Friday, November 29, 2013

None of the Above

A "test prep" reading passage for third-graders about how a Bangladeshi boy created floating schools for children who could not travel to school because of annual flooding was followed by several questions. The last question asked why the author most likely wrote the passage.  The correct answer was missing.  After all, the author most likely wrote this passage because he got paid to by a big corporation despite his probable lack of teaching experience.

The other questions were poorly constructed.  One asked which word best described the boy: nervous, angry, kind or scared.  Clearly, kind was the best out of those choices but kind is actually a terrible choice.  Off the top of my head, better ones include innovative, creative, and determined.

Another question asked what causes floods:

A. heavy rains
B. overflowing rivers
C. too many people
D. both AND B

At first glance the answer seems to be D.  But then I realized that it is the heavy rains which cause the overflowing rivers.  So is the answer really just A?  Or are they looking for the immediate cause, in which case the answer is B?  After all, rivers can overflow without heavy rains - if, for example, a dam breaks.  But such a possibility was not discussed in the text.  Standardized testing does not reward overthinking.  It rewards being able to predict what the testers were thinking. 

And ultimately, it rewards the companies which get paid the big bucks to create poorly designed curricula and poorly designed tests.  Yes, Pearson, I'm talking about you.

How do you feel about the rise of high-stakes testing and the increasingly lucrative privatization of the test-creation business?

1 comment:

  1. It makes me sick. Every time I see a test question I cringe at the quality. I hate them so, so much.