hocus pocus – SOLSC Tuesday

Last year in Tennessee, there was great concern at the end of the year over TCAP (testing) scores. The legislature had previously passed a law that the score was to figure into the students’ final grades, but the “quick scores” were going to be late. Much concern (criticism, disdain, confusion) was expressed. And then, suddenly and voila! – the scores came out on time.

What is a quick score, you may ask? Here is an explanation from the state meant to allay concerns:

What does the quick score mean?

A quick score creates a measure on a 100–‐point grading scale. It is not a percent correct or a percentile rank. Quick scores are generated only to be factored into a student’s end of year grade. For grades 3-8, there is no statewide uniform grading policy. This means that a quick score of 84 in one district may be considered a B, while in another district it may be considered a C.

Why do we calculate quick scores if they aren’t tied to proficiency levels? State law requires that districts incorporate TCAP results into end of year student grades. In 2011-12 the department produced quick scores for grades 3‐8 for the first time. Quick scores are not used for school or district accountability. They are not used for teacher evaluation or TVAAS (growth measures).

This year the “quick scores” have been a concern again for a different reason – because they seemed unusually high. Oh, but wait – the scores were calculated on a different metric this year. The state department just forgot to tell anyone. Another explanation:

By law, teachers are required to calculate 20 percent of a student’s final grade using end-of-year TCAP quick scores. According to the state department, although quick scores are the first indicator that parents and students receive about TCAP results, quick scores are not tied to TCAP performance levels. For example, a quick score of 85, a score that signifies proficiency, is not equivalent to the cut score for proficient. 

Thus, the district was notified by the state after district staff recognized that proficiency levels did not match the quick scores this year contrary to years past, which resulted in the appearance of inflated TCAP quick scores, and grades, for students.

A friend asked my opinion about this latest debacle with scores. She is an experienced journalist newly employed in the education field. I am a teacher who retired in part because of my belief there is far too much emphasis on data from faulty tests and skewed scoring procedures. So I welcomed the opportunity to share my opinion:

Such as it is, I think this is a good explanation of quick scores. But it all supports my strong belief that numbers and data can be manipulated to show whatever you want them to show. We sure are basing a lot of decisions on quite an ephemeral and easily shifting “metric.”

Ephemeral Metric – that might be an oxymoron!

Hocus Pocus!