0104: Standardized Tests: The Carnival Games of Public #Education
#assessment #edreform #lexicon
EdTrends ( http://edtrends.tumblr.com/ ) for your response to my last post regarding the impossibility of standardized student centered learning (http://educatedtodeath.com/post/17612560042). Your response speaks to the confusion that often accompanies education lexicon (and any other institutional lexicon for that matter). EdTrends responded, “What is a “standardized” test? Isn’t any of the same test given to multiple students, even teacher-written, standardized?” Yes, if a teacher creates a test an administers this test to multiple students it is a “standardized” test. However, this test is designed to show if a student has mastered a certain criterion, thus the term “criterion-referenced test”. This test shows mastery of a skill or skill set, and is typically used to guide instruction. If a certain percentage of students didn’t meet the cutscore, say 80%, then the teacher may choose to reteach or remediate the skill.
The other standardized test, the monster of which many educators speak, is a corporate designed norm-referenced test that seeks to compare schools and children across a state or national population. This means one of my students may score in the 65th percentile and be considered basic because she only scored better than 65% of the population. But, the tests we prepare for in the classroom are not even that simple to understand. Students aren’t scored according to percentile rankings, at least not directly; rather, the scores are converted through some nebulous derivatives that require several pages of instructions to begin to understand. Scores are combined to give schools rankings, that are also a little difficult to understand. I can’t say for a fact that these results are intentionally obfuscated, but they’re certainly not accessible to just anyone. The lack of accessibility allows for information to be communicated and translated in all sorts of alarmist ways. For example, “Your child received a score of basic in math, he will be placed accordingly,” “This school is a low performing school because the majority of the students received a score of basic or minimal.” This language is used to condemn schools, place students, and label teachers without ever providing a clear answer as to why the label was received. Did the student only master 70% of the skills? Who knows? He is basic though.
The “standardized” tests used for labeling schools are a form of massification. They generate hysteria and obfuscate the problems existing in education. They are neither norm-referenced or criterion-referenced. They are some hybrid akin to carnival games. No one wins, at least not with any consistency or without cheating. Assessment is a good thing. Mass testing is a different story. (If I am wrong in any of this, please show me where, I would like to be mistaken in this case. firstname.lastname@example.org)
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