Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Call the Cops! Test Security Breached!...(on an obsolete version)

NOB HILL--I happened upon this actual question from a 4th grade standardized test given here a few years ago. This was from the "NEW MEXICO" section of the test...which, of course, was written somewhere else. There are a few points here worth mentioning:
  • The answer they want is wrong! That prickly pear cactus is more common in New Mexico forests than ferns, mushrooms, or ivy. I can't think of a forest without prickly pears.
  • It rewards "stereotypical, book-oriented" learning above hands-on learning. In this case, the more you know, the less likely you are to answer correctly. There is a case to be made for most tests being prejudicial in one sense or another. This question favors eastern "educated" students over western kids who know their biology, even if this is supposed to be a "New Mexico" test. There are lots more examples of many questions about wharves, ships, ponds, etc. that also favor students living somewhere other than the desert southwest.
  • Test question secrecy gives testing companies a way of avoiding scrutiny about questions. APS has stated that there are severe penalties for you as an individual if any of the test questions are revealed in any manner whatsoever. So it goes with "high-stakes" testing. Security is paramount. It wasn't until last week that they decided that 7-year-olds could even go to the bathroom during a 2-hour test session...and then only if accompanied by a proctor.
This is just one aspect of the whole testing situation. I hope to deal with more of it later.

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