Monday, October 20, 2014

Questioning the Test

Sarah Blaine blogs over at parentingthecore, and while she is not a very prolific, her posts are often thoughtful and thought-provoking (she is the same blogger who dissected the implications of the Pearson wrong answer).

Blaine has been getting ready for PARCC Family Presentation night at her daughter's school, and she has prepared a list that I think would be an entirely appropriate set of questions for anyone to ask a school board, elected official, or education department bureaucrat who started making noise about the awesomeness of the Testing Regime we now live under. You should just follow the link to read the full piece, but let me give you a taste.

Some of the questions address the nuts and bolts of testing, but hit right at the heart of testing issues. There are some obvious ones, like:

How many hours of testing for 3rd graders? 4th graders? 5th graders?

But this next one is one of my favorites, precisely because it isn't asked often enough:

What in-district adults are proctoring and reviewing the PARCC tests to ensure that the test questions are not poorly worded, ambiguous, and/or that correct answer choices are provided for multiple choice tasks? 

These are also winners:

What data do you expect to receive from PARCC that will be available to classroom teachers to guide instruction? When will PARCC scores and results be available? 

Who scores the subjective portions of the PARCC tests? What are those people’s qualifications?

What steps are you taking to ensure that our 8, 9, and 10 year old students have the typing skills necessary to compose essays with keyboards? How much time is being spent on preparing children to acquire the skills necessary to master the PARCC interface? Is the preparation process uniform throughout the district? If it is not, doesn’t this mean that we won’t be able to make apples-to-apples comparisons of student scores even across the district? 

Some of Blaine's questions are considerably more in-your-face, which is why I love them:

Will students lose points on math assessments if they do not use specific Common Core strategies to solve problems (e.g., performing multiplication the traditional way rather than drawing an array)? My child lost full credit on the following Envisions math test problem this year: “Write a multiplication sentence for 3 + 3 + 3 + 3 + 3 = 15″ because she wrote 3 x 5 = 15 instead of 5 x 3 = 15. Will children be losing points on PARCC for failure to make meaningless distinctions such as this one?

There are plenty more where these came from, including links to articles and information that help inform the area in question. And though she was aiming at the PARCC, her list works just fine for whatever big dumb high stakes test your part of the world is pushing.

The world needs more of these questions. Too many people responsible for providing some form of educational leadership keep just doing dumb things because nobody asks them any questions or challenges any of their dumb proposals. It would be fun to watch what happened if a whole group of parents attended a meeting with Blaine's questions in hand.

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