularities like
showing test questions to students prior to the test, correcting
studentsí spelling and reading test passages aloud.
It would be easy to blame these alleged violations on craven principals
and teachers trying to save their own hides. But the nature of the test
itself and the relentless emphasis on individualization contributes to
much of the problem.
Bergeson has said that the material covered in the test reflects ideal
curricula, and that it radically differs from what is taught in many
classrooms. Teachers are undoubtedly eager to familiarize themselves and
their students with any material that will help students succeed.
The Washington Commission on Student Learning, which is responsible for
the test, created a 13-page guideline for special accommodations. Under
these guidelines, the test may be spread over a three-week period or
taken all at once. The guidelines allow teachers to test in small groups
or private study carrels; to quietly repeat directions for individual
students; to play Yanniís Greatest Hits or other calming music. More
than one-quarter of the students in the state qualify for the
Commissionís Special Population and can receive even more
No wonder principals and teachers are confused. Rules like this muddy
the difference between guiding and cheating.
Commission spokesman Marc Frazer said the rules are under construction
and are "likely to get more complicated down the road" as testing
expands to other grade levels. Whatís needed are clearer guidelines for
teachers and administrators, fewer loopholes for individual students,
less unnecessary coddling. It is the only way the test can evolve into a
true measure of learning.

$   Seattle, Washington U.S.A.  $