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View Diary: A 5th grader says No to NCLB. (210 comments)

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  •  Last winter I was a scorer (20+ / 0-)

    for the writing portion of a state standardized test for high school students. Not for the company analyzed in this diary -- I won't mention the name of the testing service I worked for, as I might have the opportunity to work for them again, and as the money is pretty good, and the work not as boring as you might think, I wouldn't want to compromise my qualifications to be hired again.

    I do have a background in education, though I never worked full time as a teacher, and I got the impression that most of the scorers had similar, if not more formal, education backgrounds. The supervisors certainly did.

    We were trained for a week on each portion of the test we were expected to score. Training consisted of practice scoring of short written responses to literary and expository texts. For each question there were certain expected answers that earned the students points. One point for one component with supporting evidence from the text, two points if the response included two supported ideas the test writers expected students to derive from the reading selection. A response could earn three points if it showed mastery of grammar and style, as well as the required two supported ideas, plus any additional supported ideas.

    We were not expected to score on spelling, grammar, punctuation, though a response that was well written as well as "correct" could earn three points.

    The work was grueling in some respects -- deciphering student handwriting was a challenge in the beginning, though that aspect got easier as certain common graphic habits emerged. Boredom was a bit of a problem, with extremely repetitious responses becoming almost a joke.

    And that was what raised questions in my mind about the testing. How did so many students manage to light on the exact same "correct" answers, supported by the exact same textual evidence, with such mind-numbing regularity? Why did so few deviate to more original responses? How much could the cookie cutter expectations of the test writers possibly contribute to student learning, and how accurately could they be said to measure student ability?

    Also disturbing was the necessity of rewarding the simplest responses, that mentioned the expected two points, with the same score awarded to a better composed response that wasn't quite worthy of the highest score. I comforted myself with the assumption that students wouldn't much mind about their scores as long as they passed.

    I know students need to be tested, but I also know that the overemphasis on standardized tests not only has precious little to do with actual learning, but is pursued to the detriment of real learning experiences in the classroom.

    I would take the job again, as $11.25 an hour is nothing to sneeze at, and the working conditions weren't at all "sweatshop." But I wouldn't be a bit sorry if these massive, over-generalized testing procedures disappeared forever from American education.

    "The Truth Shall Make Ye Fret" -- T. Pratchett, The Truth

    by congenitalefty on Mon Mar 07, 2011 at 08:59:08 PM PST

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