Home > Testing > Ex Post Grade-o

Ex Post Grade-o

Have you ever heard of ex post facto?

This term describes a law which makes a person a criminal for committing an act before the legislation was passed.

It is typically prohibited by the US Constitution.

However, high-stakes testing frequently go through a technical, psychometric process called equating. Conceptually, this seems not only moral, but necessary.

When tests are high-stakes, the public deserves reassurance that exams from year to year will be of similar difficulty. Despite test-writers’ best efforts, some exam forms will be a bit more difficult than others.

However, in reality there is a more powerful force in play when No Child Left Behind testing is in place: the public’s perception of fairness and accountability.

If too many people pass, then the tests are too easy. If too many people fail, then the tests are too difficult.

Florida’s state board of education recently lowered cut scores because too many students failed the FCAT.

I’d like to call this an example of “Ex Post Grade-o.” The numbers didn’t tell the right story, so the state changed its standards so more kids could pass.

Pearson is in the midst of scoring and rating not only students but also teachers throughout New York State.

It would appear, on the surface, that they are highly qualified to make these decisions. Pearson employees publish in the area of psychometrics, or the science of fair testing and best practices.

But with just a little bit of reflection and an examination of the facts, it is clear that Pearson also plays the “Ex Post Grade-o” game.

Their goal is not to assure the public that tests are scored fairly from year to year.

Rather, their goal is to tell the story Governor Cuomo wants to tell the public about New York’s public schools.

We’ve seen this happen since 2006, when McGraw-Hill started writing and scaling the ELA and math exams in New York.

The New York Education Commissioner had a story to tell each year, and cut scores were adjusted “Ex Post Grade-o” to fit the commissioner’s script.

Results on these tests are determined not by an objective measure of relative difficulty from year to year, but rather by political needs and a convenient script.

Note that this post is being written on June 12, 2012. Here are my predictions for the next four years:

1) New York will have about a 75% overall pass percentage this year. Not too high, not too low.

2) Next year, for the 2013 round of grades 3-8 ELA and math testing, New York’s pass rates will fall significantly as the Common Core Standards are implemented for the first time and it’s OK for kids to struggle on the new tests.

3) Then, from 2014-2016, New York students will show steady growth, as the next presidential election cycle nears and Governor Cuomo demonstrates his effectiveness as an educational leader.

Bonus Prediction: The Board of Regents and the Governor’s office will not implement Common Core exams for Regents tests.

Regents exams need to be more stable because they represent credit-bearing instruments and can’t be manipulated for political purposes in the same way. Families sue if a high school exam is unfair. They don’t bother when an exam is just used to generate teacher evaluation scores and a four-point rating for each child.

Results on No Child Left Behind high-stakes tests are not an objective measure of reality. They are a political tool used for political purposes.

Ex-Post Grade-o is not going away anytime soon. Not until a bold, revolutionary leader can expose the divorce between valid psychometrics and what actually happens at Pearson, McGraw-Hill,and other big testing businesses.

I’d love to see state departments of education increase their levels of transparency and require testing companies to open their equating processes for public review.

What goes on behind closed doors is untrustworthy. States and testing companies say they are saving money by keeping test items secured. That’s a weak argument.

Call your state department of education and testing companies and hold them accountable! Ask them to publish details of their equating processes. Or better yet, include members of the public in these discussions.

Governor Cuomo, I call on you to include members of your blue-ribbon education panel to observe and report on Pearson’s equating and teacher growth formula creation. Add transparency to this process.

Categories: Testing
  1. No comments yet.
  1. No trackbacks yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: