What Would Happen if YOU Took the End of Grade Exams?

Good question, isn't it?  And a question that I've asked myself about a million times as I've proctored my state's sixth grade reading and math tests considering how FEW of the questions on the math test — my personal weakness — I'm ever able to figure out.

More importantly, it's a question that I've wanted to see state policymakers — who seem hell-bent on tying test scores to systems of teacher and student evaluation — answer publicly. 

I mean, seriously:  If you are so flippin' confident that tests are a reliable tool for failing students and canning teachers, shouldn't you be willing to take those same tests and have YOUR results made public to the world?

Well, that's EXACTLY what Rick Roach — a successful businessman and current school board member in Orange County, Florida — did this year, and his results may surprise you:  He earned a 62% on the 10th grade reading exam and literally had to guess at every question on the math test, eventually getting 10 out of 60 questions right. 

What Rick learned from the experience ought to be tattooed onto the foreheads of every single elected official in the nation.  He writes:

“If I’d been required to take those two tests when I was a 10th grader, my life would almost certainly have been very different. I’d have been told I wasn’t ‘college material,’ would probably have believed it, and looked for work appropriate for the level of ability that the test said I had.

“It makes no sense to me that a test with the potential for shaping a student’s entire future has so little apparent relevance to adult, real-world functioning.

Who decided the kind of questions and their level of difficulty? Using what criteria? To whom did they have to defend their decisions? As subject-matter specialists, how qualified were they to make general judgments about the needs of this state’s children in a future they can’t possibly predict?

Who set the pass-fail “cut score”? How?”

“I can’t escape the conclusion that decisions about the [state test] in particular and standardized tests in general are being made by individuals who lack perspective and aren’t really accountable.”

Thank you, Rick — for going out on a limb and for speaking the truth about end of grade exams.  Not only do they carry incredibly high stakes, they test skills that no one really cares about. 

Now if only your peers in the #edpolicy world had half of your guts

#unlikely

#cowards

8 comments

  1. Bill Ferriter

    Sheryl asked:
    So I am wondering then– should anything be tested in your opinion?
    Sure there’s a place for multiple choice testing, Sheryl — it’s great for quick measures of mastery of simple content.
    The problem is that multiple choice tests are ONLY good for quick measures of mastery of simple content.
    So there is this inevitable tension between what we SAY we want kids to know and be able to do — which is generally (and rightly) pretty complex, skill based stuff — and what we actually test.
    And that tension is the source of failure in our schools.
    Why do we expect schools to become more sophisticated about the work that they’re doing with kids when our measures of that work remain ridiculously simplistic?
    It’s Heaths’ focusing illusion at its best: We’re so intent on finding quick and affordable ways to “measure” students, teachers and schools that we are overlooking the truth that what we’re measuring really doesn’t matter all that much.
    Am I making any sense here?
    Bill

  2. Bill Ferriter

    Emily wrote:
    One of the problems, I see as a teacher candidate with standardized testing is how tests are worded.
    You’re definitely right about this, Emily. There have been a TON of years where I’ve seen questions on EOG tests that I knew students were going to get wrong simply because the wording wouldn’t look right to them.
    And that’s one of the reasons that all test making companies argue that tests shouldn’t be used to make ANY high stakes decisions.
    Wording issues — which are inevitable — should never be the difference between passing and failing for a kid, or between keeping a job and getting canned for teachers.
    Bill

  3. Emily

    One of the problems, I see as a teacher candidate with standardized testing is how tests are worded. It seems that a student may know an answer but if they can’t understand the question because of the way it is worded it is unfair. A question may be worded differently than the ways students are used to seeing it and as a result they fail. Students express knowledge in different ways, and standardized tests are not accurate reflections of what a student really knows.

  4. Nicole

    We have exhausted this issue in my teaching cohort. We have discussed the pros and cons of testing. I do not think there is much room for standardized testing in our schools anymore. They are not relevant enough and are not a genuine measurement of what students know or are able to do. Clearly, there are other forms of assessment. Usually, the reason that they are not used is because of time constraints. A quick multiple choice test is thought to be a better use of time. In the end, nothing is typically gained, so they just end up being a waste of time.

  5. Matt

    How do we help teachers and policy-makers to become discerning consumers of data? When assessments and programs that offer data seem to fluctuate yearly, when curriculum shifts nationally and the fate of specific assessments becomes fuzzy and uncertain, when cut scores are dynamic, how do we help stakeholders maintain a focus on and faith in the process and value of appropriate assessment?

  6. Jeremy

    Quizzes are not even a formative assessment… How do you motivate students to engage in learning? What makes them want to learn and value what we do in high school? If you can get kids to engage and care about what they are doing by doing something relevant aren’t you doing your job? If the kids see no point in the test, how can it be a fair evaluation of what they know and what the teacher is doing? I don’t have answers to these questions, but they need to be asked in a public forum.

  7. Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach

    So I am wondering then– should anything be tested in your opinion?
    Is it possible that tests or quizzes are an effective learning strategy for some? Or is nothing tested retained? Are quizzes an effective formative piece. What if student’s create self made quizzes? Is the only valuable end of year test a qualitative essay reflection? Or are you suggesting that we do not need measures of what is retained at all only performance measures where kids do things and create things to show mastery?
    Let’s say we throw testing out. What then? Would you measure or just focus on process?