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2011-12-13
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Utility of Standardized Testing

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Tagged As: Education and Society

Are standardized tests really providing value in quantifying a student's academic ability or future potential? A Florida board of education member was curious about that very question so he arranged to take the FCAT himself to identify with the students on both its validity and problems.

I won’t beat around the bush. The math section had 60 questions. I knew the answers to none of them, but managed to guess 10 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.
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...
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.

He managed to get only 17% of the questions right by guessing. It does make one wonder about the utility of such tests especially when they're typically used to drive the racial/ethnic wedge into play about student ability and quality of teaching programs. A sampling of questions provided to fourth graders in the DC area is available via javascript through the Washington Post to see what these students are struggling so hard with.



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