Feb 8, 2015 by


“The Confusion Over Standardized Testing”

by Donna Garner



In general, there are two types of standardized tests:  (1) criterion-referenced tests (CRT’s) and (2) norm-referenced tests (NRT’s). 




CRT’s compare how a student performs against a standard.  In Texas the curriculum standards are called the TEKS, and the elected members of the Texas State Board of Education by law are responsible to adopt the curriculum standards.


Students in Texas take the STAAR/End-of-Course tests which are CRT’s. The STAAR/EOC’s show how a student performs on the STAAR/EOC’s compared to the curriculum standards – the TEKS. 


The Common Core Assessments are also criterion-referenced exams (  However, the scores of all standardized tests (both CRT’s and NRT’s) can be manipulated, particularly through designing questions that are scored subjectively.


The more generic, non-explicit, and subjective the curriculum standards are (such as the Common Core Standards), the more subjective, generic, and non-explicit the CRT’s will be. 


The Advanced Placement (AP) tests are CRT’s.  However, the AP tests are changing since David Coleman became the president of The College Board in May 2012.  Coleman was the architect of the Common Core English Standards (a.k.a., The Common Core Standards for English Language Arts & Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science, & Technical Subjects).


Once David Coleman became the president of The College Board, he stated publicly that all products of The College Board will be aligned with the Common Core Standards.  The College Board produces the AP, the SAT, the PSAT, and the GED tests.


Starting in the fall of 2014, the College Board produced a completely redesigned AP U. S. History (APUSH) Framework which tells the story of U. S. History through the eyes of people who hate America.  The new APUSH test to be given in May 2015 will contain subjective and biased questions based upon the philosophy contained in the APUSH Framework; and even though the APUSH test will be called a CRT, the validity of the scoring will be highly suspect.


Please read “Why AP at All?” – by Donna Garner – 12.3.14 —


6.24.14 — “David Coleman Attacks Students’ Love of America” — by Donna Garner —





The SAT and NAEP are NRT’s.  The SAT and NAEP compare individual student’s results with the way students across the U. S. perform (e.g., above average, average, or below average). 




Since NRT’s are designed to rank students nationally (generally on the “bell curve”), then NRT’s should not be used to assess whether students have met certain state curriculum standards.  In other words, NRT’s should not be used in Texas (or in other states) to measure whether or not students have met the state’s curriculum standards. To test for that, a state should use CRT’s developed in close alignment with the curriculum standards.




The ACT is technically a CRT because the ACT compares how a student performs compared to a set of ACT College Readiness Standards (ACT-CRS).  These ACT-CRS have been developed through a nationwide survey of educators conducted every three to four years. 


The survey tries to identify what is important for high-school graduates to know and be able to do when they enter college. The ACT products (i.e., EXPLORE for Grade 8, PLAN for Grade 10, and the ACT itself) are supposed to remain constant so that students can show improvement as they progress through Grades 8 – 12.


Because students are scored as to how well they meet the ACT-CRS, theoretically all students could earn the same ACT score.


The ACT has also established College Readiness Benchmarks that can help to place students into particular entry-level college courses (e.g., English Composition, College Algebra, Economics, U. S., History, Biology).


Even though the ACT is technically a criterion-referenced test (which indicates how a student has done in comparison to the ACT’s college-readiness standards), the ACT does provide students with individual scores that tell them how their performance compares with national and state norms. The national norms are based on 10th – 12th grade U. S. students who have taken the ACT in the last three years; the state norms are based on a subset of 10 – 12th grade students from the student’s own state. 


In the last round of ACT’s national survey, many of the respondents indicated concerns over the Common Core Standards which include “career readiness.”  Therefore, in 2013 the ACT announced that the new ACT-CRS will be called the “ACT College and Career Readiness Standards,” and a new ACT product called ACT Aspire was developed.  “The ACT Aspire Assessment System will provide standards-based reporting — with reporting categories based on the ACT College Readiness Standards — and aligned to the Common Core State Standards.”





For states that are planning to write their own standards instead of using the Common Core Standards, the most important thing that must be established before a single word of the new standards is written is to establish the Type #1 parameters:


TYPE #1 PARAMETERS — knowledge-based, academic, clearly worded, explicit, grade-level-specific (or course specific), and measurable


Type #1 parameters will produce Type #1 curriculum standards which will produce Type #1 state CRT’s that are objectively scored with right-or-wrong answers.


Please read “Must Build Curriculum Standards on Correct Foundation” – by Henry W. Burke – 4.21.14 —


Then after establishing those Type #1 parameters, each time that the curriculum writing team members draft an element, that element has to meet the parameters. This is the way a state gets Type #1 standards, and that is also the best way to establish meaningful and fair criterion-referenced tests.




The curriculum standards also must be easy for parents, students, and teachers to understand.  The document that we Texas teachers wrote (updated – link posted below) is called the English Success Standards (ESS) for English / Language Arts / Reading (ELAR).  Because Texas classroom teachers wrote the ESS, we believe the document is understandable for everyone involved. 


The ESS has two distinct columns since there are two distinct entities in a classroom – (1) the teacher and (2) the student.


On the left side of the ESS page is what the teacher is supposed to teach.  On the right side of the page is what the student is expected to learn.  Teachers can look on the left side of the page to see clearly what they should put into their curriculum units of study.  Students and their parents can look on the right side of the page to see clearly what students are supposed to learn.  


The ESS is not copyrighted, and the writers claim no attribution privileges.  People are free to utilize whatever parts of the ESS will meet the needs of their own state (or local) schools.   


The ELAR skills in the ESS increase in depth and complexity as the student goes through each grade level.  This is the way that the human brain learns and is called cognitive progression.  Cognitive progression results in long-term memory, and that is what helps a person to become a well-educated adult.


The ESS does not mandate certain pieces of literature, but it does include a suggested list of selected pieces of literature at each grade level to help guide publishers to know what to include in their curriculum materials.


The ESS among other elements contains a strong emphasis on phonemic awareness/decoding skills (phonics) and a well-scoped and sequenced presentation of grammar and usage. 


2.14.14 — POSTED BY TRUTH IN AMERICAN EDUCATION – “English Success Standards” —



Donna Garner

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