May 15, 2012

ARTICLE: Manipulation

Time Out From Testing Resolution To Abandon FCAT Gains Momentum In South Florida 

This will illustrate the idiocy of state standardized tests.

"In the past year, the board chose to 'increase expectations regarding the correct use of Standard English conventions' in the FCAT's writing section after acknowledging that in previous years, the section 'had been scored with leniency.' As a result, 2012 FCAT writing scores in the state plummeted. Among fourth graders, only 27 percent scored a 4 or better as opposed to last year, when 81 percent of fourth graders got a 4 or better. The drastic dip in writing scores was also seen in eighth and tenth graders. Florida’s Board of Education is now considering lowering their writing standards again to insure that more students pass the test."

Whether the FCAT or TAKS or STAAR, the passing rates are manipulated every year. There's no such thing as 70%. It's not enough to create a strenuous and rigorous exam--the decision-makers want scores that balance we-have-high-expectations and our-kids-are-smart. Unfortunately, if one is high, the other is usually low. Why can't they both be high? If the exams were testing basic skills, we might find a direct relationship. On the other hand, when students are asked to decipher questions that are written without regard to developmental appropriateness, it's not surprising when they cannot keep up with increasingly rigorous tests and unrealistic lists of objectives.

"Critics also want the state to stop over-relying on the FCAT because it is unfair to teachers, whose pay and job security are tethered to scores that the resolution calls 'inadequate and often unreliable measures.'"

Think about that. Their pay and job security are tied to scores that are manipulated every year. Teachers are badgered and threatened and insulted because they can't prepare their students to pass a simple enough test. When taking the SAT or a certification exam, most test-takers are motivated to do well. With kids, though, you can't guarantee self-motivation. Also, you can't guarantee that a class of students have developed at the same rate. Finally, you can't guarantee that the exams reflect a knowledge of basic skills or that the passing rates mean anything at all.

When my child takes that first high-stakes exam, what will the results tell me? Nothing. Did she guess? Did she calculate the wrong answer but chose something close? Did she pass after correctly answering 25 out of 52 questions? Did she fail after correctly answering 37 out of 52 questions? Did she understand the material or use tricks and test-taking strategies? 

I hate that this is the future of her education.

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