Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Are these standardized test questions too hard for kids? - The Washington Post

Are these standardized test questions too hard for kids? - The Washington Post

Are these standardized test questions too hard for kids?

Texas Monthly published a story — “Are Texas Kids Failing? Or Are the Tests Rigged?” — which raises questions about whether questions on the state’s high-stakes standardized English Language Arts tests are written above grade level for many children. One Texas lawmaker, state Rep. Mary Gonzalez (D), quickly called for an investigation into the exams.
The article cites a 2012 report by two associate professors at Texas A&M University at Commerce, who analyzed English Language Arts exam reading passages and found that many were written at least two grades above grade level.
This is not a story unique to Texas, nor are the consequences of poorly worded, culturally biased or otherwise inappropriate questions on high-stakes tests. We’ve heard, for example, about problem questions for years from different states, including the infamous “talking pineapple” questions on a 2012 New York state test. Problems in New York didn’t stop, as you will learn below.
The Texas Monthly story starts this way:
Over the last few years, something strange has been happening in Texas classrooms. Accomplished teachers who knew their kids were reading on grade level by virtually all other measures were seeing those same kids fail the STAAR, the infamous State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness test.
The effect on students was predictable: kids who were diligently doing their homework and making good grades in class were suddenly told they were failing in the eyes of the state, which wasn’t so great for their motivation. Parents were desperate to find out why their once high-performing kids were suddenly seen as stumbling. Teachers felt like failures too but had no idea what they were doing wrong, after years of striving to adopt practices proven in successful schools across the country. What’s more, the test results were quickly weaponized by critics of Texas public schools, many of whom advocate state-funded vouchers that would allow parents to send their kids to religious and other private schools.
The stakes of such exams are perilously high. The STAAR test, developed by the Educational Testing Service in Princeton, New Jersey, had replaced one provided by the British firm Pearson, which Texas officials considered too easy. The STAAR test is used to evaluate students, teachers, individual schools and principals, school districts, and, by extension, the entire enterprise of public education in Texas. Fifth and eighth graders who fail the test can be forced to repeat a grade; high school students may not graduate if they don’t pass three of the five CONTINUE READING: Are these standardized test questions too hard for kids? - The Washington Post

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