The National Association of Agricultural Educators, Inc.
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News & Views

Volume XLIII No. 4 May/June 2001

A Review of High
Stakes Testing:
Who is Smarter––Academic or Vocational Students?

(Submitted at the editor’s request by: Dr. Jack Elliot,
Associate Professor of Agricultural Education,
The University of Arizona)

The question should actually be: "Is a raw score comparison a fair and accurate measure between the two groups?" The answer is "No!" On a recent high stakes test in Arizona, Career and Technical Education (CTE) students scored lower than other students. Yet, when other influences were reviewed and factored into the statistical analysis, the following factors were found to have a significant influence on the score.

• All 5 "special population" areas (handicapped, limited English proficiency, economically disadvantaged, academically disadvantaged and being a single parent) were associated significantly with lower test scores and were found predominantly in the CTE population.

• Scores of higher visual learners (those who learn by seeing) were associated significantly with higher test scores and were found predominantly with non-CTE students.

• Scores of higher kinesthetic learners (those who learn by doing) were associated significantly with lower test scores and were found predominantly with CTE students.

• Neither gender nor race/ethnicity had an effect on test scores.

Therefore, after controlling for these other influences (extraneous variables), no difference was found between the two groups. This means that CTE and non-CTE students are just different groups of people and a raw score comparison of these two groups is not an appropriate comparison.

Does grouping students according to their special population status affect the comparison? Yes. A higher proportion of CTE students received special population services than non-CTE students. Further, special population student categories were associated with lower test scores.

Does this sound like statistical gibberish? Not at all––the conclusions are simple! Career and technical education students, for the most part, will perform worse than academic students on raw score comparisons. However, when we control for the appropriate extraneous variables in the statistical model (that is when we include these variables into the analysis), there is no difference between CTE and other students on standardized test scores. Comparisons of the raw scores on standardized tests are inappropriate because the groups are different. The differences in raw scores between the two groups can be attributed to the effects of the extraneous variables. The raw score differences between the groups are not due to curriculum choice!

The implications for educators from these findings are important. If extraneous effects are not recognized, understood, and controlled for in statistical analyses, decision makers may view career and technical education students as "not as smart" as academic students.

In today’s world where high stakes testing is becoming more prevalent, CTE teachers and administrators must understand the problems associated with raw score comparisons on standardized tests.


Ideas Unlimited

NFRBMEA Annual Conference

Hobar Publications

In Memory of Departed Ag Teachers

NAAE Board Restructuring Plan

Teacher Spotlight

Regional Updates


Summer Teacher Workshop

PGS Update–Turf Materials

2001 Freshman Scholarship Winners

Washington Beat

New NAAE Sponsors

Dates and Events

2001 NAAE Convention Schedule

NAAE Convention Registration Form

NAAE Convention Information

National Ag Ed Listserv

NAAE Convention

December 11-15,

Hotel Monteleone

New Orleans, LA


May/June 2001
NAAE News & Views
Page 1