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Author Topic: When an adult took standardized tests forced on kids
philnotfil
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An unnamed school board member from an unnamed school board takes the standardized tests that the students in his district are required to take. Every employee of the schools, and every legislator that makes decisions about the schools should be required to do this.

washingtonpost.com

quote:
“I won’t beat around the bush,” he wrote in an email. “The math section had 60 questions. I knew the answers to none of them, but managed to guess ten out of the 60 correctly. On the reading test, I got 62% . In our system, that’s a “D”, and would get me a mandatory assignment to a double block of reading instruction.

He continued, “It seems to me something is seriously wrong. I have a bachelor of science degree, two masters degrees, and 15 credit hours toward a doctorate.

“I help oversee an organization with 22,000 employees and a $3 billion operations and capital budget, and am able to make sense of complex data related to those responsibilities.

quote:
“It might be argued that I’ve been out of school too long, that if I’d actually been in the 10th grade prior to taking the test, the material would have been fresh. But doesn’t that miss the point? A test that can determine a student’s future life chances should surely relate in some practical way to the requirements of life. I can’t see how that could possibly be true of the test I took.”

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AI Wessex
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“It might be argued that I’ve been out of school too long, that if I’d actually been in the 10th grade prior to taking the test, the material would have been fresh. But doesn’t that miss the point? A test that can determine a student’s future life chances should surely relate in some practical way to the requirements of life. I can’t see how that could possibly be true of the test I took.”

I take issue with this whole article. The person apparently chose a career path in which analytical skills related to fundamentals of math and reading weren't important. As an executive he probably has an assistant to do any such dirty work for him requiring an understanding of the $3B he is responsible for and a calculator if the assistant is for some inexplicable reason unavailable. Is that plausible?

I have an even bigger issue with his reading score of only 62%. Frankly, I don't believe it. He's such an incredibly hot-shot executive running a huge organization and he can't figure out the words and contextual meanings on a 10th grade reading test? Really?

There's a lot wrong with the education system these days, and teaching to test may be the biggest problem of all. But it may be an even bigger problem that we let people who lack even the most basic math and verbal skills have so much responsibility in our society. Perhaps with his obvious lack of such skills he should have gone into politics instead.

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TomDavidson
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quote:
He's such an incredibly hot-shot executive running a huge organization and he can't figure out the words and contextual meanings on a 10th grade reading test?
To be fair, this is perfectly in keeping with my experience dealing with many executives. Literacy is not high on their list of priorities.
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scifibum
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"A test that can determine a student’s future life chances should surely relate in some practical way to the requirements of life."

I'd also argue that there's no reason to expect everyone to score high on such tests, but separating those who can get high scores from those who can't is probably a useful way to help guide people into appropriate higher education and career paths.

Engineers' "requirements of life" should include a better understanding of math than what one needs to be a blowhard board member.

Not that I am arguing the system is great. Just that the argument "this test is way too hard, because I feel smart and powerful and the test kicked my ass" is a pretty awful one.

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AI Wessex
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Following the "Revealed..." link in the WaPo article, he's not unnamed any longer. His name is Rick Roach, and he's a school board member in Florida. Now that he has come forward and revealed who he is and what his professional credentials are, I'm even more skeptical about the story:
quote:
Roach, the father of five children and grandfather of two, was a teacher, counselor and coach in Orange County for 14 years. He was first elected to the board in 1998 and has been reelected three times. A resident of Orange County for three decades, he has a bachelor of science degree in education and two masters degrees: in education and educational psychology. He has trained over 18,000 educators in classroom management and course delivery skills in six eastern states over the last 25 years.
If the story is indeed accurate, Roach is living proof of the American dream where absolutely anybody can reach the zenith of achievement in family, career and civic responsibility, regardless of how impaired or mentally challenged you might be.
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LoverOfJoy
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Why are we so sure he's wrong? I don't think anyone here has taken the FCAT. It started in 1998 and this past year they came out with a newer version. Maybe this test is much more difficult or uses much more random questions than others.

I'm sure some of the math was stuff he learned before but hasn't used in so long he's forgotten. But that still doesn't rule out the possibility that the test fails too many.

quote:
Thousands of Florida students with 3.0 or higher grade point averages are denied high school diplomas, Roach said, because they fail at least one portion of the FCAT. Last year, he said, 41,000 kids were denied diplomas across the state — about 70 in his district — and some of them have a 3.0 GPA or better.

*He said he understands why so many students who can actually read well do poorly on the FCAT.

“Many of the kids we label as poor readers are probably pretty good readers. Here’s why.

“On the FCAT, they are reading material they didn’t choose. They are given four possible answers and three out of the four are pretty good. One is the best answer but kids don’t get points for only a pretty good answer. They get zero points, the same for the absolute wrong answer. And then they are given an arbitrary time limit. Those are a number of reasons that I think the test has to be suspect.”

He said he visits schools frequently in his district, including the three high schools (there are 19 high school in the entire county), and talks to principals about this issue. He said they are frustrated that students who they know can read and do math can’t graduate because they can’t pass the test.

So the teachers who know the kids often believe the kids KNOW this stuff but are failing the test. It is test anxiety? Is it the tricky wording of the answers? Is it taking too many tests in a row such that the kids start burning out? I can imagine this guy is just an idiot that somehow got easy degrees but I can also believe that the test is just hard for some kids in some ways that have nothing (or little) to do with intelligence.

Maybe that means the kids need more time. Maybe it means they need pointers on how to rule out close, but not close enough answers. I know I tend to be good at the tests that require ruling out the close but not perfect answers. I know others who are just as smart as me and know the material better sometimes do more poorly on those tests.

I do think those kinds of tests have their place but I don't think it's wrong to question whether the test holds too much weight if a number of B students whose teachers think they know the material well enough are still unable to graduate due to the test.

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AI Wessex
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According to the state's web site this year 82% of 10th grade students passed the math test and 72% passed the reading test. The results are kind of hard to parse, but I think I got the summaries right.

That could be explained by the schools "teaching to test" or that they simply understand the underlying pedagogical issues.

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DonaldD
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Actually, the text that you posted doesn't state that the teachers think that the kids know the material. Rather, that is what some principals have said to one school board administrator.
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LoverOfJoy
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Good call. I would probably fail the reading section of this test, too. [Smile]
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LetterRip
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It is possible that the tests are so poorly designed that his statement is true.

I've helped my niece with some math and gotten questions wrong because the questions were so horrendously worded. Also there are a huge number of math terminology questions that are mostly useless that noone uses outside of extremely basic math problems. There is a similar issue with exams on english - I often forget the terminology of english exams - they are used nowhere except for english exams.

http://www.usingenglish.com/glossary.html

If they are purely comprehension and writing tests then I would say his scores sound low. If they are testing your comprehension of terms used to describe english sentence structure they a low score is believable.

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AI Wessex
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True, and I have no more information about the tests than has been presented here. I would be surprised if the tests were that poorly worded since the majority of students seem to pass them.

FYI, just for the hell of it a couple of years ago I took sample GRE tests with my daughter when she was trying to get into Grad School. I got about the same scores that I did back in the distant past when I took them for real. Roach's poor results are his responsibility, not the direct fault of the test, the test makers or a lack of test relevance. The man is making a point, but it comes across as just making excuses.

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LetterRip
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AI Wessex,

GRE generals, SATs, and LSATs are all focused on applying core skills and have terminology dependence. I can do as well or better now on them compared to when I could long ago.

Looking at the FCAT sample problems the do appear to be similar questions to those on GRE for the reading and reasonable math questions as well that aren't overly terminology focused (but you do need to know some basic stats and trig terminology),

http://fcat.fldoe.org/fcatit09.asp

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jasonr
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It's hard to believe that a grown educated man could do poorly on the English portion of the test, unless it's some kind of raw grammar test forcing you to recite grammar rules. If it's anything like the SAT or LSAT tests this guy should be ashamed.
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philnotfil
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Sample FCAT items.

fcat.fldoe.org

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JWatts
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quote:
Originally posted by AI Wessex:
I take issue with this whole article. The person apparently chose a career path in which analytical skills related to fundamentals of math and reading weren't important.

I have an even bigger issue with his reading score of only 62%. Frankly, I don't believe it. He's such an incredibly hot-shot executive running a huge organization and he can't figure out the words and contextual meanings on a 10th grade reading test? Really?

Yes, I agree. It seems implausible that the test could really be that hard. Either the average US student is way better prepared to take this test than the average executive or this person is below average for executives.
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DonaldD
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Just looking at the sample questions linked to by LetterRip, I have to assume that Roach was exaggerating when he said he guessed 10 out of 60 of the math questions correctly. Unless the sample questions are completely unrepresentative of the actual test, the only other option would be that he was lying to support his point.
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PSRT
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I would also be prepared to accept that the average executive has less knowledge than we expect 10th graders to have
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DonaldD
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Yes, but not that much less.

Which is somewhat beside his point, anyway: is the point of such tests exclusively to test knowledge of the particular subject, or is it also (and maybe even mostly) testing the ability to master new knowledge sets and new modes of thinking in general?

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The Drake
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I browsed the math questions for grade 8, and I see his point regarding adults being able to take it. They use frameworks that are very specific to the teaching method, and other math are things that most people don't do in daily life skills. However, I doubt that you can conclude that it is a bad test for the kids taught in the framework.

My take:

Summary of the first 10:

1. pythagorean theorem
2. special graphing type : mystery to me
3. geometry
4. algebra
5. interpolation
6. geometry
7. arithmetic
8. reading a graph
9. unit conversion
10. slope

Some, like converting cubic yards to cubic feet, would hopefully not be beyond any executive, but I can imagine them getting it wrong.

One uses a graph methodology called "box-and-whisker plot" that I've never encountered to deal with statistics.

Several are geometry, and most people are done solving proofs or looking for equal opposite angles or degrees in a triangle before exiting puberty.

Things like interpolation are best left to more advanced computation - like spreadsheet solvers or algorithms in the real world. But its good that the kids learn how it works, just like deriving the quadratic equation. You only ever have to do it once.

All told, the dude overstated his case in my opinion.

The Samples

[ December 08, 2011, 05:04 PM: Message edited by: The Drake ]

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scifibum
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On #2, even though I wasn't familiar with the graph type, there was enough there to make the correct guess fairly obvious.

For #5, I treated it as a simple algebra problem and that seemed to lead to the correct answer.

I wasn't sure I knew how to answer the geometry questions, although I think I'd have guessed the right answers.

Edit: btw, I didn't even bother using the formula cheat sheet, which I surely would have if I'd been taking the test to see how well I could score.

[ December 08, 2011, 05:47 PM: Message edited by: scifibum ]

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AI Wessex
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I only did grade 10 #1 - 6 (skipping #4 to save time) and got them right. I coulda been a exec!
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