Wow, have you seen this article in the Washington Post?
The author [Sara Holbrook] of source material on two Texas standardized tests says she can’t actually answer the questions about her own work because they are so poorly conceived. She also says she can’t understand why at least one of her poems — which she calls her “most neurotic” — was included on a standardized test for students.
The test writers made inexcusably careless errors, like asking about why the author divided a poem into stanzas at a particular point without formatting the poem correctly, so that there were no stanza breaks. Also, Holbrook makes the point, rather vehemently, that none of the answers about the author’s motivation make sense unless the question writers asked the author what her motivation actually was. She put the stanza break in to signal to herself where to take a breath when reading the poem aloud, not for any of the “artistic” reasons suggested by the answers.
The same year that “Midnight” appeared on the STAAR test (2013), Texas paid Pearson some $500 million to administer the tests, reportedly without proper training to monitor the contract. Test scorers, who are routinely hired from ads on (where else?), Craiglist, also receive scant training, as reported by this seasoned test scorer. I’m not sure what the qualifications are for the people who make up the questions, but the ability to ride unicorns comes to mind.
Now comes research that reveals that a simple demographic study of the wealth of the parents could have accurately predicted the outcomes, no desks or test packets needed.
Yeah, not surprised. I thoroughly detest Pearson’s My Math Lab online homework, and that’s for math, a far more straightforward topic than poetry. (The online homework is designed in a way that discourages students from working to actually understand the material; it is also designed so as to create test anxiety. Good job, Pearson!)
Almost all the time, when I am helping a student to prepare for a standardized test, it’s for math. I’m grateful for that, because as horrifically underprepared as many (most?) students are in math, at least math skills *are* straightforward, far more easily tested than this Why-did-the-author blah blah blah on the English section.
It reminds me of how critics seriously discuss all the deep motivations that might lead YA authors to kill off parents in the backstory, when often enough I suspect the only actual motivation is to cut down on the number of secondary characters so as to simplify writing the story. I know that’s often an important motivation for *me*.
Anyway, it’s a long article, but click through and take a look if you’ve got kids in the current school system. I do think testing is important, or at least assessment is important; but if the tests are terrible, assessment stops being hard and becomes hopeless.