TPERN Opposes Proposed STAAR Percentile Rule

On December 19, 2014, the TEA published a proposed amendment to 19 TAC §101.3041, dealing with STAAR performance standards.  This proposed rule ostensibly provides for the publication of percentile ranks on the STAAR, theoretically making comparison between test takers easier.  (TPERN believes that the purpose of an academic readiness assessment is to determine readiness of the individual student, not to provide for comparisons to other students).  However, the rule is confusing and raises the possibility that the published information could be misused by school districts in making promotion and retention decisions.  Moreover, the TEA found it necessary to publish a proposed formula for converting all STAAR scores to a 1-100 scale.  While the current formula is simply a restatement of what a percentile is, the inclusion of the formula leaves the conversion method open to amendment.  The formula could later be altered to create a “grade” that is percentile based, but not the actual percentile rank.  We think this is an improper use of an assessment instrument, and the rule should prohibit local districts from using the 1 – 100 percentile based score as a part of grades or promotion or retention decisions.  For that reason, TPERN has submitted a public comment in opposition to the rule urging various revisions before the rule is adopted.

Public comment on this proposed rule is open until January 20, 2015.  Comments may be mailed to rules@tea.state.tx.us

To view the TPERN submitted comment, click Read More

TPERN Public Comment in Opposition to 19 TAC §101.3041

I write individually and on behalf of the Texas Parents’ Educational Rights Network (TPERN) in opposition to subsection (e) of proposed rule 19 TAC 101.3041.

This rule is unnecessary, will increase confusion, and will conflate grading concepts with assessment scoring. There is no benefit to this rule and the potential harm is not insignificant. Texas Parents’ Educational Rights Network opposes subection (e) of this rule unless it is amended to (a) remove any formulas, (b) state clearly that the reporting is of percentile ranking without reference to a “100 point scale” and (c) prohibit the use of the converted score by a school or school district in the calculation of a student’s grade, grade point average or for purposes of complying with local district rules on promotion or retention.

First, it seems utterly unnecessary to create a rule if all the TEA wishes to do is provide percentile conversions for publication on its website. This information could be easily provided using current data. Moreover, it seems utterly inane to pass a regulation stating a formula as to how percentiles are calculated. That is basic math and does not require agency expertise such as would justify a regulatory rule-making proceeding. Finally, the creation of any formula opens the door for future adjustments to the formula that could result in creating “grades” on a 100 point scale that are percentile based but not equivalent to percentiles. We believe this would be a terribly improper use of an assessment instrument and it is best not to open that door.

Second, it is misleading to refer to this new measurement as a “100 point scale” or the percentile rank as a “score” when it is simply a reporting of the demarcation lines of the percentiles. Percentiles are not scores, as the actual percentage of correct answers could vary widely, both up and down, from the percentile rank. Percentiles are distributions. Moreover, there is no other scale or measurement than a 100 point system for reporting percentiles. A percentile is defined as “each of the 100 equal groups into which a population can be divided according to the distribution of values of a particular variable.” Language in the wording equating percentile ranks with scores and the reporting as a “score conversion” invites the improper use of percentile ranks as grades. Moreover, since many local policies on promotion and retention require content mastery at a level of 70% for a promotion decision, characterizing this ranking as a score may lead to the improper use of the percentile scoring in a promotion decision. For this reason, we believe the rule should specifically prohibit any such use.

Finally, while we recognize the value in providing a means for comparison of a student’s performance relative to other test takers, we question the selective nature of the measurements which the TEA is proposing to provide in this rule. Specifically, the validity and propriety of the STAAR assessment as applied to ELL and Special Education students has been widely debated. This issue will again be highlighted by the decision to eliminate the STAAR-A and STAAR-M assessments. In addition the 85% failure rate on English EOCs by ELL students continues to be an unaddressed known deficiency in the assessment program. TPERN strongly believes that any demarcation of percentile effort should be combined with the compilation of data necessary to determine the attainment of ELL and Special Education students vis-a-vis the general population and the distribution of ELL and Special Education students across the various percentiles.

In summary, we believe that no rule is necessary to permit the TEA to post percentile demarcations on its website. To the extent such a rule is desired, it should be amended to delete confusing references and formulae which are not needed. In addition, strict limits should be placed on District use of this information. Moreover, the performance of disadvantaged sub-groups should be analyzed as part of this process.

Thank you for your consideration of these comments.

Sincerely,
Scott Placek
Chairman
Texas Parents’ Educational Rights Network

 

Leave A Comment?

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.