Jay Greene, head of the Department of Education Reform at the University of Arkansas, has written a blog post drawing wide attention because it tends to rock the faith of many school “reformers” in the value of test scores in measuring students and schools.

I’ve written several times recently about how short term gains in test scores are not associated with improved later life outcomes for students. Schools and programs that increase test score quite often do not yield higher high school graduation or college attendance rates. Conversely, schools and programs that fail to produce greater gains in test scores sometimes produce impressive improvements in high school graduation and college attendance rates, college completion rates, and even higher employment and earnings. I’ve described at least 8 studies that show a disconnect between raising test scores and stronger later life outcomes.

Wow. (This by the way, parallels my own limited and admittedly unscientific observation some years ago that students at conventional Delta high schools seemed to be enjoying better success in college — based on retention of lottery scholarships — than graduates of a highly touted charter school in the region.)

To be sure I was reading this right, I asked Greene via Twitter:

Too much emphasis on test scores?

He responded:


(Greene notes a UA colleague and former students provided study basis for his article).

My hero — and consequently not normally a favorite of the Walton-financed education reform unit at UA — Diane Ravitch had this to say:

Jay Greene, chairman of the Department of Educational Reform at the University of Arkansas, reaches a startling conclusion: Higher test do not necessarily translate into higher graduation rates or other life outcomes that matter.

This post pretty much blows away the rationale for corporate reform. How many times did we hear from Michelle Rhee, Joel Klein, Wendy Kopp, Arne Duncan, Bill Gates, and other “reform” leaders that charter schools get higher test scores than public schools? How many times have we heard from the Friedman Foundation and other cheerleaders for vouchers that vouchers are the key to higher test scores? But what if the higher test scores do not translate into better outcomes for students? What if Jay Greene is right? Perhaps the goal of schooling should be to teach a well-rounded education, character, and citizenship? Test scores don’t measure that.

This is one of the most important posts I have read in a very long time. I encourage you to read it.

Thanks, Jay.

I have one more comment at the moment:

Commissioner Johnny Key: Give Little Rock its schools back. They are in state takeover because 3 of some four dozen schools fall short of arbitrary test score standards.

And to the state Board of Education: stop approving applications for unproven charter schools on the theory that choice must be better just, well, because that’s what the Waltons say.


Oh and one more thing: The legislature should retreat from making ever higher ACT scores a prerequisite for lottery scholarships. This ensures a higher income and whiter cohort gets the money, a group least in need of it. While those most in need are left behind. Test scores measure test-taking ability. They don’t measure college success.  My mother-in-law, a former teacher and supervisor of gifted and talented education in Arkansas, drummed this into my head years ago. And I knew from experience that she was just about always right about everything. And I mean that sincerely, not snarkily.