LAST YEAR the Department of Public Instruction (DPI) developed assessments aligned to the new Common Core Standards.  Even though the tests were given to students spring of 2013, the State Board did not release the extremely low scores until November of 2013.

Previously Dr. Terry Stoops expressed how frustrated many of us are with the state testing program. He stated it this way:

Rather, this entire debate is a symptom of an appalling testing program developed and administered for decades by a broken state agency.  It’s time for someone on the State Board of Education to declare that enough is enough.

Consider, for example, that the state made 122 changes(pdf) to the state testing program between 1995 and 2011.  While state and federal laws mandated some of the changes, many others were the result of tinkering by testing “experts” or state education officials.  Cut scores were reset.  Test questions were revised.  Testing formats were refurbished.  Scores were reconsidered.  Inconvenient results were rejected.  Students who performed poorly were retested.  Calls for reform were rejected repeatedly.  Trust in the testing program was reduced.  DPI spin was refined.  Mediocrity was rewarded.

THIS YEAR, the Department of Public Instruction is asking the State Board of Education to add an additional “achievement” level to the state’s testing program.  Instead of 4 levels, with levels 1 & 2 failing and levels 3 & 4 passing, there will be 5 levels with 3, 4, and 5 passing.

With this additional achievement level, effective for the 2013 school year, the State would report five levels as follows:

        (1)  Level 5 denotes Superior Command and College and Career Readiness.

        (2)  Level 4 denotes Solid Command and College and Career Readiness.

        (3)  Level 3 denotes Sufficient Command.

        (4)  Level 2 denotes Partial Command.

        (5)  Level 1 denotes Limited Command.


The obvious question centers around level 3.  If this level does not denote “College and Career Readiness,” what is it’s goal?  DPI suggests that level three means the student has passed the course or grade, but is not “College and Career” ready.  Could this be another way to simply socially promote?

Again, the “testing company” within the Department of Public Instruction continues to adjust the assessments confusing parents and the public. Who knows exactly what the descriptors mean? Instead of giving our students a nationally normed, diagnostic achievement test, we continue to assess students with tests that tell nothing.

The State Board of Education will decide at the March meeting to accept or reject the latest “evolution” to the state’s testing program.  Another year, another change.