The Pearson and PARCC trainwreck

I had first read about Walter Stroup in Texas a couple of years ago, but I hadn’t done much followup. While I was researching for something else, I came across an article from September that has more information. Basically, Stroup’s researched the validity of the STAAR test from Pearson:

Using UT’s computing power, Stroup investigated. He entered the state test scores for every child in Texas, and out came the same minor variances he had gotten in Dallas. What he noticed was that most students’ test scores remained the same no matter what grade the students were in, or what subject was being tested. According to Stroup’s initial calculations, that constancy accounted for about 72 percent of everyone’s test score. Regardless of a teacher’s experience or training, class size, or any other classroom-based factor Stroup could identify, student test scores changed within a relatively narrow window of about 10 to 15 percent.

It gets worse:

A student in the third grade did as well on a math test as that same student did in the eighth grade on a language arts test as the same student did in the 10th grade on a different test. Regardless of changes in school, subject and teacher, a student could count on a test result remaining 50 to 72 percent unchanged no matter what. Stroup hypothesized that the tests were so insensitive to instruction that a test could switch out a science question for a math question without having any effect on how that student would score.

So, did Stroup get rewarded for bringing this to the attention of lawmakers? Pearson has an endowment with the University of Texas, which could have affected Stroup’s post-tenure review:

In January 2013—six months after his testimony and less than a week after a story featuring Stroup aired on the Austin ABC affiliate—he received the results of his post-tenure review. It was bad news. The committee gave Stroup an unsatisfactory rating. Under state law, a public university in Texas can remove a tenured professor if he or she gets two successive unsatisfactory annual reviews. A Post-Tenure Review Report dated Jan. 10, 2013, dinged Stroup for “scholarly activity and productivity.” In sum, the committee found he was publishing too little and presenting at conferences too seldom. Of his infrequent conference presentations, the committee members wrote, “Further, and equally concerning, is the paucity of presentations at research conferences. Dr. Stroup lists no presentations (competitively reviewed) at research conferences over the past six years (none since 2005).”

That was a curious conclusion, because Stroup had been presenting. When a professor undergoes post-tenure review, he or she completes annual reports using a form published by the Office of the Executive Vice President. Stroup’s annual report lists four conference presentations, including two plenary addresses. 

It was later changed to “does not meet expectations” but the errors in the report were not corrected. All is not lost, it looks like the Texas testing bubble popped.

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