September 19, 2007

Report’s support of NCLB standardized testing rife with glaring weaknesses and faulty generalizations.

Contact: Teri Battaglieri (517) 203-2940 (email)
William J. Mathis, (802) 247-5757; (email)

EAST LANSING, Mich.—A Lexington Institute report released earlier this month argues that the current standardized testing system should be retained and criticizes the use of multiple measures, particularly portfolios, to assess school performance. A review of that report, however, finds it is ill-founded and of little value as research or for policy development.

The Lexington report, “Portfolios – A Backward Step in School Accountability,” was reviewed for the Think Twice project by William Mathis of the University of Vermont.

The report appears to have been written in anticipation of a “discussion draft” concerning NCLB changes, released by the leadership of the House Education Committee. The draft proposes changes that would allow states to use a broad list of “multiple indicators” – for example graduation rates and percent of students taking advanced courses – to assess education outcomes rather than depend so heavily upon standardized test scores.

As Mathis notes, the House Committee’s summary contains a broad list of various multiple indicators, but portfolio assessment is not on the list. He explains that given the absence of portfolio assessment from the list, it is troubling that the Lexington report offers portfolios as the most notable of what it calls “multiple measures” and then erroneously generalizes findings about portfolios to argue against adopting any instruments other than standardized tests. Further, the report ignores a body of research with findings that present portfolios in a more favorable light.

Mathis writes that the report more closely resembles political propaganda than a research report. It provides no new data, examines only two studies done 13 years ago and includes only results favorable to the report’s conclusions. He concludes that the report’s failure to discuss contradictory research undermines its conclusions, and its attempt “to generalize all multiple measures from this questionable base completely discredits (the report).” 

Find the complete review by William Mathis as well as a link to the Lexington Institute report at:

About Think Twice

The Think Twice project provides the public, policy makers and the press with timely, academically sound reviews of selected think tank publications. It is a collaboration of the Education Policy Studies Laboratory at Arizona State University and the Education and the Public Interest Center at the University of Colorado at Boulder and is funded by the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice.

The mission of the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice is to identify, develop, support, publish and widely disseminate empirically sound research on education policy and practices designed to improve the quality of public education for all students within the Great Lakes Region. 

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