Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Test Problems

It's an old story- people are having problems passing a test. Used to be the solutions would involve changing the way subjects are taught or evaluating the ability of the teachers to pass on information. Not any more.

State lawmakers appear on the verge of dumping the math and science sections of the 10th-grade Washington Assessment of Student Learning (WASL), and replacing them with a very different kind of test.

The idea is to do something about the fact that so few students pass the math and science sections. But the proposed remedy is generating a lot of concern because it could mean big changes in what students are expected to learn, and how they're tested.

If the math and science portions of the WASL are eliminated, it would be the second time the state has dropped part of the exam. A "listening" section, designed to measure communication skills, was removed without controversy three years ago.

It doesn't just end there though-

The House bill also says the new exams "must rely" on multiple-choice questions, which the WASL doesn't. It has some fill-in-the-bubble items, but among its hallmarks are short-answer and "extended response" items that require students to solve problems, apply what they've learned, or explain how they arrived at an answer.

The horror- asking students to actually demonstrate their ability to do maths rather than use the multiple guesstimate alternative!

Reminds of the police fitness test that some women were having problems passing. Instead of wanting to be treated equally the women complained and- instead of altering the fitness program to improve their ability- the test was substantially changed.

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