Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Inequality and Test Scores

Edudiva is a great site to visit for analysis on standardized test scores. The following is from her post after the recent announcement of Missouri’s MAP scores:

Fareed Zakaria, in The Post-American World, explains the U.S. math score mediocrity.

But even if the U.S. scores in math and science fall well below leaders like Singapore and Hong Kong, the aggregate scores hide deep regional, racial, and socioeconomic variation. [...] The difference between average science scores in poor and wealthy school districts within the United States, for instance, is four to five times greater than the difference between the U.S. and Singaporean national averages. In other words, America is a large and diverse country with a real inequality problem.

This inquality is highlighted in the St. Louis County MAP scores. The 10th grade math scores ranged from 81.4 percent of a school scoring proficient or advanced at Clayton to 0 at Wellston. OK, that is pretty extreme. The top five scoring districts averaged 71.6 prof/adv.; while the bottom five districts (excluding Wellston) averaged 15.6. I excluded Wellston because it has had its accreditation stripped and students may go elsewhere. In fact several go to Clayton. The elementary math numbers aren’t any better. I chose 5th grade because I felt that gave students several years to get used to testing. The top five districts averaged 75.02 prof/adv; whereas, the bottom five averaged 18.76.

How can we fix this problem? Let’s start by analyzing our test scores like Edudiva to find out what they really indicate. Then let’s stop isolating kids in schools where they are drastically underserved and expand the choices they have.

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