Thursday, September 04, 2008

Standardized Stupidity

Today in our department meetings we looked that the "blueprints" for the state standardized tests--in particular, what percentage of what topics make it onto the standardized tests.

Long-time readers of this blog know that I am an ardent supporter of standardized testing. However, when the tests or the testing regime are freakin' stupid, I'm not going to give the system a pass. And that's what we have, at least on our California math tests.

We have very specific, measurable, challenging standards for each course. In theory, our standarized tests are supposed to test knowledge of those standards.

The composition of two tests amazes me. 92% of the Algebra 2 test comes from Algebra 2 standards. What comprises the other 8%? Probability and Statistics. Why would we test students on material they haven't even been taught?

But wait, there's more. I teach a course called pre-calculus, which, according to the state standards, combines the trig standards and the math analysis standards. So what test do my pre-calculus students take? If you guessed trigonometry, you'd be wrong, as there is no trig test. Students in courses above Algebra 2 take the Summative High School Math test, which combines topics from Algebra 1, Geometry, Algebra 2, and Probability and Statistics. Why? And if, as some want to do, I'm to be evaluated on my teaching ability as measured by standardized tests, shouldn't the tests cover material that I'm supposed to be teaching?

Only bureaucrats could come up with something so stupid.


Babbie said...

What do you think? Are they trying to make schools purchase a particular textbook, or are they trying to change the content of the courses? Or are they just stupid?

Rhymes With Right said...

You've heard me bitch about the testing in Texas, haven't you, where the 10th grade TAKS social studies test includes not a single question that deals with content knowledge of either 9th grade World Geography or 10th grade World History, but instead is over 50% based upon knowledge from 8th grade US History to 1877, with the remainder being skills questions like using maps and charts or interpreting reading passages and pictures.

Is it any wonder i am eagerly awaiting the death of TAKS in three years, when it will be replaced with End of Course tests that actually cover course content (and figure into the student's course grade as well)?

Darren said...

I'm sure someone, somewhere, has a reason for it. Just like they have a reason for giving the test with more than a month left in school. Just like they have a reason for not being able to get scores to us for several months.

But they aren't good reasons. They're stupid ones.

Ellen K said...

The "experts" at district in their dubious wisdom have revamped the science curriculum to make the higher level course more "accessible". This is code for "dumbing down" material. This is the direct result of a state mandate for four years of math and science for every single last high school student. So whereas before we had students limping through Geometry and Math Models to graduate, they will be required to take Algebra II and Precal as well as Chemistry and Physics. While it is certainly desirable for students to be allowed to take course for which they have the ability, it is ridiculous to channel every student into these programs. I predicted back then that in order to avoid repeated failures that either the system would need to change or course material would have to be diluted. And this is the result. The ironic thing is that even if they weaken the math and science curriculum at the district level, these students will all be required to pass the state mandated end of course tests. And when they fail, the AYP will hit the school with sanctions and firings. At what point do people not understand that even if you offer every child in the nation a scholarship. there are simply people who cannot and will not go to school and learn ANYTHING? I predict this will be coming your way soon. Have fun. I am glad I don't teach a core subject.

Polski3 said...

From the sample questions I have seen of the California State Standards test for Grade 8 Social Studies, there are many questions on there that are "taught" at the end of the teaching year, as in "after" we are forced to give the test.

How much, just how much money could be used in California classrooms, by dumping most of these parasitic curriculum critters that infest the State Dept. of Education and county offices of education.....many of them who create these "authentic measures" of student learning.

And while I am at it, why the h**l can't the reading required for any junior-senior high language arts/english class coordinate with what is being taught in history classes ? For example, in Grade 8 L.A., they have a reading from "Diary of Ann Frank." Good? Yes, wonderful. But from history pov, THAT is (WWII era), is taught in Grades 10 and 11. In grade 7, nary a poem from T'ang or Song era China, a bit of Beowulf, Chaucer, etc.....

Anonymous said...

In CA, standardized testing basically takes up one week of instructional time. And, it doesn't test what it purports to -- it tests lower. And, it doesn't admit to that. And, it's given before the end of the year. And, we can logically predict that a student's performance on a one-day, no-personal-stake test will represent a lower standard of achievement than the student has actually learned.

Yet, we do it anyway. If you want to test, let the students know they will be held accountable for material in their grade, not two or three years lower, and then hold them back if they don't pass. The problem with that, of course, is that not everyone gets a trophy.

On the other hand, the problem with giving everyone trophy is that they don't have to work for it. Karl Marx would love our current soccer league system. And our schools.