Diagnosed with “over-comprehension:” My standardized test nightmare
This really happened (and I wish Arne Duncan, Al Sharpton and Newt Gingrich would read this; see why below):
Second grade. Everglades Elementary School in Miami. Mrs. Hirsch, my classroom teacher, passed out the first standardized test I had ever taken. I took the exam and thought I had done well.
In fact, I got every answer wrong.
How does a good student from a highly educated middle-class background do that in second grade?
I was supposed to circle only one answer, as most multiple choice problems require. I picked more than one and then annotated the answers in the margins. Here’s an example:
Q) Grass is:
This was a flawed question in my second grade eyes.
Our grass was often all three colors. It baked in the hot Miami sun and our sprinkler system did not reach all corners of the small lot. Also, the chinch bugs loved to eat it.
I circled all three, and explained all of this.
The teachers--who were actually terrific--diagnosed my test results as “overcomprehension.” I was, they said, reading too much into everything. They put me in a reading group that they thought would teach me to think in more concrete terms.
They soon realized that it was silly, and after reviewing the test, the school principal, Mrs. Kazer decided to junk it, calling it poorly conceived..
That was in the 1960s. Unfortunately, today's policymakers don’t have the wisdom that Mrs. Kazer showed back then. They have thrust us into an age of high-stakes tests, where results can influence the life of a teacher or a student--or the fate of a school--even though experts on testing say these tests are not particularly sophisticated and often biased.
Many educators who lived through the Bush administration’s No Child Left Behind program--which put high-stakes tests at the forefront of public education--had hoped that President Obama and his education secretary, Arne Duncan, would realize the dangers of standardized testing.
They haven’t--and many folks are disappointed, even angry.
Now we have the spectacle of Duncan on an “education tour” with Newt Gingrich and Al Sharpton to trumpet Obama’s education program, called "Race to the Top," which has been called "No Child Left Behind on steroids."
Herbert Kohl, author of a book on education that Duncan has said was instrumental in his thinking, issued an open letter this past summer blasting the education secretary for promoting the importance of standardized tests.
Kohl wrote: “Recently I asked a number of elementary school students what they were learning about and the reactions were consistently, 'We are learning how to do good on the tests.'
"They did not say they were learning to read."
Do you have your own testing nightmare to discuss or you were a whiz? Do you think the results you/your children got were a fair representation of ability?
| November 19, 2009; 6:30 AM ET
Categories: No Child Left Behind, Race to the Top, Standardized Tests | Tags: Arne Duncan, standardized tests
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