Fordham Institute Fudges Standards

K-12 Testing

The right-wing Fordham Institute's approach to grading state educational standards has so little validity that it would be unwise to base any policy decisions or practice on them, according to an analysis by the Great Lakes Center for Education Research & Practice.


Great Lakes researcher Kenneth Howe reviewed Fordham's recently released "The State of State Standards 2006," which concluded the quality of state standards in general is lackluster, but gave A grades to Massachusetts, California and Indiana and claimed that these states' rigorous and challenging standards are paying off with better results on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP).


Howe, a professor of education at the University of Colorado at Boulder, shows in his analysis how Fordham fudges its assessments so that it can engage in a kind of "grade inflation" for states pursuing policies it favors and grade deflation for states with policies it dislikes. The problem, Howe said, is that Fordham's reviewers provide no evidence for the validity of their judgments and appear to cherry pick data and shift their criteria to suit their preconceived conclusions.


For example, in English and science, Fordham reviewers identified states with statistically significant improvement on NAEP proficiency percentages, then looked to see how their standards had been rated by Fordham. But for mathematics, they started by looking at which states had received high ratings on their standards and then checked for improvement on NAEP proficiency. Why the reversal in strategy? "The apparent answer," Howe said, "is that 23 states have produced significant gains [in math on NAEP] yet did not have content standards that were praised by Fordham."


Howe charged that Fordham's "post-hoc massaging of the data reaches the point of absurdity," to support the view that its favored content standards lead to higher achievement on NAEP.


The report is available online at