Michael Chandler takes a look at the high number of perfect scores on Virgina’s assessments, why there will be fewer going forward, and what it all means. The relatively low-level the assessments are pitched at (and the low cut scores (pdf)) have been an issue but to their credit state leaders are now starting to take steps to address that. More generally, the abundance of perfect scores prior to the recent changes begs three questions:
1) With this many perfect scores, it again raises the question of why all the fuss about the tests? These assessments should be a floor for good schools, not a ceiling. And most critics wouldn’t keep their own kids in schools that were not at least reaching, more likely exceeding, the minimal levels expected on these tests.
2) What are schools doing to differentiate and stretch kids who are doing really well? There is no reason this should become a ceiling. Differentiating within schools, and especially within classrooms, isn’t easy at all, but it’s achievable.
3) What are schools, and the commonwealth overall, doing to ensure that all the students who are not achieving these standards are better supported to do so? That’s everything from macro-interventions like pre-K education and an accountability system that disaggregated performance to micro-steps like early-warning systems and targeted support for students. Success at the top of the scale shouldn’t distract from big challenges at the other end. Too many kids, and disproportionately low-income and minority students, were not achieving on the old expectations.