Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Addendum About Standardized Testing

I am a bit tired today to want to fully flesh out a thought enough to make a blog post that I'd find satisfactory, so instead I'm going to talk a bit more about yesterday's topic, standardized tests, and leave it at that. As part of my preparation for yesterdays post, I read this Washington Post, which had been popping up repeatedly on my Facebook feed. While I liked the anti-standardized test message, I was a bit disturbed at the questions that were labelled too hard.

Of course, who can question that this upstanding administrator could be less than qualified to evaluate what an appropriate math exam might be, despite the fact that "[T]he math section had 60 questions [and he] knew the answers to none of them" After all, "[b]y any reasonable measure, my friend is a success. His now-grown kids are well-educated. He has a big house in a good part of town. Paid-for condo in the Caribbean. Influential friends. Lots of frequent flyer miles. Enough time of his own to give serious attention to his school board responsibilities." I'm not sure if the mathematician in me is more outraged by the questions this administrator cannot answer or the philosopher by the limited methods for measuring success.

I do have to agree with the assessment of the reading test. Often it is not clear which answer is, "best." However, this related article is much more in line with my opinions from yesterday, in fact echoing some of them. Plus, the author is old! That means he must know that about which he is talking, right? Hmm, another reason I may have chosen to omit it yesterday is it seems to bring out the snarky side in me. Oh well.


elfarmy17 said...

Standardization aside, I think it's ridiculous that just because one man happens not to use critical reading or math skills in his daily life automatically means that no one ever will.
Second, just because you aren't using something for your job doesn't mean it's not a good thing to know. Particularly when it comes to logic and analysis.
Third, that's just plain sad. And not just the math. Two questions into the reading portion I decided to try answering them without reading the selection, and I got them all right anyway.
I agree that there can be different interpretations of the same selection, which makes multiple choice questions with only one right answer less effective, but still.

Kenny said...

Still less effective are the multiple choice questions with more than one right answer ;) How do *I* know what answer you think is "best"?

elfarmy17 said...

Yeah, on the standardized ones that is a problem. At least in class the teacher can accept either or. I guess it's probably the one you can directly support with more textual examples.

Kenny said...

I agree with John Green's view that, once a piece of writing is out in the public, each reader makes their own, right, interpretation of the work. I do think that the author has an interpretation that is quite worth hearing, but I don't think that it is definitive. So, I don't see how one can pick a batch of answers so that more than one is reasonable, but one is universally best supported by the text.