Essays on Educational Testing in an Era of Higher ("College-Ready") Standards
CitationThng, Yi Xe. 2019. Essays on Educational Testing in an Era of Higher ("College-Ready") Standards. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard Graduate School of Education.
AbstractI present three essays on educational testing in an era of "college-ready" standards.
My first essay evaluates evidence-based standard setting methods that select passing or “college-ready” cut scores using regression-based predictive relationships between test scores and college outcomes. I investigate the forms of evidence that can be derived using predictive methods, whether such evidence can enhance score interpretations, and if so, how such evidence can be used to inform standard setting. I find that to compensate for the poor predictive utility, cut scores derived from predictive methods may be overly stringent or lenient than the stringency required of the standard. This may result in "college-ready" cut scores that are higher than warranted.
My second essay uses the case of Minnesota which set a high passing standard for its math high school exit exam, but later waived the passing requirement for obtaining a high school diploma and required failing students to take remediation. I investigate the impact of barely failing on students’ high school and college outcomes. I find some evidence that within this context, there may be a cohort-dependent impact on on-time high school graduation and enrollment in 4-year colleges for students who score barely below versus barely above the math passing score. If the second essay shows that the passing score has consequences, the first study may help to advance wiser selection of cut scores.
It is well-documented that gains on high-stakes state tests for low-income children and racial minority children are not matched on state-level audit tests such as the NAEP (Ho, 2007) or other low-stakes tests in districts (Jacob, 2005). This raises concerns about the generalizability of findings from one test used to another. Using the case of Texas where the curriculum standards stayed the same but the newly introduced high-stakes test focused more on "college-readiness" standards, my third essay investigates whether measured district-SES score gaps change when the test changes. I find that after the assessment focused more on "college-readiness" standards, district-SES score gaps between the 90th and 10th district-SES percentiles widen slightly, but are of smaller magnitude than previously found using low-stakes audit tests for students.
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