The Better Way on Standardized Scores – 2017

33cscreenshotPost 2 in a weekly series.  I’ve written previously about our schools’ touting of ACT scores based on a selective presentation of those standardized test results.  There’s an irony in this: I consider standardized scores an imperfect measure of actual learning, and have written about them mostly in response to others’ repeated and superficial twisting of the data.  On my own, I would not have focused on scores as others have, but then on my own I’ll not withhold a better analysis for others’ lesser ones.

A few remarks about the most recent ACT scores for Whitewater.

  • As participation locally increases, the gap between state and local scores declines.  The latest scores bear this out: with a nearly-universal mandate to take the test, Whitewater’s scores are now separated from the state scores by only 1.5%.  (Wisconsin 19.9 and Whitewater 20.2.  These scores are almost always presented in a crude, top-line fashion, so those who do so have no persuasive reply when one draws the comparison this way.)
  •  Substantive learning is what matters: that kind of learning requires an understanding of facts, and techniques of reasoning, apart from any particular test.
  • Good scores have practical benefits (like so many, I know this from my share of standardized tests), but learning trumps test taking.  If I had told my father or uncle, on the many times we walked through campus, that a high score on a standardized (or other) test proved that one’s education was going well, they would have been, rightly, both surprised and disappointed.
  • Learning isn’t important merely for college, but for non-college careers, too.  One doesn’t argue against misuse of ACT data because one thinks only college-bound careers matter; one argues against misuse of ACT data because it’s an affront to proper reasoning.
  • It’s more than odd (part funny, part sad) that a candidate who aspires to educational leadership shows so little understanding of this, and such willingness to bite at any shiny headline that comes along.
  • Pushing shiny headlines is counter-productive.  Outsiders considering Whitewater will never settle for touting of scores over their own understanding of the data or their own visual inspection of the town’s economy and housing market.  Residents have grown accustomed to these sorts of tricks; once refuted, they impair the credibility of those who repeat the same sketchy claims over and over.  If this were merely a matter of debating the point, there is no better way to carry the argument than to watch as others compound their errors through dull repetition.
  • For previous posts about ACT scores in Whitewater, see Whitewater’s ACT ScoresWhitewater’s ACT Participation Rate Near the Bottom of Area SchoolsWhitewater’s ACT Scores and Participation Rates, and What’s Being Done is More than Just a (Sketchy) Number.
  • Others are free to take a contrary view.  They’ve neither free, nor should they expect, to espouse that contrary view without reply.
  • Studying well and enjoyably.  Learning and the support of one’s family in learning is more important than a newspaper headline.  One should have fun with the topics at hand, so often as possible.  It’s quite the adventure…


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