ERIC Number: ED338676
Record Type: RIE
Publication Date: 1990-Jan
Reference Count: N/A
Comparing State and District Test Results to National Norms: Interpretations of Scoring "Above the National Average."
Linn, Robert L.; And Others
Norm-referenced test results reported by states and school districts and factors related to those scores were studied through mail and telephone surveys of 35 states and a nationally representative sample of 153 school districts to determine the degree to which "above average" results were being reported. Part of the stimulus for this study came from the report by J. J. Cannell and the Friends of Education community group that brought the issue to national attention. Analyses support Cannell's general finding that it is more common for a state or district to obtain test results above the national average, but they also lead to some less spectacular conclusions. Evidence provides strong support for the conclusion that norms for grades 1 through 8 from the late 1970s or early 1980s were often easier than more recent norms. A substantial portion of Cannell's "Lake Wobegon" effect may be due to the use of old norms. There is ample evidence that scores on norm-referenced tests have been rising for grades 1 through 8 in recent years, but evidence for an actual increase in achievement is equivocal. Making valid inferences about achievement from test scores has always been difficult, but it is complicated by the current demands of accountability and the use of standardized tests as its primary indicators. Seven tables and 19 figures are provided. A 39-item list of references is included. Seven appendices contain a sample letter and data collection form for state testing program directors; an interview guide; a table indicating the number of districts available by cells in the sampling design; sample letters, data collection forms, and questionnaires sent to districts; tables indicating the district subsample for telephone interviews; grades tested by districts returning data; and stem-and-leaf distributions of district students scoring above the national median in reading and mathematics. (SLD)
Descriptors: Academic Achievement, Achievement Gains, Achievement Tests, Comparative Analysis, Elementary Secondary Education, Mail Surveys, National Norms, Norm Referenced Tests, School Districts, Scores, Standardized Tests, State Programs, Telephone Surveys, Test Interpretation, Test Results, Test Use, Testing Problems, Testing Programs
Publication Type: Reports - Research; Speeches/Meeting Papers; Tests/Questionnaires
Education Level: N/A
Sponsor: Office of Educational Research and Improvement (ED), Washington, DC.
Authoring Institution: Center for Research on Evaluation, Standards, and Student Testing, Los Angeles, CA.
Identifiers: Lake Wobegon Phenomenon
Note: Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association (San Francisco, CA, March 27-31, 1989).