Misuse of high-stakes test scores for evaluative purposes: Neglecting the reality of schools and students

Peter Clyde Martin, Ithaca College

Abstract

The article examines high-stakes test scores in Washington, DC that are used to evaluate school quality for AYP purposes. On the basis of analyses of school scores in terms of subpopulations and neighborhood income, it is found that there are, district-wide, significant correlations between test results and students' economic status, special education status, and English language proficiency. Furthermore, there is evidence that schools with a majority of students considered to be economically disadvantaged experience more pervasive testing failure. These findings contradict the premise of NCLB that we ought to ignore differences in student factors when evaluating instructional quality. The article suggests that while test scores may provide useful information regarding a given school, they are not valid for accountability purposes.