Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Test Exhaustion...and we haven't even started yet

My mother would never believe it, but I feel like I have nothing more to say. I read education articles or blogs here, there and everywhere, and I get more convinced that these 'issues' will be with us...until they're not. Why they'll go away will have little to do with wiser or cooler heads prevailing...it'll likely just shift almost imperceptibly, until we realize a big change has overtaken us.

Okay...I just thought of something. We start our standardized testing tomorrow, so, like most other teachers, I've been practicing with a few 'released items'--sample test passages and questions that were rejected for final inclusion on the real test.

The other day, we did this one about a blind artist. (If you really want to look at it, you have to go pretty deep into the booklet...it's after all the instructions and several other passages.)

One of the short answer questions is this:

Explain how Michael became an award winning artist. Include two details from the selection in your answer.

The teacher booklet goes on to explain what respondents might put in their answers:

Text-based details may include, but are not limited to:

A. His mother was a potter / he helped her fix her clay

B. Playing with clay as a child

C. “I knew that what I wanted to do was be an artist someday.”

D. Making small animals in hospital after blindness/Vietnam, continued to


E. Sculptures were photographed by newspapers

F. I get a picture in my mind / make his memories come to life

G. Inspires / leads sculpture workshops

H. Sculptures can be seen in museums/public buildings/Vatican /White House

I. People collect his work

Now, it doesn't matter which two items a test-taker lists in his/her answer. All items are equal, even those--like H, I, and maybe E and G--which don't really 'explain how he became an award-winning artist.'

H and I seem more the consequence of his becoming an award-winning artist, not an explanation of how he became one. I guess 'how he became' does not mean causality. I would have thought it did. But, by their answers, I gather they really mean something more like the event sequence of his rising to 'award-winning artist status.'

I hope this passage and questions got rejected for this flaccidity. I hope it wasn't something else, and that we really are (mis)testing comprehension with items like this.

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