Friday, January 23, 2009

The 'Obama Effect' on test scores

So much for the "achievement gap." This NYT report on a small-sample Vanderbilt University study, should make everyone ask, what the hell are standardized tests measuring? It seems that there was an "Obama effect" that significantly increased the test scores of African-American students, following the elections.

If the results of the study hold up under closer scrutiny, we can only surmise how narrow the gap might become once other forms of racism and discrimination are overcome or to what degree other non-academic barriers were eliminated. For example, a recent study showed that kids who come to school hungry don't score nearly as high as well-nourished kids.

All this is worth consideration as the new administration plans the re-authorization of NCLB with its single-minded emphasis on high-risk standardized testing. If THE TEST is simply or even mainly measuring the degree of damaging experiences faced by children of color in their communities, rather than what's being taught in the classroom, then it's just another brick in the wall. Isn't it?



  2. Liam,

    I think the point is about what the tests are really measuring. If you can get a significant bump by removing one important barrier to racial equality and not from anything done in the classroom, just imagine how the removal of other social and economic barriers might affect learning outcomes. If tends to confirm the view that narrowing the achievement gap is largely a matter of improving conditions in the community as well as inside of schools.


Agree? Disagree? Let me hear from you.