Christopher Tienken is a name you should know. Tienken is an associate professor of Education Administration at Seton Hall University in the College of Education and Human Services, Department of Education Leadership, Management, & Policy. Tienken started out his career as an elementary school teacher; he now edits American Association of School Administrators Journal of Scholarship and Practice and the Kappa Delta Pi Record.He and his colleagues have done some of the most devastating research out there on the Big Standardized Tests.
Tienken's research hasn't just shown the Big Standardized Tests to be frauds; he's shown that they are unnecessary.
In "Predictable Results," one of his most recent posts, he lays out again what his team has managed to do over the past few years. Using US Census data linked to social capital and demographics, Tienken has been able to predict the percentage of students who will score proficient or better on the tests.
Let me repeat that. Using data that has nothing to do with grades, teaching techniques, pedagogical approaches, teacher training, textbook series, administrative style, curriculum evaluation--- in short, data that has nothing to do with what goes on inside the school building-- Tienken has been able to predict the proficiency rate for a school.
For example, I predicted accurately the percentage of students at the district level who scored proficient or above on the 2011 grade 5 mathematics test in 76% of the 397 school districts and predicted accurately in 80% of the districts for the 2012 language arts tests. The percentage of families in poverty and lone parent households in a community were the two strongest predictors in the six models I created for grade 5 for the years 2010-2012.
Tienken's work is one more powerful indicator that the BS Tests do not measure the educational effectiveness of a school-- not even sort of. That wonderful data that supposedly tells us how students are doing and provides the measurements that give us actionable information-- it's not telling us a damn thing. Or more specifically, it's not telling us a damn thing that we didn't already know (Look! Lower Poorperson High School serves mostly low-income students!!)
In fact, Tienken's work is great news-- states can cut out the middle man and simply give schools scores based on the demographic and social data. We don't need the tests at all.
Of course, that would be bad business for test suppliers, and it would require leaders to focus on what's going on in the world outside the school building, so the folks who don't want to deal with the issues of poverty and race will probably not back the idea. And the test manufacturers would lose a huge revenue steam, so they'd lobby hard against it. But we could still do it-- we could stop testing tomorrow and still generate pretty much the same data. Let's see our government embrace this more efficient approach!!
While you're waiting for hell to freeze over, take a look at this video featuring Teimken. It's a quick simple look at what we're screwing up with ed reform and assessment (it does spend a lot of time lovingly gazing at Tienkin's face, but it's very accessible for your friends who wonder what the fuss is about-- particularly those who are a little more right-leaning).