Standardized Testing is not Standardized

This is a true story. A Pennsylvania mom showed me the Algebra 1 Keystone Exam scores that were sent home for her son. He was out sick and missed the full first day of testing. He was present on the second and final day of the exam. His score showed a zero for the first day's modules, and an advanced score on the second day's modules. She was confused (and trust me when I say that this mom is a highly accomplished, successful, and intelligent woman by any standard) because it appeared that her son scored advanced overall. How could this be?

Yes, her son scored a zero on the first half of the test and scored advanced overall. It makes no sense that he not only passed, but scored advanced. She was visibly relieved that he would not have to re-take the exam... but what about the other kids who somehow failed and have to take remedial classes and re-test until they pass? How could this be right?

Last summer when the New York State Common Core State Standard aligned test scores hit the media, it was quite a fiasco. I blogged about it here . NY state officials warned the public that there would be about a 70% failure rate, and magically there was a 70% failure rate. Then the Pennsylvania Common Core State Standard aligned test scores came in...

 A very reliable source told me that he had access to the Keystone scores over the summer and that we, too, had about a 70% failure rate. Strangely, the scores available were suddenly reporting about a 40% failure rate.  When he inquired about it, he was informed that, "..the (Pennsylvania) cut scores did change in the spring; therefore, shifting some student scores."


As it turns out there is a very non-scientific art/science to determining the score (called the cut score) that separates the kids who pass from the kids who fail. The information below is directly from this ETS (Educational Testing Service) link.

"It is impossible to prove that a cut score is correct. Therefore, it is crucial to follow a process that is appropriate and defensible. Ultimately, cut scores are based on the opinions of a group of people. The best we can do is choose the people wisely, train them well in an appropriate method, give them relevant data, evaluate the results, and be willing to start over if the expected benefits of using the cut scores are outweighed by the negative consequences." 

WHAT? The Educational Testing Service is acknowledging that that there is no way to know if the cut score is correct? That it is based on the opinions of a group of people?

How is it okay with any citizen of our state that our children are being threatened by having their  high school graduation denied, even with great grades, based on THIS? How is it okay that schools, teachers, and principals are going to be evaluated based on THIS? How is it okay that our urban schools are being financially starved based on THIS?

"This is a manufactured crisis. We know who should be held accountable..." It is the politicians, our Governors, our State Departments of Education, our President and our Secretary of Education.

Our schools are not failing. Privatization and corporate reform are.

The Pennsylvania NAACP states the following about Pennsylvania's Keystone Exams:

"It is clear that the regulation linking Keystone Examination scores to high school graduation is a present day form of Eugenics. Hidden under the cloak of 'the business community has asked for an improved workforce', and 'colleges are concerned about the number of students needing remediation', attaching Keystone Examinations to graduation is clearly based on the idea that it is possible to distinguish between superior and inferior elements of society through selective scores on a paper and pencil test. This is a clandestine social movement that strips children of their dignity and self worth..." 

All children are pawns in this manufactured crisis. Parents need to unite and stop giving value where there is little to none. Standardized testing is not standardized, as it turns out. 

Not by a long shot.


  1. I cannot believe the cut scores are based on OPINION. That's appalling.


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