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‘Dumbing down’ tests isn’t improvement

Published: Tuesday, Sept. 17, 2013 11:07 a.m. CDT

The Iowa Department of Education, using renormed test data (meaning they have been dumbed down yet again by the Iowa Testing Program), is claiming about 75 percent of Iowa third graders are proficient readers. According to NAEP reports (much harder for Iowa educators to control) for the same year, 27 percent of Iowa fourth graders are achieving at grade level.

Would there be that much difference in achievement levels between grades in the same year? The Iowa Testing Program has now admitted to renorming the tests after they were changed to begin once again testing for concepts (since NCLB required concepts be put back into the curriculum and teacher training programs after 50 years of being absent).

Iowa is the last state to make the required curriculum changes, and is presently failing to make the necessary changes to its teacher training programs (according to the National Council on Teacher Quality). Having been forced to adopt the 41st national percentile as the student proficiency standard as the starting point in 2002 (after they wanted the 25th national percentile as a beginning point to make more of the schools look better than they are), and expected to have students achieving up to grade level (65th national percentile) by 2014, Iowa has fought the accountability requirement almost the entire life of a K-12 student.

Iowa continues to request a waiver from the requirement because the state education establishment is unwilling and unable to admit it was on the wrong path for the last 50 years.

For about the last 50 years (since Iowa dropped concepts from curriculum and teacher training programs), standardized tests have been routinely renormed (dumbed down) when student achievement fell below an average 50 percent. While that mark should have been a red flag for making changes to the curriculum and teacher training programs, it served only as an indicator to dumb down the tests yet again.

In 2003, I requested grade level equivalents from the Iowa Department of Education and received data showing the average Iowa student loses with regard to grade level while processing through the system, graduating about two years behind grade level.  While the hope that a change to concepts in the standardized tests might force a corresponding change to curriculum and teacher training programs, Iowa once again shows it is more interested in the perception of being good than in actually being good.  

Due to the recent dumbing down of the Iowa standardized tests, it will now take the 75th national percentile to achieve grade level. This is not progress, but a denial of reality, and the Iowa education system once again shows itself to be more interested in its image than in educating students up to grade level for global competition.

They are like Lance Armstrong on steroids, attacking anyone that attempts to expose the cheating and work for accountability. Don’t our children and grandchildren deserve better?

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