Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Standardized Test Instructions

Today we started our state standardized testing at school. Part of the "testing theater" is to read the instructions to the students exactly as they are printed in the Directions For Administration.

Whoever writes these instructions is an idiot. I'm required to drone on for several sentences, telling students what to do, using extremely precise but incomprehensible words. I'll paraphrase from today's instructions:

Open your answer document to page 2 and find the words CST (California standards test) for Mathematics. At the top right corner of the page find the box for version number. Go to the front cover of your test booklet and find the word "version", followed by a 2-digit number. Bubble in the two-digit version number in the box on your answer sheet. To the left of the CST for Mathematics section, above the shaded box, find the box to bubble in the test you are taking....


I have to read all of this, verbatim, knowing full well that some of the kids are going to get lost and I could easily give them clear instructions:

Go here (point). Bubble in the version number here (point); that version number is on your test booklet here (point). Make sure you bubble in the right one or your test won't be scored correctly.

Of course, they do ask questions, and to answer them I say something similar to what I just wrote. It's so much simpler.

There are many more paragraphs I have to read, with instructions that are just as silly (i.e., long and confusing). Why can't someone write clear, concise instructions?

12 comments:

Anonymous said...

What kills me is all the boxes and alternate instructions. I showed the kids what my test booklet looked like and they gasped.

Amerloc said...

I sincerely, deeply, appreciate your frustration, Darren, having ridden that same crippled pony more times than I care to remember.

But here's the deal: the tests and the instructions are written by psychometricians, who wouldn't recognize their own ass if we drew a picture of it for them with a #2 pencil.

And in fairness, they're like the rest of us, giving each day their best shot; the problem is that their focus is on designing a test that produces reliable results - it's about individual questions and answers and distractors and replication across populations.

We've become so specialized that we're lucky if we can find our own ass, much less draw it.

No wonder test directions have become as murky as volcanic ash.

maxutils said...

Careful, Darren -- they are also really anal about test materials making their way on line.

Darren said...

I know the psychometricians design the tests, but why do they need to design the script as well? A teacher who understands kids should write those scripts.

MikeAT said...

Thanks for the new word... psychometricians...never heard of that before!

Steve USMA '85 said...

They design the script Darren, because unfortunately, there are teachers out there that don't understand themselves what to do. Most teachers are smart enough to understand what needs to be done. The psychometricians must write the test to account for the small population of not-so-bright teachers also administering the test. Of course, that doesn't mean the psycho's figure out how to couch the wording so the Rocks can comprehend.

Curmudgeon said...

"But here's the deal: the tests and the instructions are written by psychometricians, who wouldn't recognize their own ass if we drew a picture of it for them with a #2 pencil."

Amerloc, sad to say, is completely wrong about this. Psychometricians DO know what their ass looks like and they've demanded that our students fill in those little round circles for years ...

Which is why the kids say "This test stinks."

Mr. W said...

agreed this is the worst thing about state testing.

How much money does the state waste on those instruction books?

mrsgee said...

fortunately in my district, all the personal and test information on the booklets is filled out before they enter our classroom. our students only have to check to make sure their name is on both the test booklet and the answer document. however, since i am a music teacher, i usually end up testing a child who needs accomodations in a one-on-one setting. you've never felt like a moron until you've had to read scripted directions to 1 kid.

maxutils said...

I have a worse one . . . how much money could be saved if the Feds and the state had everyone calculate their tax based on the formula used to generate tax tables, rather than print out the full table for everyone? It's not like that formula would be any more complicated than the rest of the process . . .

Ellen K said...

This will be our last year of TAKS. We are gearing up for it with bells and hooters and lots and lots of what is laughingly called training. On our particular campus, the rampant fear of testing irregularities has allowed the testing coordinator (yes, we have enough testing on our campus to merit a coordinator...)to create various nitpicky tasks including but not limited to logging the time testing is finished, the times students leave and return from the bathroom, making sure all students are in the specifically numbered seats and the creation of a seating chart documenting same. The only things students may do after testing are to sleep or read a book. Since I am pretty sure ninety percent of the freshman I am in charge of have never really read any book, that's going to be a challenge. During the most recent testing I made the huge mistake of giving students blank paper on which they could draw. I will be joyously glad to see us move to end of course testing whereupon the teachers teaching the class will give the exams and I can join coaches and band directors sitting in the hall playing solitaire on my laptop.

Linda said...

You are right, it would be better to point at the right spot - the kids could follow that. Instead, I have to read the instruction script, walk around the room checking to see who didn't follow (or understand) the directions, and helping them correct their answer sheet.

There is absolutely nothing more boring than proctoring tests. Unless, maybe, it's taking them.