November 24, 2014
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What’s behind those NECAP scores
My take on the news
Lonnie Barham

NECAP TESTS:  Much has been published recently about the requirement for high school students to score at least partially proficient on the NECAP tests before being granted a high school diploma.  Opponents of the requirement, including many high school juniors who failed to score partially proficient in math but who are otherwise good, solid students - some honor students, claim the test is unfair and that the bar is set too high.  One student who scored 1133 on the math portion of the test complained that she missed the 1134 cutoff for partially proficient by only one point on a scale that awards partial proficiency for scores of 1134 to 1139 and with the maximum score only 1180.  Wow, she scored 1133 out of 1180 and is considered not even partially proficient!  How can that be? 

The NECAP scaling protocol is extremely misleading.  According to the NECAP 2010-2011 Technical Report, published in July of 2011, the test begins by giving every 11th grade student 1100 points simply for being in the 11th grade.  So, 1100 equates to zero as a raw score.  The scale then considers the number of correct answers a student gives for 64 questions spread across numbers, operations, geometry, measurements, functions, algebra, data, statistics and probabilities.  To be considered partially proficient, a student has to answer only 19 of 64 questions correctly – only 30 percent.  A proficient student answers only 31 of the 64 questions correctly - 48.5 percent.  While proficiency with distinction is awarded for answering 53 of 64 questions correctly - 83 percent.  

So, a score of 1133 out of 1180, which looks great on the deceptive NECAP scale, is really a raw score of only 18 out of 64 - a score reflecting only 28 percent accuracy.  It doesn’t look quite so impressive when the NECAP scoring is converted to a raw scale.

Some students and adults have complained that the NECAP math questions reflect learning that will never be used in life except by engineers.  Not true!  Even the simplest jobs require almost daily use of numbers, mathematical operations, measurements, and data analysis.  More complex non-engineering jobs require the same minimum math skills plus frequent use of geometry, functions, statistics and probabilities.            

POLAR OPPOSITES - BUM vs. HERO:  We all remember the TV expose’ a year ago when a local television station caught on camera a former Providence firefighter who had been drawing total disability retirement for years as he routinely lifted heavy weights at a local gym.  Compare him with Providence Patrolman Michael Matracia, featured Monday in the Providence Journal, who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis almost 18 years ago yet continues to work for the police department while getting around in a wheelchair.  The former firefighter is a bum, a scourge on our society who steals taxpayer dollars that should be going to needy children or the elderly. Patrolman Matracia, on the other hand, is a true hero.  

MORE JUSTICE DEPARTMENT OVERREACH:  The Wall Street Journal has exposed yet another purposeful violation of federal law by President Obama’s Justice Department. Apparently, the confidence a second term has given Obama has emboldened him to push the envelope even more on constitutional infringements and disregard for congressional legislation. He has approved his Justice Department’s head, Eric Holder, to pursue criminal actions against UPS and FedEx for unwittingly shipping unapproved drugs from online pharmacies. Both have asked the Justice Department for the names of pharmacies that violate U.S. drug laws and both have promised to refuse shipments from such pharmacies.  Justice has refused to supply the list for fear of being sued for violating the pharmacies’ due process rights.  Yet it wants the two shippers to inspect the almost 20 million packages they move every day and thus perform a police function on behalf of the Justice Department.  Even if they opened every package of pharmaceuticals, they would find that 99.9% are legal.  Further, there is no legal authority that allows the Justice Department to require this of the shippers.  In fact, the Controlled Substances Act protects from criminal liability “common or contract carriers” that are “acting in the usual and lawful course” of business.  Obama’s Justice Department disregards the act and is trying to bully the companies with threats of indictments.  UPS is giving in.  FedEx is fighting for its rights.  We should all support FedEx and use it to ship our packages as much as possible.  If the market punishes UPS, perhaps that shipper will also fight against this egregious violation of rights by an administration that seems to think the Constitution and acts of Congress, at least for this president, are only guidelines that don’t  have to be adhered to.         

STATE SUIT AGAINST STOKES AND SHILLING:  Tom Schumpert, Rhode Island’s Economic Development Director under former Governor Lincoln Almond, speaking to the Providence Journal about the silliness of the state suing 38 Studios’ Curt Shilling and the EDC director who approved the company’s $75 million loan guarantee, Keith Stokes:  “If Rhode Island wins, they would make history.  It’s like a banker making a bad loan and suing the customer and the loan officer.”  Agreed!  Let’s stop wasting the state’s time and taxpayers’ money pursuing a lost cause.  Let’s instead move forward by quickly hiring a competent new EDC director who will revamp the board and its procedures to make it more successful in helping grow our economy. 

OBAMA AND DRONES:  Libertarian U.S. Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) conducted a filibuster last week aimed at preventing senate confirmation of President Obama’s nominee to head the CIA, John Brennan.  Rand and other senate Republicans were willing to drop the filibuster if President Obama or Attorney General Eric Holder issued a simple statement assuring that drones would not be used in the United States to kill terrorism suspects who are U.S. citizens.  Neither Obama nor Holder was willing to make such a statement.  Senate Democrats subsequently rejected Rand’s resolution stating that such use of drones would be unconstitutional.  Holder said he did not think it would be appropriate for the government to use a drone to kill an American inside the U.S. who does not pose an imminent threat, but he refused to rule it out.

Most Americans have long thought that it would be law-and-order Republicans who might lead our country into an Orwellian society where there is no constraint against government arbitrarily taking the rights, property and lives of its citizens in the name of “state security.” President Obama and his Democrat supporter are now showing us that such a scenario is much more likely to occur with Democrats leading the way instead of Republicans.       

QUOTE OF THE WEEK:  Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, being interviewed by NBC’s David Gregory about Bush’s recently published book Immigration Wars, was asked “Who’s the hottest Florida Politician right now?  Is it you or Marco Rubio?”  Bush’s reply:  “Man, you guys are crack addicts.  You really are obsessed with all this politics.”  When Gregory interrupted saying he had never been called a crack addict, Bush continued, “OK, heroin addict.  Is that better?”  Kudos to Bush for being blunt and articulate about the news media’s ridiculous attempts to “get a fix” by insisting that the 2016 presidential campaign begin now.  


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