When the standardized tests are built by the textbook companies and the textbooks aren't available to all students, those without (read attending a high-poverty school) have little chance to compete for "proficiency."  In The Atlantic, Meredith Broussard shows the connection between the big three textbook companies (CTB McGraw Hill, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, and Pearson) and standardized tests.  Basically, her investigation shows that the textbook companies write the standardized tests used in Pennsylvania and that for many students access to these textbooks is non-existent.  

Now, one could easily argue that if the students new how to do the math that was being tested, it shouldn't make a difference what access they have to textbooks and which company produces the test.  Unfortunately, the tests are very specific to the textbook.  It's as if they are testing what's in the book not specific standards.  

For example, Broussard writes:

"Put simply, any teacher who wants his or her students to pass the tests has to give out books from the Big Three publishers. If you look at a textbook from one of these companies and look at the standardized tests written by the same company, even a third grader can see that many of the questions on the test are similar to the questions in the book. In fact, Pearson came under fire last year for using a passage on a standardized test that was taken verbatim from a Pearson textbook.

The issue often has as much to do with wording as it does with facts or figures. Consider this question from the 2009 PSSA, which asked third-grade students to write down an even number with three digits and then explain how they arrived at their answers."

A correct (full credit) answer includes not only an even number but an explanation that the number in the one's digit is a multiple of 2.  A partially correct answer has an even number of three digits.

"This second answer is correct, but the third-grade student lacked the specific conceptual underpinnings to explain why it was correct. The Everyday Math curriculum happens to cover this rationale in detail, and the third-grade study guide instructs teachers to drill students on it: “What is one of the rules for odd and even factors and their products? How do you know that this rule is true?” A third-grader without a textbook can learn the difference between even and odd numbers, but she will find it hard to guess how the test-maker wants to see that difference explained."

This is one more example of the lack of reliability of test scores.  Now think if the teachers had also had their employment tied to the test scores?
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