USA Today found test score irregularities at a DC school. Dana Goldstein uses the story to argue that "we measure student academic growth in nuanced ways that encourage deep learning, not in over-simplified ways that create perverse incentives to dumb-down the curriculum and cheat":
In the social sciences, there is an oft-repeated maxim called Campbell’s Law, named after Donald Campbell, a psychologist who studied human creativity. Campbell’s Law states that incentives corrupt. In other words, the more punishments and rewardssuch as merit payare associated with the results of any given test, the more likely it is that the test’s results will be rendered meaningless, either through outright cheating or through teaching to the test in a way that narrows the curriculum and renders real learning obsolete.
In the era of No Child Left Behind, Campbell’s Law has proved true again and again.
When the federal government began threatening to restructure or shut-down schools that did not achieve across-the-board student “proficiency” on state reading and math exams, states responded by creating standardized tests that were easier and easier to pass. Alabama, for example, reported that 85 percent of its fourth-graders were proficient in reading in 2005, even though only 22 percent of the state’s students demonstrated proficiency on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, the gold standard, no-stakes exam administered by the federal government.
Michelle Rhee has defended herself and the school in question, saying USA Today's investigation "absolutely lacked credibility."
We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to email@example.com.