That leads to the second step in the process: dumb down the tests so that you *still* don't know how your kids are doing. Schools don't want accountability.
Hopefully, that will lead to a third step: a brand new testing system which is independent of the teachers and schools. Things like the placement tests for online courses could become very important to parents.
But, in other discussions with those doing the evaluation, one factor that's coming up, is the perceived impossibility of discriminating among the higher performers. Examples include the compression of grades at Harvard, where, in response, teachers will say that it's very difficult to discriminate among the top performers in the class -- one might have excellent ideas, the other be an excellent writer, the other a leader in classroom discussions. They are all "good/great" students but none are superlatives, except for the rare, say, once in a couple of classes or once in a couple of years student, who might excel in all the categories (i.e. the ES criterion).
Another example is a recent analysis showing that grants awarded at NIH in the top 35% can't be distinguished (by percentile within the 35%) based on subsequent publication or citation rates. The analysis is suggestive that expert reviewers cannot effectively differentiate among the top 35% of grants, picking the ones in the top 10%, 20% and so on.
What do we do, if this is indeed the case?
Danthi N1, Wu CO, Shi P, Lauer M. Percentile ranking and citation impact of a large cohort of national heart, lung, and blood institute-funded cardiovascular r01 grants. Circ Res. 2014 Feb 14;114(4):600-6. doi: 10.1161/CIRCRESAHA.114.302656. Epub 2014 Jan 9.
First, "proficiency" has lost its meaning if a child can be wrong on 1/4 of an assignment and still be told they are "proficient." Do a quarter of your work wrong at nearly any job, and you're going to lose that job.
Feedback is crucial for children and adults. Can you imagine a workplace where you almost never got feedback from a supervisor? Never knew if you're doing the job well or if your yearly review is going to have unpleasant surprises? How can children be expected to learn if they're never told whether they've actually learned specific things correctly? It's all a mystery to them. When we homeschool in the mornings, I typically give my children feedback within minutes of their having done an assignment. Sure, they're disappointed if they did something wrong, but it's not a big deal because I'm correcting specific things, not labeling them with a negative letter after a year of acting as though their performance is fine.
Who needs a left ventricle?
But otoh, the reason I did so was because I had the learning in the bag, and did *more* than I needed to do to learn to get the A. Which isn't a great situation, and I don't know that the students who refuse to do one lick of work more than they need to become proficient aren't choosing the better path (assuming they have areas in their life where they actually have to work to learn things).
I'm guessing they refuse to give out the standards for above expectations partly to avoid grade-grubbing (and/or because the devil's in the details and it's way easier to not bother having to come up with specifics). But it completely ignores dealing with a huge underlying cause of grade-grubbing: where grades are so badly decoupled from learning for some/many kids that if they used learning as their motivation, they'd be doing *less* work, not more. And by not defining what "above the standard" actually looks like, kids have no idea what they should aim for, learning-wise. Without learning goals attached to ES, the *only* reason to aim for it is for the *grade*.
And compressing the range of grades probably makes it even worse. Personally, I rather like grading systems that include tons of above-standard stuff, where proficient at grade level might be 50% - lots of room for separating out the top. Which is the opposite of what they seem to be doing.
Downfalls: kids that are striving to do well can't as there is nothing in class offered at the advanced, or highest, level. A 100% on every spelling test is still graded as proficient....just like an 85%. NCLB means no above grade level reading groups...so the kid who is sitting in the back of the room in 4th (front is reserved for special needs) reading his LOTR while the class is reviewing will be marked as proficient, just like the kid who is mastering Diary of a Wimpy Kid. The kid who could teach the math class, and consistently does his homework as a five minute exercise, looks the same as the kid who needs a resource teacher. Voila..no need for differentiation, they look the same on paper.
Welcome to the soft bigotry of low expectations.
What you will see in the next few years will be the elimination of AP/honors/IB courses. There will be a wave of citizens claiming that remedial double period classes should be offered instead, so that the disadvantaged (who don't attend classes regularly) will succeed. The students who would have taken high level courses will be told to grad early.
The "I" grade is very hard, as there is a wide range at this "score." An "N" would be students who do not understand the concept at all.
This system is VERY frustrating for the teachers especially. We do not get guidance from the County on how to provide ES opportunities for all assessments. How do I provide an ES opportunity for students who are mastering basic addition or subtraction facts???
Some schools are giving ES to students who get 100% while others are only grading something as ES if the students have been able to apply what they have learned to make connections that we have not yet taught in the classroom. Believe me, if you are frustrated as parents, imagine how the teachers feel!