Thursday, September 2, 2010

Possible Reform But In The Wrong Place

California Joining Efforts to Overhaul Student Testing

Ideally, standardized testing produces results that demonstrate the learning that has occurred on behalf students throughout the year. In an ideal world, standardized testing would serve as a great asset to identify student’s strengths and weaknesses but unfortunately, many times, the tests are not reliable sources.

One of the many reasons why standardized testing does not work in favor of the students is because it does not account for the small improvements students make throughout the academic year. For instance, a student can begin the 4th grade at a 1st grade reading level and by the end of the year be reading at the level of a 3rd grader. This improvement would not be accounted for in the standardized testing done at the end of the year because the student would be tested at a 4th grade level and their results would be poor. If these same results are used to "grade" and "review" teachers then there's a problem and unfortunately this is the reality of too many inner-city and low-income students and teachers.

The proposed new format for standardized testing would be computer based and very much like the Graduate Record Examination (GRE). In this test, the computer is basing its next question on your previous response. For example, if you answer correctly several times consecutively the questions get harder and harder. Conversely, if you answer incorrectly the questions get easier. Such format is argued to keep teachers from teaching the exam because they will not know what will be asked on the exam as it will not longer be in scantron form.

The main question is, will the new format of this $330 million exam provide any beneficial results? Or will it just be another way to show case the poor academic performance that exists in the California educational system?

I would argue that instead of focusing energy on changing the format of an exam whose content has proven to be culturally irrelevant to many low-performing groups, time and money should be spent on resources and training that would allow students to perform well no matter what the format of the test it.


1 comment:

Tony said...

Good Blog Agueda:
This is a problem we face in so much of the work we do with youth. While I agree that we need to measure to know that we are getting results it seems that too much energy goes into measuring and too little into sourcing and solving. You end up with a self-defeating cycle. Cut resources and layoff 10's of thousands of teachers so that it is almost impossible for those remaining to be effective and the answer is to spend 100's of millions to change the testing?