In a commentary published by the Hoover Institution which appeared in assorted magazines this week, Harvard economist Caroline Hoxby explains how she overcame her skepticism about standardized testing when she realized how cost-effective it is as a tool to foster desirable education change. For the same money a typical district spends annually on student testing, she estimates, it could reduce class size by two-thousandths of a student, raise teacher salaries by one quarter of one percent, or offer two hours of after school activities per year. Testing, she concludes, is no cure-all but it's more powerful than other uses of the same money.
"Conversion of a Standardized Test Skeptic," by Caroline Hoxby, Hoover Institution, May 31, 2000
Bill Sanders's system of value-added analysis, which sorts through mountains of student achievement data to identify the effect that teachers and schools are having on student performance, is one of the important analytic breakthroughs of the past decade in education. But it's complicated and a lot of people don't yet understand it. For a wonderfully simple explanation, see a recent piece in the Rocky Mountain News by Linda Seebach.
"New Tools Measure School Performance," by Linda Seebach, Rocky Mountain News, May 19, 2001