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Monday, April 13, 2009

Judge Wilbur: Praxis Tests Irrelevant to Teacher Quality

O.K., I'm still delaying homework by reading Judge Lori Wilbur's ruling on the South Dakota school funding lawsuit. Among the juicy tidbits: the court agrees with two professors that the Praxis tests we make our teacher candidates take (and pay for) do not reliably predict teacher quality [p. 139].

So if there is no research saying these tests link with teacher quality, why are we making our teachers take them?

In her discussion of the Praxis test evidence, Judge Wilbur rips the plaintiffs' witness, Dr. Ann Wilson from SDSU. The court notes that Dr. Wilson is an expert on infant and early childhood development, not the Praxis test or teacher preparation [p. 139]. Dr. Wilson offered unpersuasive testimony on the Praxis test scores:

Dr. Wilson did not know whether the differences she observed in the cut scores were even statistically significant—though she could have undertaken this exercise and simply chose not to perform the calculations [p. 140].

...Educational Testing Service (ETS) has warned that scores on its tests should be interpreted “with caution” if there are fewer than 30 test takers. Id. ETS is the company that administers the Praxis exams.

Dr. Wilson’s conclusions were unreliable because she reviewed scores for exams with a very low number of test takers. Wilson Testimony; see also Armor Testimony. Despite ETS’s warning, Dr. Wilson reviewed 19 Praxis II exams with less than 30 test takers [p. 141].
Judge Wilbur proceeds to hammer Dr. Wilson for another couple pages. The court sounds inclined against the plaintiffs from the start, but when the plaintiffs have the burden of proof, perhaps that's fair. Again, I'm left wondering why this was the best the plantiffs could muster.

1 comment:

  1. They take them to weed out the idiots. And how do you measure teacher quality?


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