Georgia’s College & Career Ready Performance Index is Not Scientific But is a Media Darling

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Figure 1. Are you here to measure me again? Really!

The Georgia Department of Education would have you believe that the College & Career Ready Performance Index is based on scientific research, and is a valid and reliable “index” of school performance.

Each year during the spring, about 1.6 million Georgia students need to be in school so that they can spend hours upon hours being measured with the state’s CRCT, a multiple-choice  measurement devise.  Like the cow in the photo, students, starting at age six, go to school to be measured, once again. How much have you grown, the state wants to know? We are beginning to hear from parents about letting the state measure their kids. Some are refusing.

Weights and Measures

The state use the term weights as we do as in weights and measures.  I’ve reported on this blog that corporate reformers, including many state departments of education actually believe that tests, such as a Criterion Referenced Competency Tests, are testing college & career ready skills.  How do they know that?  They really do not.  In fact, the CRCT measures content knowledge in math, reading, language arts, science and social studies.  It does not measure communication skills, or how to solve problems collaboratively, and how to be innovative.  Success in a job and college might be related more to these qualities that don’t figure into the CRCT. Why aren’t “competences” that count, measured?

Mechanistic Thinking

Another fact you should be aware of is the state changes the “formula” to calculate the CCRPI of a school.  Last year,  70 points out of 110 were allocated as the “achievement” portion of the index.  Because local districts in Georgia thought there was not not enough credit given for the school’s “Progress” or improvement on test scores, the DOE balanced the index by adding more points for Progress,  and decreasing the points allocated for achievement from 70 to 60 points.  There is absolutely no scientific basis for this.  It is pure opinion on the part of the DOE staff to reconcile complaints from the field.  Perfectly valid, but not scientific.

But, you must keep in mind that the DOE thinks in mechanistic terms.  So, when you have a scale of o – 100 or 110, they immediately translate numbers to letter grades based on common knowledge.  Maureen Downey quoted one DOE administrator who said:

We all know what a 100 is on a test.  If the score is a 65, there are some things that need to be improved.

This kind of thinking limits the way we view schools.  By thinking in traditional ways, such as thinking that a score of 65 means we are not working hard enough, we ignore the ecology of communities and think that performance in school is unrelated to the world around us.

Another truth is that these tests are not needed.  They don’t contribute to the improvement of learning in any situation.  In fact, there is evidence that students would be more successful in school, and teachers would be able to do what know best– figure out ways to help their learn to love learning.  How can an average score tell you anything about a schools performance, let alone an individual student?

Raising the Bar

The reformers enjoy raising the bar.  They seem to like making it more and more difficult for kids to pass in school.  The state plays a game—an unfair game.  They keep changing the rules to raise the stakes.  It hurts students and their parents.  It puts teachers in the middle.  For instance, at the 5th grade level the state raised the bar by stating that, students passing 5 core courses (now including reading) must also pass all CRCT tests.  The former CCRPI required passing only 4 core courses and did not require passing CRCT scores for credit.  They push the bar up at other levels.  If you want to find out about other changes, and the rationale for them, you are led on a search to the CCRPI Accountability page, developed by Harter, Cardoza and Reichrath.    Don’t look for an easy way to figure out the rationale used in any of this.

Keep in mind that the CRCT is based on Georgia’s content standards.  And as some researchers have noted, standards represent a kind of system of “weights and measures.” Tom Loveless of the Brookings Institute tells us that standards’ reformers use the word—benchmarks—as a synonym for standards. And he says that they use it too often. In science education, we’ve had a long history of using the word benchmarks, and Loveless reminds us that there are not real, or measured benchmarks in any content area. Yet, when you read the standards—common core or science—there is the implication we really know–almost in a measured way–what standards should be met at a particular grade level.

The Georgia Department of Education, bound by the No Child Left Behind act, the Waiver they received, and the Race to the Top, fits the model of using weights and measures to convince us that the scores reported under the banner of CCRPI have scientific meaning.

They do not.

Digging Deeper

If you are willing to look at Excel Spreadsheets, you will soon become aware that the state has collected massive amounts of student data that they believe is real, and is to be believed as measures of student performance in reading, English language arts, math, science, and social studies.

Figure 1. CRCT 2012 All Students by State in Reading.  How is the "standard" determined?
Figure 1. CRCT 2012 All Students by State in Reading. How is the “standard” determined?

Examine any grade in the chart.  More than 120,000 students at each grade level (3rd – 8th)  took the CRCT in reading.  According to the state from 4 to 9 percent of the students did not reach the standard.  You can find similar data in English language arts, math, science and social studies.

But here is the question:  How did the state determine the “cut off” score that establishes the standard?  Did they use some mathematical model to do this?  Is there data out there that they consulted to lead them to a number?

No.

There is no formula.  There is no science.  This is pure opinion by the state.  In fact, they can change the standard each year (which they do).

As you look over the newspaper articles that create league tables listing the schools with the highest CCRPI scores and those with the lowest CCRPI scores, we really do not know what these scores mean.

Here are some additional pages to consult to enable you dig deeper into the CCRPI.

 

About Jack Hassard

Jack Hassard is a writer, a former high school teacher, and Professor Emeritus of Science Education, Georgia State University.

...and I'M STILL FOR HER.

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