Standardized testing follies in Florida
Let’s add this to the list of reasons why standardized test results should not be considered for any high-stakes decision involving students, teachers, administrators, and well, everybody:
Many results have been delayed for six weeks, the newspaper said, making it difficult for school districts to design summer school reading programs. The delay is even affecting staffing decisions for next fall, which, unfortunately, are made with the use of test data.
There’s another part to the story, too: As a cost-cutting measure, the state of Florida, which contracted with Pearson to administer and score the statewide annual FCAT for $254 million, opted to pay for only one grader to handle student-written essays.
Historically two graders are used, and the two grades are then averaged. The people hired to grade can assign whole numbers from 1 to 6, and a 3.5 is needed to pass the test. But with one grader, the system doesn’t quite work, the Herald notes, and it quotes Miami-Dade Superintendent Alberto Carvalho as saying: “There is something critically flawed with having a proficiency level that is impossible to attain.”
The paper cites the state Department of Education memos and South Florida school districts as reporting numerous problems with Pearson’s administration of the test:
• Pearson subcontractor failed to properly deliver testing materials to some schools.
• Pearson is weeks behind in delivering the bulk of student scores to local school districts. The state Department of Education said some of its student databases weren’t compatible with Pearson’s databases.
• Pearson had problems with test runs of the state’s new computerized end-of-year assessments; many kids who took part were kicked off the system or not allowed to log in.
The Herald said a Pearson spokesman could not be reached for comment. I asked Pearson for a comment and will add it when I hear from a company spokesman.
I have written frequently about the dangers of using standardized test results for any serious decision in education because of the many problems associated with their development, administration and scoring.
Some months ago, I asked Todd S. Farley, who worked for years in the standardized testing industry and wrote the book, “Making the Grades: My Misadventures in the Standardized Testing Industry,” to write about his experiences, and I published his post. Here are some of his comments:
“While I did enjoy the career (good money, nice people, fun trips), it also left me completely convinced of the utter folly of entrusting decisions about American students, teachers, and schools to the for-profit industry that long employed me. I don’t know how anyone who’s seen what I’ve seen could feel any differently ...
“I’m not even talking about the well-publicized disasters that have occurred in recent years, when mis-scored tests kept students from getting into their preferred colleges (SAT, 2006); kept teachers from earning their deserved certifications (Praxis, 2004); and kept teenagers from graduating high school when they should have (Minnesota state assessment, 2000).
“Any Google search will result in many similar testing tragedies, but I’d say the scandals that make the news are only the tip of the iceberg. In fact, I’d say there aren’t scoring problems on some standardized tests — my experience suggests there are scoring problems on all of them.
"Multiple-choice tests can be scored easily by machines, but constructed-response items (short-answer questions, essay questions) that students answer in their own words need to be read and scored by humans, which is where I think it all goes to hell. From my experience, that human scoring of tens of millions of student tests every year goes to hell for five main reasons:
"The tests get scored each year by a motley crew of temporary employees earning low hourly wages, and while many of those people are earnest and conscientious employees, many others are not ... "
You can read the rest here:
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| June 7, 2010; 3:15 PM ET
Categories: Standardized Tests | Tags: FCAT problems, florida comprehensive assessment tests, pearson and FCAT, pearson and testing, problems scoring FCAT, standardized testing, standardized tests and florida, the miami herald and testing
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