"Accuracy" of Educational Testing

"Accuracy" of Educational Testing


Testing Comparison

In 2013, to be able to boast “high rates” of student proficiency in reading and mathematics, the legislature made it possible for all students answering more than a meager 16% of standardized questions correctly to earn a label of “proficient,” while in states such as Massachusetts and South Carolina this label was reserved for students answering 65% and 71% of questions correctly. Along with having the second lowest cut-off for student proficiency in the country, Wisconsin’s test questions were also decidedly easier than those in other states. The examples below compare fourth grade reading comprehension questions in Wisconsin and Massachusetts.  


This is a fourth-grade item with a difficulty equivalent to Wisconsin's proficiency cut score (16th percentile).

Which sentence tells a fact, not an opinion?

A. Cats are better than dogs.

B. Cats climb trees better than dogs.

C. Cats are prettier than dogs.

D. Cats have nicer fur than dogs.


This is a fourth-grade item with a difficulty equivalent to Massachusetts's proficiency cut score (65th percentile).

Read the excerpt from "How Much Land Does a Man Need?" by Leo Tolstoy.

So Pahom was well contented, and everything would have been right if the neighboring peasants would only not have trespassed on his wheat fields and meadows. He appealed to them most civilly, but they still went on; now the herdsmen would let the village cows stray into his meadows, then horses from the night pasture would get among his corn. Pahom turned them out again and again, and forgave their owners, and for a long time he forbore to prosecute anyone. But at last he lost patience and complained to the District Court.

What is a fact from this passage?

A. Pahom owns a vast amount of land.

B. The peasant's intentions are evil.

C. Pahom is a wealthy man.

D. Pahom complained to the District Court.

Ultimately, the low cut-off scores coupled with the far simpler questions provided an illusion sold to parents and others that Wisconsin children were performing among the best in the country when in fact many of these children would be way behind in any other state. 

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