Lake Woebe guaranteed: Misuse of Test Scores in Massachusetts, Part I


  • Walt Haney Boston College



Academic Achievement, Decision Making, Elementary Secondary Education, Scores, Test Results, Test Use


Misuse of test results in Massachusetts largely guarantees woes for both students and schools. Analysis of annual test score averages for close to 1000 Massachusetts schools for four years (1998—2001) shows that test score gains in one testing period tend to be followed by losses in the next. School averages are especially volatile in relatively small schools (with less than 150 students tested per grade). One of the reasons why scores fluctuate is that the Massachusetts state test has been developed using norm-referenced test construction procedures so that items which all students tend to answer correctly (or incorrectly) are excluded from operational versions of the test. This article concludes with a summary of other reasons why results from state tests, like that in Massachusetts, ought not be used in isolation to make high-stakes decisions about students or schools.


Download data is not yet available.

Author Biography

Walt Haney, Boston College

Walt Haney, Ed.D., Professor of Education at Boston College and Senior Research Associate in the Center for the Study of Testing Evaluation and Educational Policy (CSTEEP), specializes in educational evaluation and assessment and educational technology. He has published widely on testing and assessment issues in scholarly journals such as the Harvard Educational Review, Review of Educational Research, and Review of Research in Education and in wide-audience periodicals such as Educational Leadership, Phi Delta Kappan, the Chronicle of Higher Education and the "Washington Post." He has served on the editorial boards of Educational Measurement: Issues and Practice and the American Educational Research Journal, the Journal of Technology Learning and Assessment and on the National Advisory Committee of the ERIC Clearinghouse on Assessment and Evaluation. Among other publications he has authored or co-authored a number of previous publications in Education Policy Analysis Archives (,,, and




How to Cite

Haney, W. (2002). Lake Woebe guaranteed: Misuse of Test Scores in Massachusetts, Part I. Education Policy Analysis Archives, 10, 24.