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View Diary: School board member who bombed Florida 10th grade test comes forward (216 comments)

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  •  Two diaries on the subject-where's the beef? (1+ / 0-)
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    Would it be illegal to actually show some of the stupid test questions?

    A few examples would go far to offset some of the "Oh the guy is just an idiot" comments in both diaries...

    "Ronald Reagan is DEAD! His policies live on but we're doing something about THAT!"

    by leftykook on Wed Dec 07, 2011 at 10:11:51 AM PST

    •  Sample exams are here (8+ / 0-)

      One thing I note, browsing through the "math", is that unlike the California exams, the questions are very language intensive and I would say unnecessarily obscure - if what you want to know is "does the student understand this mathematical concept."

      Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

      by elfling on Wed Dec 07, 2011 at 10:20:50 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  One sample question (7+ / 0-)
        Question about the slope of a line, gone wrong
        What is the slope of the segment that represents the east fence on the graph?

        So, let's talk about this question. First, I'm someone skilled at math and also rather accomplished at fence building, so in theory this should be easy for me. I find, when presented with it, I have to substantially think and orient myself to what the heck they are talking about. This question would be way easier if it was just lines with no crazy talk about ranch fences. This is especially the case if you're not fluent in english.

        No one builds a fence this way. No one thinks about the slope of the line of a ranch fence plotted on paper. No one cares! It has no real world application!

        Even asking the question about the angle from North would be better. At least that would make sense as something you might care to know.

        An ordinary student is going to waste time trying to figure out what they really want to know - because what they say they want to know is ridiculous and makes no sense.

        So why do they obscure it with the ranch fence analogy? Why not just ask for the slope of line segment "b" or whatever on the graph shown?

        By comparison, the California exams would ask this in a pure math context.

        Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

        by elfling on Wed Dec 07, 2011 at 10:41:39 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  You are so right! (0+ / 0-)

          I've been checking my 6th grader's math homework, on the exact topic of finding slope on a grid exactly like this one, all week. And yet the fence thing threw me completely for a few minutes when I saw this. A slope on a fence on a ranch implies a totally different aort of problem.

          •  er...this is a pretty run-of-the-mill coordinate (4+ / 0-)

            plane.  Anyone who has ever used graph paper should know what 'slope' means in this context.

            •  The problem is that the fence stuff obscures that (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Abelia, gabjoh

              The point of the question is really simple -- can the student determine the slope of a line on a graph.

              All the stuff about the fence just is to confuse the issue.  And in the real world, when one thinks of a real fence with a real slope, you would think of its slope from the ground, not its "slope" as an angle compared to other sides of the fence.

              The question should just ask, "what is the slope of line AB?"

              •  exactly (1+ / 0-)
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                That's why I commented, bevenro - because it is so obvious, and I have been looking at problems exactly like it all week - and yet, when I saw all the fence and ranch details, I didn't make the connection for a few minutes. It's as if a computer tried to take the rote steps of a problem and "humanize" it by coming up with a real-world application - but the application makes no sense.

              •  no, it really doesn't. (1+ / 0-)
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                you really have to try pretty hard (or not know anything about coordinate geometry) to be confused by the fence thing here.  Maybe 'line of the fence' would have been better, or maybe 'the line of a flowerbed  is represented by this figure'..

                but you guys are really trying to find pretty weak reasons to find fault with the test.

                You can find fault with test-ING--that's fine, but I really see little wrong with this problem.

                •  asdf (0+ / 0-)
                  Maybe 'line of the fence' would have been better,

                  Actually, the text of the test is already written this way:

                  What is the slope of the line segment that represents the east fence on the graph?

                  This more than clear enough for a 10th grader to understand.  It is literally asking for the slope of a line segment, and points out that this is not a fence but a figure that represents a fence.

                  Personally, I thought whoever wrote this test took painstaking effort to spell out how each word problem is mapped to its corresponding mathematical problem.

                  Linking to a news article is journalism in the same sense that putting a Big Mac on a paper plate is cooking.

                  by Caj on Thu Dec 08, 2011 at 11:31:11 AM PST

                  [ Parent ]

        •  I assume your comment is snark (7+ / 0-)

          This is a simple test of the definition of slope - rise over run.    It's put in the context of a fence, because otherwise people would complain that the question is not relevant.  If a guy with two masters "degrees" can't figure this he's got serious problems.

          •  Why would putting it in the context of (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            banjolele, gabjoh, elfling

            a fence make it relevant?  I live in ranch country, and I cannot imagine anyone being interested in the slope of a fence segment.

            Can you explain the relevance to me?

            The federal government is basically an insurance company with an army. Paul Krugman

            by Heart of the Rockies on Wed Dec 07, 2011 at 10:42:49 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  word problem practice. I don't see what the issue (4+ / 0-)
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              nextstep, Subversive, Deep Texan, soros

              is.  I grew up with problems like this in the 80s and 90s...they're in every country in the world.  OK, maybe a fence isn't the PERFECT example...would a chalk line be better?  An enclosure?  Lines on a blueprint?  An irregularly shaped flowerbed?

              The question is completely straightforward.

              •  Runways at an airport would be fine (5+ / 0-)

                A roof line or a non-vertical wall on a blueprint would be pretty ideal.

                Line of sight to the top of the wave towering over your boat, that's a compelling real world use of slope.

                A good word problem isn't about putting random adjectives and nouns around the numbers. It's about transferring the problem to the physical world in a real and useful context, and being able to pull out the important numbers to get the value you need.

                Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

                by elfling on Wed Dec 07, 2011 at 11:53:09 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

                •  i can agree that that the 'fence' use isn't IDEAL (0+ / 0-)

                  but the rest of the questions in the test seem to be pretty legimate in their use of words/english/adjectives.

                  SO, fine, blueprint may have been slightly better...but jumping from fence to your 'horses in a jar' example is really, really exaggerating.

                  •  I am obviously doing a terrible job at expressing (1+ / 0-)
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                    myself here.

                    I am not saying that I cannot do the problem. I am not even saying that the board member shouldn't be able to do the problem. I am saying that this question is careless and sloppy and shows no understanding of the science and craft of creating fair, valid test questions. I am saying that quite a lot of money was spent crafting this question, and it was done by people who are terrible at it.

                    I am saying that there is difficulty with this question that is unrelated to the question of "find the slope of a line on a graph." And that this difficulty creates noise in your final measurement rather than "raising the bar" or making the test instrument more valid.

                    The people who made up this word problem don't understand the application of math or probably physics to the real world. That's a problem for me.

                    If I made a word problem like this:

                    "An airplane travels from Los Angeles to New York, a distance of 2443 miles, at 30 miles per hour. How long will it take to get there?"

                    A. 4 hours
                    B. 6 hours
                    C. 9 hours
                    D. 30 hours
                    E. 81 hours

                    That's a simple problem, right? 2443/30 = time in hours = 81.4 hours.

                    But! We know that's ridiculous. We know that you can fly coast to coast in less than a day and many of us know that it's not physically possible for a full scale airplane to fly that slowly.

                    Knowing what you know, how confident are you going to be about picking (E)? How long are you going to puzzle over this problem before you decide you knew what you were doing and did it right? How many kids will assume that they must have really screwed up and choose (b), which is a standard flight time?

                    Word problems that go against someone's physical intuition of the world will not accurately gauge math ability. And, that's the point, right - to figure out if people know that distance divided by speed equals time. This is something that the (well paid) people who make up tests are supposed to know and respect.

                    Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

                    by elfling on Thu Dec 08, 2011 at 12:03:09 PM PST

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  I am absolutely confident (0+ / 0-)

                      that the best answer is E.  Why?  Because even though there are reasons to find fault with the assumptions, they are just that:  assumptions.  And in math problems, you take the assumptions as true.

                      You might as well argue that it's impossible to fly at a steady speed--after all, it is obvious that the plane will go faster as it consumes fuel.  Or its impossible because flying at a steady 30 mph implies that the winds are invariable on a flight between NY and LA.

                      And, for your information, it is possible for a plane to fly at 30 mph--ultralights do.  For that matter, a plane flying at 150 mph into a 120 mph headwind will have a groundspeed of 30 mph.

                      Math is, in part, about abstraction.  Thus, there is no merit to your claim that word problems that go against intuitions are bad.  By that logic, questions that assume that the earth goes around the sun are bad, since it is not at all intuitive that that is the case.

                      "Well, I'm sure I'd feel much worse if I weren't under such heavy sedation..."--David St. Hubbins

                      by Old Left Good Left on Thu Dec 08, 2011 at 02:43:52 PM PST

                      [ Parent ]

                    •  no---I've understood your point the first (0+ / 0-)

                      several times you've posted it.  I just don't see that this particular example is as bad as you're making it out to be.  YOur first example--with the horses in a jar--was completely ridiculous (in order to make a point).  Your example here is more in the trick-question category--although for it to really be a trick question there would be an answer choice

                      F. 8.1 hours

                      But this example of a 30mph jet is really a good deal further from reality than is a drawing of a fence on a coordinate plane, clearly labeled x and y, with a direction to calculate the slope of the line segment.

                      Maybe it's not the best application, but it's hardly horrendous.

              •  I grew up with nonsensical (0+ / 0-)

                word problems in the 40's, 50's and 60's.  They obscured the basic arithmetical and mathematical principles.  By the time I reached graduate school (in a field that employs both simple and very high level math), I was confronted with real problems that needed solutions.  No amount of unrealistic or downright incorrect possible applications were of value to me.  Just the basic math.

                Real problems, as listed by elfing commenting below, could be useful.  Made up problems are not. The fence word problem would not help anyone solve a real life fence problem.  Quite the contrary.

                The federal government is basically an insurance company with an army. Paul Krugman

                by Heart of the Rockies on Thu Dec 08, 2011 at 07:14:51 AM PST

                [ Parent ]

                •  Elfling comment above, not below n/t (0+ / 0-)

                  The federal government is basically an insurance company with an army. Paul Krugman

                  by Heart of the Rockies on Thu Dec 08, 2011 at 07:15:44 AM PST

                  [ Parent ]

                •  asdf (0+ / 0-)
                  Real problems, as listed by elfing commenting below, could be useful.  Made up problems are not.

                  True story:  my better half was reviewing a submitted journal article about bacterial growth on (cylindrical) catheters.  Aside from several other mistakes, the authors used the formula for a cylinder's volume to estimate the catheter surface area.  

                  That struck me as odd in part because (1) these are scientists and should be good at 10th grade math; and (2) they failed not at the actual mathematics, but translating a simple word problem into the right mathematical formula.  The very thing we all seem to think is so irrelevant and bogus to put on a test.  

                  Moreover, this was exactly the kind of word problem that we dismiss as simplistic and inapplicable to real life, like determining the amount of paint you need to cover a grain silo.  We may dismiss this as a distraction from the actual mathematics, but the ability to translate word problems into underlying mathematical formulas is an important skill.

                  Linking to a news article is journalism in the same sense that putting a Big Mac on a paper plate is cooking.

                  by Caj on Thu Dec 08, 2011 at 11:45:07 AM PST

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  The problem wasn't that it was a word problem (1+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    Heart of the Rockies

                    Word problems are good. Word problems are fine.

                    I like word problems and a comprehensive math exam without them would be wrong.

                    It's just that you can't scatter in any old nouns and adjectives to make one that will provide useful measurements of learning when you are creating a one-time standardized test with no appeal on the answer key.

                    Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

                    by elfling on Thu Dec 08, 2011 at 12:25:46 PM PST

                    [ Parent ]

        •  I teach math (6+ / 0-)

          and I find nothing wrong with this question.

          A kid who can do math can answer this question.  Indeed, learning how to find the math in a word problem is a necessary skill for a student to learn.

          Part of the process of doing math is moving from the real world to the abstract world.  It's important to deal with problems that can be described as "nobody does this in the real world!"  Indeed, you could make that same accusation about almost every problem a person sees in calculus.  

          The east fence is on a grid.  Find the slope from the grid.  

          •  Indeed, per the poster's quote (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            nextstep, Gareth

            If students who can't answer this question are getting 3.0 GPAs, is the problem that the test is designed poorly? Or that people are passing kids that they shouldn't?

            (-5.50,-6.67): Left Libertarian
            Leadership doesn't mean taking a straw poll and then just throwing up your hands. -Jyrinx

            by Sparhawk on Wed Dec 07, 2011 at 08:06:59 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

          •  Teaching kids math with nonsensical or silly (0+ / 0-)

            questions isn't so much the issue in my mind. Indeed, I think it is a great exercise in learning to think and opening your mind. We used to have fun making up goofy word problems.

            If you've tried some of the automated online word problem exams, one of the funny things is that you'll get questions recycled on you with different numbers put in. As an exam, if you had 3/10 questions repeated that way, it's ridiculous. If that was your only exposure to word problems, you'd never be proficient (even if the computer thought so). But, still, there's a particular kind of learning in that for the student, to see how the calculation strategy remains the same when the numbers change.

            Think of the thousands of dollars that were spent developing this FCAT question, this question that may decide if a kid can graduate from high school. It's really the best they can do?

            Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

            by elfling on Wed Dec 07, 2011 at 11:59:31 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

        •  oh, fuck me. (4+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          bevenro, nextstep, paintitblue, Deep Texan

          it's a fucking line segment in a cartesian plane. it's labeled "East Fence". the question asks, what is the slope of the segment that represents the east fence on the graph.

          if you had trouble with this, you are a lot less "skilled" at math than you like to tell yourself.


          To put the torture behind us is, inevitably, to put it in front of us.

          by UntimelyRippd on Wed Dec 07, 2011 at 08:26:37 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  CECI N'EST PAS UNE CLOTURE! (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            nextstep, TampaCPA, Deep Texan

            i mean ... look at the careful language!

            it doesn't just say, "What is the slope of the East Fence"? it explicitly notes that the segment represents the east fence. this is precise and accurate language, language that brings out the core concept -- that the graph is a representation, a model, an abstraction of the fence, which, having been abstracted, is now subject to abstract mathematical analysis.

            what more do people fucking want?

            this is a beautiful question.

            To put the torture behind us is, inevitably, to put it in front of us.

            by UntimelyRippd on Wed Dec 07, 2011 at 09:19:10 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

        •  This is so true (1+ / 0-)
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          DSPS owl

          and it is amazing how many educators don't get this yet.  I recently had a discussion with my daughter's teacher about introducing word problems.  My daughter doesn't like them even though she is gifted in a number of ways.  And she has been able to perform basic math operations early.

          I even wondered if my daughter had some language processing issues that interfered with her thought.  So in my discussion with the teacher I was trying to find out if they just gave the word problems with no explanation or if they actually coached the kids a little first.

          Nope no coaching.  So I have to pick up the slack.  For some reason on a lot of the homework the word problems would have 3-4 facts to sort through and students would have to read the facts/clues and come up with the answer.  Well not every student realizes right away that one has to read every fact first and then decide which one to start with.  The first one may not be the most helpful or first to use.  And sometimes the facts are ambiguous or misleading.  So I explain all this to my daughter and she gets it fine.

          Many word problems are simply not math.  They are language processing with a related math component.

          I'm not liberal. I'm actually just anti-evil, OK? - Elon James White

          by Satya1 on Wed Dec 07, 2011 at 08:38:27 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  unfortunately, word problems are real-life. (4+ / 0-)
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            UntimelyRippd, nextstep, Deep Texan, HiBob

            abstract math fundamentals aren't.

            These skills are essential...if the teacher isn't teaching it, you're right it's a problem.  But difficulty with word problems isn't about 'language processing skills'...they actually ARE tricky for a lot of people.  Takes practice to isolate the needed data and figure out how to work through.

            I'm a SAT/GRE/GMAT/math tutor, have a doctorate dealing with statistical applications and spatial analysis in archaeology and I STILL HATE WORD PROBLEMS!!!  :)

            •  I don't see it as unfortunate, (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Cassandra Waites

              it just is.  By the way, word problems can indeed be a particular barrier sometimes for kids with language processing difficulties.  There are other more important symptoms though.  I see quite a number of children with asynchronous development and it is something that is starting to get attention by educators.  

              I always loved word problems.  Still do.  I love a good puzzle.  It's what kept me working for a few years for a major DBMS vendor on their cost based query optimizer.  Worked with spatial DBMSes also including GPS data.  Good times but now I'm Mr. Mom and it's the best job I ever had.

              I'm not liberal. I'm actually just anti-evil, OK? - Elon James White

              by Satya1 on Wed Dec 07, 2011 at 09:13:56 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  i just mean it's unfortunate for people who (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Deep Texan

                struggle with them.  Like finance/econ for me--I can't get my head around it so it annoys me that it's necessary.  But it is.

                Also--I don't mean that language processing deficits don't manifest themselves in word problems--but I'd be cautious about looking there first since there are so many reasons that word problems can be difficult....

                •  agree completely (0+ / 0-)
                  I'd be cautious about looking there first

                  Absolutely.  And we didn't.  But there were other issues and a wider picture we were looking at.  I didn't mean to suggest that word problems were the sole issue.

                  I'm not liberal. I'm actually just anti-evil, OK? - Elon James White

                  by Satya1 on Wed Dec 07, 2011 at 09:51:22 PM PST

                  [ Parent ]

          •  The real added value in using word problems (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            is in teaching kids the necessity of determining which information is relevant to the problem at hand and which isn't.

        •  Why not ask for the slope of the line segment? (4+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          paintitblue, Deep Texan, bevenro, soros

          They do.  "What is the slope of the segment that represents the east fence on the graph."

          This is one of the points where the entire fundamental argument Rick Roach is making falls apart.  His argument is that almost nobody needs to know complex math to succeed.  

          First off, you don't need to know much math (let alone complex math) to pass the test.  The formulas are all given at the beginning, and you're allowed to use a calculator.

          Second, the single very important thing a problem like this reveals is your ability to find the salient point.  If you are baffled by all the words, and cannot find the point that's there - if, in the context of this question, you get all flummoxed by the idea that a fence might be on a hill with its own slope - then you are lacking skills that are very important in any profession requiring college.  

          The question isn't "What is the slope of the east fence."  It's "What is the slope of the segment that represents the east fence on the graph."  It couldn't be much clearer, so long as you can focus on the fact that this is indeed the question being asked, and not another question you might imagine.

          It's probable that you don't need to know the Pythagorean Theorem in your profession, unless you regularly cut rafters.  But guess what? You don't need to know it to pass this test either - it's given in the beginning.  However, you surely have to be able to read a few paragraphs of text or a report and determine what's important about it.

          Yes, it's a crappy word problem.  It makes little sense to talk about fences this way.  But if you're in a profession that involves reading things and understanding them (and especially if these things relate to engineering) you will be confronted by crappy word problems on a regular basis.  This is not a bug but a feature of the test.  

          The question is simple, but there's a bunch of crap around it.  Ignore the crap, answer the question.  Yes, you will have to do this at work.  Yes, this is an important skill.

          •  They are not testing ability to ignore crap (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            I think the reason some of us are talking past each other is that I think we can all agree that the fence thing is a minor distraction for anyone who understands slope in terms of analytic geometry.

            But some of us, with backgrounds in education and test writing, are looking at the issue of "what is an ideal test?"

            An idea test tests what you're trying to test.  (hahaha very redundant, rights?)

            A math test should test math, and only math.  It should not test a student's ability to ignore the absurd words in an absurdly worded question.  The point of this question is to test whether a student can determine the slope of a line on graph paper.  That's it.  Everything else in the question introduces statistical error from a test writing perspective.

            Moreover, to the extent that it was hoped that math tests would test real world applications, this question gets things completely wrong because in the real world of fence building, "slope" has a different meaning which is the same as "grade" and measures the slope of the ground, not the mathematical slope of one side of the fenced area compared to another.

            •  Another way to look at it (0+ / 0-)

              Another way to look at it is that a background in education and test writing might make it more difficult for a person to understand how education and tests work and should work from a user or social perspective.  Why would being hip-deep in test writing make your viewpoint more objective?

              The idea that a math test should test only math is something that you bring to the table based on your professional training.  The idea that there is only one point to a question is also based on theories you have learned.  These aren't facts, they're opinions.  Another opinion might be that tests only truly succeed when they indicate something more than a student's ability to answer one specific question at one specific moment.

              Your perspective of what constitutes a real world situation is also a matter of opinion.  Few people (and fewer college graduates) work with fences.  Many college graduates work with ambiguous, confusing, or partial information.  Which is the more real-world situation?  

              Not everybody has to agree with you on your opinion about what makes a test better.  Tests tend to perform multiple functions at the same time.  Who should decide which is in error?

              In my opinion, most of the tests given to high school kids - whether math or reading, and certainly including the SAT - are thinly disguised intelligence tests, despite the best attempts of the writers.  And in my other opinion, there's nothing wrong with that.

              •  You've gotten a lot wrong here (0+ / 0-)

                First of all, when you assume I'm in education, again we're dealing with a word with multiple meanings.  I was an educator at the university level who had to give tests; I wasn't from an "Education Department" engaged in the science of test writing, although I'm familiar with it because we used such tests in admissions.

                Of course, in my tests for university students, I include a lot of extraneous information and had to write tests that were a lot like the complex real world problems they would encounter.  

                You mention several times what a college student should be able to do, and I agree.

                But that's not what this test is about.  It's not a test of college students' problem solving abilities; it's a test of 10th graders' ability to master basic mathematical concepts and skills.  That's not my opinion or preference; it's a fact which is embodied in legislation, in the test material's description of the test, and in the entire public policy debate that has surrounded the rise of high stakes testing:

                The idea that a math test should test only math is something that you bring to the table based on your professional training.

                No, the idea that a math test should test only math is what the law surrounding education and testing says; that's not based on my professional training which is not in writing 10th grade tests, but writing complex essay questions for professional students in universities.

                Your assumptions, therefore are all wrong, to the point of the bizarre, eg:

                Few people (and fewer college graduates) work with fences.

                Since when are 10th graders "college graduates"?  And what makes you so sure that in an economically diverse agricultural state like Florida, full of immigrants, farm workers, orange and other fruit orchards, gardeners, contractors (and their kids), a real estate boom and bust, there are no kids who "work with fences" or otherwise with "grade" and "slope" in the real world construction sense -- especially in light of the fact that this is a test that every child must take, (including the children of those aforementioned workers) not just "college graduates" in the 10th grade who number approximately zero?   That's a bizarre assumption on your part.

                •  You seem to have lost track (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:

                  Hamden, you seem to have lost track of what this whole conversation is about.  Maybe it would help to rewind to the beginning to understand what we're talking about here.

                  “If I’d been required to take those two tests when I was a 10th grader, my life would almost certainly have been very different. I’d have been told I wasn’t ‘college material,’ would probably have believed it, and looked for work appropriate for the level of ability that the test said I had.

                  The test is being criticized by Rick Roach on the basis that it is inappropriate for distinguishing which students are "college material."  He criticizes it primarily on the basis that educated post-college professionals do not need to know or be able to do the math tested.

                  “I have a wide circle of friends in various professions. Since taking the test, I’ve detailed its contents as best I can to many of them, particularly the math section, which does more than its share of shoving students in our system out of school and on to the street. Not a single one of them said that the math I described was necessary in their profession.

                  I am defending the test on the basis that being able to answer this sort of question is typical of the sort of thing one must do in a profession for which college is required.  That is to say, I am arguing with Rick Roach's statement, which I find incorrect.  Some people here are basically sympathizing with Rick Roach's argument that this type of math problem doesn't test the right sort of thing, and I am disagreeing with them in turn.  And somewhere along the line on just about any discussion on here, someone wants the discussion not to be about the matter at hand, but about themselves.

                  Obviously, I don't know more about you than what you say.  If you say you are a professional involved in test development, I believe you.  If you say you're a college professor, I believe you.  If you say you're a german shepherd, I believe you.  If you say test writing is a science, okay, there I don't believe you anymore.

                  If you are making tests for your own students to help you determine how well they have learned things you taught then, then I say bully for you.  That's a great way to use testing, and I've done it myself back when I was teaching at the college level.  You say you write great problems with lots of extraneous information to make them more real-worldy.  Super for you!  Great for your students!  My tests were probably more narrowly focused, but I was probably teaching different things.

                  All of that has very little to do with the question at hand, of course.  The question at hand has to do with the testing industry and with education professionals who are apparently quite dim and with what is appropriate for a 10th grade standardized math test.

                  I find what's on the test to be perfectly relevant to a 10th grade math education (which is what I have), and the questions to be not terribly confusing if you've got some sense in your head.  I find the idea you should have to use brains as well as math to pass the test not entirely scandalous.  

                  I think that quibbling because someone can imagine children being confused when talking about fences and slopes misses the point of the problem and of the test by a wide shot.  Confusion is part and parcel of life, part and parcel of studying and testing, and trying to extirpate it entirely doesn't do anybody any favors.  I think this fence question is a good problem, and typical of those on the SAT and the GRE, which are more important standardized tests.  If you pay attention, it's very easy.  If you don't, it can be confusing.  

                  Going back to Rick Roach's argument, I expect that being able to answer a question like this correctly is similar to the kinds of quandaries his "wide circle of friends in various professions" probably need to resolve regularly.  I don't find that it has "little apparent relevance to adult, real-world functioning."  If he's really "able to make sense of complex data," then he should be able to answer a question like that one.  

                  What Rick Roach wants is to dumb down the test so that everybody passes and he no longer has to deal with the consequences of high failure rates.  What he should want instead is to teach the kids so they can pass the test.  But teaching is far more difficult and less remunerative than administration.  And every day the kids spend cramming for or taking these tests is a day removed from teaching.

                  There are big problems these days with the flood of standardized tests that kids have to take.  Weeks of instruction are lost to cramming.  And now some want teachers and principals to be judged on the results, and funds to be allocated based on results.   I don't like it at all.  I think that's a gross misuse of testing.

                  But the problem is not that this particular test is too hard, or that this particular question is inappropriate.  Going back to the drawing board for a "mathier" math test (as you claim is required by law) wouldn't resolve anything.   All the well-meaning people who want to make tests either more specifically math-focused, or conversely, more contextual and real-worldy, don't really change the outcome as long as the process is abused.  Having a bigger committee or more specific legislation or paying more money to more private companies to come up with new versions of standardized tests is never going to fix the fundamental problems with high-stakes standardized testing and misuse of the results.

                  Rick Roach criticizes the tests based on their content.  I find the content (based on the samples linked here) of the tests acceptable.  My criticism is about their use.  Classrooms should return to the business of teaching, and widespread tests should return to the background or become entirely extra-curricular, like the SAT.

              •  In addition ... (0+ / 0-)

                When I wrote complicated tests using real world fact patterns, I had to do a lot of research to make sure that every hypothetical fact in the test was an actual fact.  

                If it was a problem of business contracts involving a restaurant, equipment purchases and financing, I had to make sure that the hypothetical fact pattern included the kind of financing firm that a restaurant actually deals with, a factor, an equipment lease financer or bank.

                If I wrote a fact pattern that involved a small restaurant raising money to purchase equipment by "selling commercial paper in the money market," then any student who didn't do well on the exam could complain that my fact pattern didn't make sense, especially if that student had experience in restaurants, and the results could be thrown out.

                That's what this exam did -- it applied the concept "slope" in the real world context of fences, where slope means changes in elevation, not angles between fence lines.

                The exam would have been perfectly fine if it had used almost the same fact pattern, and the diagram was a cross section of the earth including a hill and the fence.  Then both uses of the term slope would have been congruent.  THAT is using real world facts in a test.  As someone wrote elsewhere in this thread, using slope this way makes it sound like the fact pattern was randomly generated by a computer.

    •  unfortunately, the few examples demonstrate (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Deep Texan

      pretty conclusively that the guy is just an idiot.

      oh, well.

      To put the torture behind us is, inevitably, to put it in front of us.

      by UntimelyRippd on Wed Dec 07, 2011 at 09:08:34 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

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