Publisher of largest paper in Arkansas Confronts ADE on Testing Businesmen in ARkansas Want a Nationall Normed Test

Businessmen in Arkansas Want

A Nationally Normed Test (NRT) For Students

That Compare the State to Rest of  Nation


Transcript:  Walter E. Hussman, Jr. 

Publisher  of  Arkansas Democrat Gazette,

June 14, 04  2:49:17 at State School Board Meeting   


My Note:  This is  transcript of  Walter E. Hussman's presentation to the Board last June, 04; but is still very relevent.   Background information:      Many legislators and businessmen, as well as educators,  became concerned that the state benchmark tests (also called criterion referenced tests or performance tests) were not reliable tests and wanted our students in Arkansas to be compared to the rest of  the nation using nationally norm-referenced test.  They   had become alarmed when they realized the ADE was phasing out  norm-referenced tests altogether.   Thousands of hours were spent in the debate and in drafting and compromising a law, Act 235,  to put some emphasis back on the norm-referenced tests.  See this link for another transcript of  Hussman that explains his concerns with the state  criterion referenced tests - inflated test scores.  See this link for a table of  test scores in Arkansas from 1984 to 2003 that is truly transparent.


Walter E. Hussman, Jr.  publisher  of  Arkansas Democrat Gazette,

June 14, 04  2:49:17  at State School Board Meeting


            Thank you Chairman and Board. I will keep my comments brief and focus here on the forest instead of the trees.


            Act 35 embodies accountability, transparency and choice.  Many of the leading educational researchers in the US have convinced many of the Arkansas leading business people that accountability, transparency, and choice is the single most effective thing we can do to improve our schools. Consolidation, I know, a lot of good things about it, I know you have really been bogged down about it.  The main thing is  that what is in Act 35 is far more important than consolidation.


I want you to talk about a specific example and that is the KIPP school over in Helena.  I know you are all familiar with it.  Thy do annual testing; they use a nationally normed test; and the first year the KIPP school was in operation, the  5th graders scores  there went from 22nd  percentile to the 38th percentile -- in one year.  That one fact alone tells the Arkansas public  everything they really need to know -- that those kids are doing well; they are learning; and that school is excelling.  People in Arkansas don't need to know anything about our unique standards, how our standards are different from Mississippi, better or worse than Louisiana's, if our Smart Start test is a good test or bad test.  All they need to know is that these kids went from 22nd percentile to 38 percentile and that is proof enough that we are making the progress we need to make.  We think that Act 35 can do for Arkansas schools what the KIPP school is doing in Helena, Arkansas.


I was very supportive of  Act 35 and so were a lot of other businesses  in the state, including the Chamber of Commerce. But to be very honest with you, I was very disappointed when I read these rules and regulations.


Why was I disappointed? There was very little emphasis on the nationally normed test, very little on value added,  little emphasis on longitudinal tracking of students, and there was little emphasis on vertical scaling of the criterion referenced test.


These are all key components of  Act 35.  Act 35 was a political compromise.  Many of the best provisions of  Act 35 were put off into the future.  For example,  improvement scores to reward schools were pushed off four years; performance scores for rewarding schools were pushed off for eight to nine years into the future, giving student choice to leave a failing school to go to a better school was pushed off 8 years into the future.


We didn't like that, but we understood it had to be done to get the bill passed.  You, the Board members could implement many of these reforms earlier.  Your rules and regulations could require that, but they don't.  You may feel like Act 3 is just another piece of legislation -- something you have to implement and regulate, and you shouldn't move any faster than the law requires. 


I would submit that you are responsible and accountable not just to the legislature but to the higher authority than the legislature and that is the State Supreme Court.  If  we think that wasting 4 to 8 years to implement key provisions of Act 35 is gong to satisfy Arkansas Supreme Court I think we re wrong.


I certainly think it is wrong to delay these reforms because they are not in the best interest  of the students in Arkansas.



Kathy Smith, who is here today, submitted a number of comments on Act 35.  She came to the public hearing you held.  Many of her comments were not incorporated.  I reviewed these and I thought they were good suggestions.  That is all I have to say.


End of  Husssman presenttion to State Board on June 24, 04


Excerpts from Walter Hussman Presentation to Adequacy Committee 8-12-03


     So I think a nationally normed  test is important.  Ideally it can be a single test;  it can be an augmented test. You have heard testimony today that is what they are doing in Tennessee.  It works well over there.  Why can't we do it in Arkansas?  The Department of  Education is absolutely opposed to it.  They don't want to do it.  I am sorry, but if they don't want to do this, we would be happy with having two tests.  But if I were able to show you this presentation, what I could show you is that we went back and graphed the Stanford 9  and Stanford 8; befsore it was the Stanford 8 it was the MAT-6.    We went all the way back to 1988 and we graphed the 4th grade (which actually turned into the 5th grade the last five or 6 years); we graphed the 7th grade and we graphed the 10th grade.  And what you are going to see if  you saw those graphs is that they  [nationally normed tests scores] are basically flat. 


            We have made a little progress in the last  few years -- from 1996 to 2001. I think our Stanford 9 test scores probably went up from like 45% to 51% [4th grade] State spending on K-12 education went from a 1.4 billion to 2.8 billion.  You know that is actually unbelievable.  In six years we have doubled the spending on K-12 education in Arkansas. And we have about a 10% increase in our test scores.  Also, Jim Argue brought this point up earlier.  In 1996 -- 2001, you look at the 4th grade for the Stanford 9. I think we went from a bout the 45% to 51%. That is really the first progress we made in Arkansas since 1988 on the Stanford test scores.  


            The other thing if we look at this -- Jim Argue brought this up -- if you compare  the percent of  kids scoring on the CRT,  the Arkansas benchmark test, you are going to see a slope that looks like this and you compare that on the graph where the kids have gone from 35% maybe to the 67%.  Yet, you look at the Stanford 9 test scores, they are relatively flat.  (Looking at graphs on screen.)


            Here when you look at the same benchmark scores  from 1998-99 we have gone from the first 44% above proficient to 67% scoring above proficient.  You would  think education is doing great in Arkansas.


            Next slide, if you look at this, (I have copies of  this if  anyone would like it)  this is 4th grade reading on the ACTAAP [Benchmark] scores, we found a 44% to 69%.  Gee,  things are great.  What is wrong with the Supreme Court?  Donít they know how great  the academics are in Arkansas?


            Next slide.  But if you compare it to NAEP [2002] , the state says 65% of  students are proficient on the ACTAAP [benchmark], but NAEP says only 29% are proficient


                        Jody, I think what you will find that Arkansas is not unique and I am not trying to cast aspersions on the Department of Education. You have heard of grade inflation in America.   Today what we have is CRT inflation.  It is true in all the states. They are scoring much higher, and you know the problem is someone in Arkansas is going to make the decision where the cut off is above proficient and below proficient; someone in this state is going to do it.  When they give that test in Florida, someone in Florida is going to make that decision.  But you know what when you give the Stanford 9, no one in Arkansas is going to make any decision like that.  That is why the business community has more confidence in a nationally normed test.


            Jim Argue -- The reason I am still confused is that other counsel I look to that is reliable tells me that the  written definition of proficient in  NAEP is verbatim to the written definition in our state test.   I want an answer to that...Fourth grade math results [benchmark] have gone if my memory serves me right, from 41% in 2000 to 67% as released just last week I think.  Charity, can you confirm that? .  So we are showing improvement on the CRT side, and we will know in a matter of  days what the 2002 number is for NAEP in 4th grade math.


            Hussman:  So that is basically how we have grade inflation basically with the benchmark tests and that is a problem all over the United States..


            I do have the graphs.  These are the nationally normed tests that have been given in Arkansas since 1988. This is from Arkansas Department of  Education.  You see there was no progress from 1988 to 1992 in 4th grade.


`           From 1992 they changed and they went from Stanford 8.  There was no progress from 1992 to 1995.  From 1996 to 2001 we have made a little progress.  We have gone from the 45% to the 51%,and all we had to do was go from spending a 1.4 bilion t 2.8 billion.


            Next slide;  This basically compares the Stanford 9 grade 5 scores which are in red with the ACTAAP [benchmark] grade 4 scores which are in blue.  What we are looking at on the Stanford 9 is the percent of the mean NCE which is kind of  the way they score that and you see that has been a fairly flat line.  It has gone up a little bit.  But you see we have made great progress on ACTAAP [benchmark]


            Next slide.  This is a green line that shows the ACTAAP [benchmark] improvement on the percent proficient and you can see varying increases have gone from about 35% proficient  for kids in math scoring in proficient in 1988-89 and that has gone up almost to 70%.  Yet the nationally normed test remains relatively flat.


            We think a nationally normed test  is an essential check on trying to determine on how well we are really doing on our state benchmark tests.


            Next Slide. Now this is what they have done  in Florida. Florida is probably the state has done more education reform than any other in the country. This is the percent of 4th grade students reading at grade level.  African American students have gone from 26% to 42%. 


            Next slide.  This shows the percent of schools scoring A, B, C, D, F.  Now let me just say a word about Florida.  How well do you believe that [the information on the chart]  How credible  is that.  One thing that makes me a little skeptical and actually all newspaper people are supposed to be a little bit skeptical.  That's based on their ACTAAP which is called FCAP or something like that. If that data had been based on a nationally normed test, I would have a lot more confidence than I do.  And some detractor might say that is Jeb Bush is trying to run for president, trying to make his record look better in Florida.  I don't know;  I just know I would have more confidence if it were based on a nationally normed test than on a state only test.



Transcribed by Debbie Pelley










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