Monday, November 15, 2010

The 5 W's and an H of Standardized Testing

I'll be honest. I hadn't a clue about - and very little interest in - the "No Child Left Behind Act." It has been the butt of so many jokes, that I had to very recently have my first experience with reading policy. (OMG! I NEVER want to write policy. How brutal.)

The short.
Act: No Child Left Behind
Title: Improving the Academic Achievement of the Disadvantaged
The Statement of Purpose:
to ensure that all children have a fair, equal, and significant opportunity to obtain a high-quality education and reach, at a minimum, proficiency on challenging State academic achievement standards and state academic assessments.

Students as young as 7 years old (2nd grade).

Standardized tests take the form of a series of questions with multiple choice answers which can be filled out by thousands of test takers at once and quickly graded using scanning machines. Standardized tests can either be on paper or on a computer. The test taker is provided with a question, statement, or problem, and expected to select one of the choices "below" it as an answer. (Source: WiseGeek)

Elementary and secondary schools generally test once per year in alternating years. There are Independent School Entrance Examinations and Secondary School Admission Tests students would only take once for entrance into a school. AP exams are most often given at the completion of an Advanced Placement class for college credit. College admission exams and the General Educational Development Test can be taken as many times as the test-taker needs or wants to.

In sterile classrooms, under fluorescent lighting, in hard back chairs throughout the country.

The test is designed to measure test takers against each other and a standard, and standardized tests are used to assess progress in schools, ability to attend institutions of higher education, and to place students in programs suited to their abilities. In the case of "high stakes" testing, scores are used to evaluate grade promotion and graduation.

The most common K-12 standardized tests are the Iowa Test of Basic Skills (ITBS) developed by Riverside Publishing, a division of Houghlin Mifflin, the TerraNova developed by CTB/McGraw-Hill, and the Stanford Achievement Test developed by Harcourt, Brace Inc.; all three companies are private for profit companies. The two major college exams are the ACT, developed by ACT, Inc., and the SAT, developed by Educational Testing Service. Both of these companies are private not-for-profit companies. (Source: Essortment)

The most common scores reported to parents from these tests are National Percentile (NP), stanine and Grade Equivalency (GE). These scores can be utilized to evaluate a school district, a school, a particular education program, a teacher, and a student.

Proponents: Assessments are tools used to measure student learning; the tests hold the teacher and student accountable. They are cheap, very quick to grade, and they allow analysts to look at a wide sample of individuals. They provide valuable feedback/information for teachers, parents, schools and states. Read these comments in the Eagle Tribune.

Opponents: Standardized tests are inherently unfair - using a single assessment given on a single day to evaluate a student's entire year of learning is. Studies on the format of standardized tests have suggested that many of them contain embedded cultural biases Standardized tests do not allow a student to demonstrate his or her skills of reasoning, deductive logic, critical thinking, and creativity. Read this Alfie Kohn article for expansion on the opposition.

What say you?

See a list of standardized tests HERE.

(*Side note: I found it fascinating that there was a Google result titled, "Does Scripture Support Standardized Testing." #Realtalk Google it yourself! No linking this one. Second, an earlier post about SAT scores and income is a great follow up read.)