man advocated rewarding states that perform well, progressively taking money or support away from those that do poorly and don’t improve.
Finally, Richard Patz, vice president of research at CTP McGraw-Hill, offered the perspective of long-time education publisher. He has seen the textbook publishing and test development industry change significantly in response to NCLB. While the states are now all required to focus on reading and mathematics in grades 3 through 8, he explained, the differences from state to state in terms of both content standards and testing practices have increased.
The need to respond to this very varied market has meant that the publishers’ work is very inefficient and far less profitable for testing companies than many people believe. In Patz’s view, “building custom state tests to custom standards in a completely unique way in each state overall is just spending a lot of money that you would not have to spend if … there were some consensus around standards. It is very hard to leverage what we are doing in one state in another context.”
Moreover, he believes that “you can do measurement in a much better way than it is currently being done, where we ask all 500,000 California fifth graders the same 40 or 45 questions.” Computer adaptive testing is an excellent example. In most states there are too many students and too few computers to do it on a large scale, as the annual proficiency requirements of NCLB dictate. However, this technology could allow assessment of much broader domains, which could facilitate benchmark reference assessment, as well as matrix sampling of student populations, to facilitate more informative comparisons of their progress.
Patz is in a position to see the effects of the significant differences in the quality of states’ standards and assessments. He believes that states underutilize the testing information they now have, and that with different, better information, they could answer more important questions—and better understand not just which teacher has higher performing students, but more about why, which programs and textbooks work best, and so forth. Nevertheless, he stressed that states that want to do these things well must be prepared to spend what it takes.