New pet peeve: "Relatively unique." You can no more be "relatively unique" than relatively pregnant.— Robert Pondiscio (@rpondiscio) June 29, 2016
I totally owe this post to Pondiscio's tweet.
First, I share his pet peeve (even though I'm not prepared to bet anything valuable that I've never violated it). You are unique or you're not. You are pregnant or you're not. There is no relatively unique, relatively pregnant.
Put another way, when you go to the doctor to see if you're pregnant or not, the doctor does not say, "Well, let me draw some blood. As soon as I've collected samples from a few hundred other women, I'll be able to decide whether you're relatively pregnant or not." No, there is no "relatively pregnant."
You take the test. You find out whether or not you're pregnant. You are just as pregnant when you take the test alone as you are when you take it at the same time as thousand so of other women.
Yes, this is yet another way to look at the difference between standards-referenced and norm-referenced testing.
If the Big Standardized Test (PARCC, SBA, PSSA, MOUSE, ETC) were truly a standards-referenced test, a student could take the test and know if she were proficient or not. And that is the implied promise of the BS Tests-- that they will measure proficiency against a standard.
But if that were true, we would not need thousands of students to take the test. One student, alone, could take the test and be told whether she was proficient or basic or whatever. No test manufacturer, no state would have to say, "Okay, as soon as we have the test results from thousands of other students, we'll be able to tell you if you're proficient."
One student, alone, could take the test and be given the results. We would not need the state government, the federal government, and the testocrats to say, "We can't have opt out because every child must take the test because if every child doesn't take the test, we won't get meaningful results."
We have been promised a test that tells us whether or not a student is proficient in reading and math. We were promised a test that would tell us whether or not a student is, in absolute terms, proficient, giving us, as Arne Duncan put it, the power to look an eight year old in the face and tell her whether or not she's on track for college.
What we have instead is a test that tells us if a student is relatively proficient. Which makes no more sense than a test to determine if a woman is relatively pregnant.