Thursday, April 4, 2013

An anecdote on standardized testing

From Yahoo:
High school junior, Kyron Birdine of Arlington, Texas was suspended for tweeting a photo of his one sentence essay answer on the STAAR exam. As reported by WFAA News 8, Birdine used his iPad to snap a shot of his answer, "I have the TAKS test to study for, not this unneeded craziness." He filled out the rest of the page with the word “YOLO” ("You only live once") and a happy face emoticon. The tweet was sent to the Arlington Independent School District (ISD) and the Texas Education Agency as a protest against the new STAAR test. About the test Birdine said, "It wasn't for a grade. Colleges don't see it. It didn’t help, it didn't benefit my personal life at all."

The STAAR, State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness, standardized test is a new testing program which is used by the state to evaluate educational outcomes for those entering the ninth grade in the 2011-2012 school year. Those students entering the ninth grade before that school year, like Birdine, are being issued the test to help perfect future versions of the exam. In Birdine’s case, the STAAR test does not impact graduation, instead he will be graduating under the TAKS, Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills, testing standards.
A few quick points

1. Standardized tests take a great deal of valuable time away from everyone involved in the educational process -- students, teachers and administrators. That doesn't mean that these tests aren't worth the trouble but it does mean there are costs to consider;

2. Standardized test data measure a combination of factors including focus and motivation. The difference between a high scoring class and a low scoring class often has less to do with what the students learned and more to do with the teacher's ability to convince students who have no real incentive to do well not to ABCD their way through the test. When students approach these tests the way Birdine did, it can be extraordinarily difficult to glean useful information from them;

3. Birdine was not punished for a "breach of security" as administrators claimed; he was punished for making a legitimate protest. He knows it; they know it; everybody knows it. I have had mostly good experiences with principals and superintendents but there are certainly administrators out there who are inclined to use their power to silence critics and to advance their own interests over those of their students (and remember, some of these top positions pay damned good money). Though seldom put in so many words, one of the central tenets of movement reformers is the belief that administrators should be given more power. I'd argue some administrators are already abusing the power they have.

1 comment:

  1. I wonder what grade the computer gave it? :->

    It was a "field test" which means, IIRC, the testing company were just trying out the questions on a bunch of kids to see how they worked. There was no benefit to the kids in this (or teachers or schools) just the testing company who got to see how their questions were being interpreted.