Monday, January 17, 2011

Thank God for Mississippi, part 2

"Everybody is a genius. But, if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will spend its whole life believing that it is stupid."
Albert Einstein

Answers to these questions:
Did you get all 3 right? You are ADVANCED in 7th grade Language Arts in the state of MS.
Did you get 2 right? You are PROFICIENT in 7th grade Language Arts in the state of MS.
Did you get 1 right? You have a MINIMAL understanding of 7th grade Language Arts.
Did you get 0 right? You have a BASIC understanding of 7th grade Language Arts.

So, here are the problems.

1) Our tests are flawed.
And it's not just Mississippi. See some ridiculously bad test items here. Think about it. The statistics that are being used against us (For example - 47% of 7th graders are not "proficient" in reading and writing.) are based on whether or not our still-cognitively-developing students can parse questions like these. 

Questions that grown, college-educated adults have difficulty understanding. Is it possible that our schools are being measured with a broken ruler? Is the test just plain unfair? 

2) Every state takes a different test.

Don't believe me? Believe wiki. :)

How can we possibly compare scores from dozens of different tests as if they are the same one?

All the educational rankings that you read now are distorted. No scientist or researcher would trust data from an experiment with this many confounding factors. As educational researchers, we need to "control" our data by eliminating these extraneous factors. Only then can we see the TRUE state of America's education system. Flawed statistics will yield flawed solutions.

If we're going to be a data-driven education system, at least let it be valid data.

Now, what is the solution?
1) Solution 1: Common core standards. 
Now in non-teacher jargon - all states teaching the same things in the same grade year. Right now, every state has a different list of standards. that means if someone moves from Mississippi to New York, he isn't necessarily on the same page in school.

If we adopt a common core, we can all participate in the second solution.

2) Solution 2: A national test taken by all 50 states
If we are all taking the same test, then we can really see where each stands. Also, if every state is paying for this test, then hopefully its questions will be held to a higher level of accountability. We can then expect them to be written more clearly. Thus, the scores will be more accurate. 

Perhaps I'm being idealistic, but maybe then a reading test will actually judge a student's ability to read, not her ability to take a standardized test.

How can you help?

1) Educate yourself.
            A) Explore online:
                 -Fair Test
                 -The Huffington Post
                 -The Daily Riff
                 -The Innovative Educator's "We Would Prefer not to Take your Tests"
            B) Read a book:
                 -Tested: One American School Struggles to Make the Grade
                 -Measuring Up: What Educational Testing Really Tells Us
                 -Standardized Minds: The High Price of America's Testing Culture and What We Can Do to Change It
                 -The Death and Life of the Great American School System

2) Educate your circle.
         Once you learn a little bit, open your mouth and don't stop talking. In the current culture of education reform, the voice of the teacher is under-respected. The voice of YOU, the concerned citizen, is king. So, please, speak. 

If you're hankering for the Mississippi Department of Education's contact information after struggling with these questions, I'd be more than happy to provide it. Tell them Ms. P sent you. And if you're waiting for the punchline of this normally-amusing blog, look in the mirror, Mississippi. This post is more of a dark comedy.

ADVANCED but only because I have access to the answers,
Ms. P

1 bonus points:

Mamselle Celeste said...

I got all my answers correct! Thanks for posting. :)

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