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Columnist not a 'star' in state test

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  • Hulda Nystrom
    ... Date: Sat, 30 Apr 2005 10:30:26 To: ca-resisters@interversity.org From: Peter Farruggio Subject: [KPFAed] Columnist not a star
    Message 1 of 2 , Apr 30, 2005
    • 0 Attachment
      -------- Original Message --------
      Date: Sat, 30 Apr 2005 10:30:26
      To: ca-resisters@...
      From: Peter Farruggio <pfarr@...>
      Subject: [KPFAed] Columnist not a 'star' in state test

      Printed in the San Francisco Chronicle

      Columnist not a 'star' in state test
      by C.W. Nevius
      Saturday, April 30, 2005
      Page B - 1
      http://sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/chronicle/archive/2005/04/30/BAGKNCHQFV1.DTL

      When it was suggested that I try a sample version of the STAR
      (Standardized
      Test and Reporting Program) test that California students are currently
      taking, I figured I might have a little trouble with the math and science.

      That turned out to be the understatement of the month. I was rolling right

      along until I got to Algebra I.

      "What,'' question nine asked, "is the factored form of 3a�-24ab+48b�?''

      You're kidding, right?

      Of the 16 sample questions in the ninth/10th-grade algebra test, I
      correctly answered five, or 31 percent. Some of my misses were hilariously

      off- target. For problem five, I thought the correct answer was six. It
      was
      two. Not even close.

      In some ways, the right answers were worse. I got eight of 15 correct in
      the chemistry section, barely 50 percent, but two of those were simply
      wild
      guesses that panned out.

      So what does that show? That a middle-aged guy who hasn't taken a math or
      science class for over 30 years can't tell you "the relationship between
      the first ionization energy and the increase in atomic number''? Well,
      that's true.

      But there's a deeper concern here. You know how students and teachers are
      complaining about these annual exercises in tedium? How they gripe that
      the
      STAR tests are full of arcane questions that have almost no relationship
      to
      everyday life? How these tests, which can last up to seven hours over five

      days and have a huge impact on the future of local schools, are not a good

      measure of learning?

      They may have a point.

      The idea to have some adults take a sample STAR test was the brainstorm of

      Doris Ober and Richard Kirschman of Dogtown, up by Stinson Beach. They
      were
      interested because of local news reports about the nearby Lagunitas School

      District, where some parents who did not approve of the tests were opting
      out their kids. Ober and Kirschman decided to offer a sample test to
      adults
      who were interested.

      Not all of them were. Ober says many were frankly worried that they'd be
      "humiliated'' by their lack of success. Others, like Ober, were more
      confident. As she said, she was among those "who like tests, expect to do
      well in them, and looked forward to the challenge.''

      Like certain cocky newspaper columnists, Ober says she and Kirschman
      "realized immediately we were way over our heads'' in math and science.
      Although she says she "aced'' the English, history and seventh-grade math
      sections, she managed just one right answer in algebra, "probably by
      accident. ''

      When she tallied the results of the 146-question test (the actual STAR has

      some 585 questions), she finished with a 67 percent. My total was higher,
      but not much, just 71 percent. If those were the totals for a school, they

      would be right on the brink of not demonstrating "adequate yearly
      progress'' (AYP).

      Schools who do not make their AYP levels, calculated against other schools

      in the state and across the country, face sanctions, the most severe of
      which could be reassignment of the staff and even the closing of the
      school.

      So while it is amusing for us adults to shrug helplessly when asked "Which

      of the following atoms has six valence electrons?'' it is serious business

      at the schools.

      The result is a case of what sounds like a reasonable idea -- making sure
      students meet a standard of learning -- turning into a counterproductive
      mess.

      For starters, the kids have no incentive to do well on the tests. The
      score
      doesn't affect their grade, nor does it help high-school students get into

      college. It is just a long, boring week every year, spending hours filling

      in multiple-choice bubbles.

      Second, the teachers face pressure to "teach the test'' rather than
      broader
      concepts. Instead of critical thinkers, the ideal STAR test students would

      be multiple-choice experts who have memorized catch phrases and equations.

      Finally, many of the questions in the math and science sections are
      incredibly obscure. Unless you are a mathematician or scientist, why would

      you need to know that information later in life? Ober says several adults
      remarked on "how little those subjects we failed at mean to our lives
      today.''

      And that's not to mention the inherent problems of multiple-choice tests.
      They encourage guessing, are stressful, and most of them -- the STAR is no

      exception -- feature trick questions designed to trip up test-takers
      rather
      than to evaluate learning.

      Oh c'mon, you say. It can't be that bad. OK, smartie, try it yourself.
      Sample tests can be found at www.cde.ca.gov/ta/tg/sr/css05rtq.asp.

      Let me know how you do.

      (Just a hint: better brush up on congruent angles.)

      C.W. Nevius' column appears Tuesdays and Saturdays in the Bay Area section

      and Fridays in East Bay Life. E-mail him at cwnevius@....
    • ralphebedwell
      I thought this column had an interesting perspective. I teach language arts, not science or math, so I don t have much personal knowledge of those aspects of
      Message 2 of 2 , Apr 30, 2005
      • 0 Attachment
        I thought this column had an interesting perspective. I teach
        language arts, not science or math, so I don't have much personal
        knowledge of those aspects of the state tests. However, I will add
        that I think the language arts portions of the tests DO directly
        address skills that students will help students be successful in
        later life. Reading comprehension, vocabulary, language conventions,
        etc., all have direct application in higher education and the
        workplace. As far as I can tell, the state tests do a reasonably
        good job of testing these skills, given the limitations of the
        multiple choice format. (I should add, since the article brings it
        up, that critical thinking is an essential part of the language arts
        curriculum; whether you are analyzing a text or drafting an essay,
        you are utilizing these thinking skills to get the job done. I have
        long thought that the REAL subject matter of language arts is
        critical thinking, not reading and writing -- they are merely useful
        byproducts of the thinking skills that we develop in the classroom.)

        Ralph

        --- In wccusdtalk@yahoogroups.com, Hulda Nystrom <huldanystrom@s...>
        wrote:
        > -------- Original Message --------
        > Date: Sat, 30 Apr 2005 10:30:26
        > To: ca-resisters@i...
        > From: Peter Farruggio <pfarr@c...>
        > Subject: [KPFAed] Columnist not a 'star' in state test
        >
        > Printed in the San Francisco Chronicle
        >
        > Columnist not a 'star' in state test
        > by C.W. Nevius
        > Saturday, April 30, 2005
        > Page B - 1
        > http://sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?
        file=/chronicle/archive/2005/04/30/BAGKNCHQFV1.DTL
        >
        > When it was suggested that I try a sample version of the STAR
        > (Standardized
        > Test and Reporting Program) test that California students are
        currently
        > taking, I figured I might have a little trouble with the math and
        science.
        >
        > That turned out to be the understatement of the month. I was
        rolling right
        >
        > along until I got to Algebra I.
        >
        > "What,'' question nine asked, "is the factored form of 3a²-
        24ab+48b²?''
        >
        > You're kidding, right?
        >
        > Of the 16 sample questions in the ninth/10th-grade algebra test, I
        > correctly answered five, or 31 percent. Some of my misses were
        hilariously
        >
        > off- target. For problem five, I thought the correct answer was
        six. It
        > was
        > two. Not even close.
        >
        > In some ways, the right answers were worse. I got eight of 15
        correct in
        > the chemistry section, barely 50 percent, but two of those were
        simply
        > wild
        > guesses that panned out.
        >
        > So what does that show? That a middle-aged guy who hasn't taken a
        math or
        > science class for over 30 years can't tell you "the relationship
        between
        > the first ionization energy and the increase in atomic number''?
        Well,
        > that's true.
        >
        > But there's a deeper concern here. You know how students and
        teachers are
        > complaining about these annual exercises in tedium? How they gripe
        that
        > the
        > STAR tests are full of arcane questions that have almost no
        relationship
        > to
        > everyday life? How these tests, which can last up to seven hours
        over five
        >
        > days and have a huge impact on the future of local schools, are not
        a good
        >
        > measure of learning?
        >
        > They may have a point.
        >
        > The idea to have some adults take a sample STAR test was the
        brainstorm of
        >
        > Doris Ober and Richard Kirschman of Dogtown, up by Stinson Beach.
        They
        > were
        > interested because of local news reports about the nearby Lagunitas
        School
        >
        > District, where some parents who did not approve of the tests were
        opting
        > out their kids. Ober and Kirschman decided to offer a sample test to
        > adults
        > who were interested.
        >
        > Not all of them were. Ober says many were frankly worried that
        they'd be
        > "humiliated'' by their lack of success. Others, like Ober, were
        more
        > confident. As she said, she was among those "who like tests, expect
        to do
        > well in them, and looked forward to the challenge.''
        >
        > Like certain cocky newspaper columnists, Ober says she and
        Kirschman
        > "realized immediately we were way over our heads'' in math and
        science.
        > Although she says she "aced'' the English, history and seventh-
        grade math
        > sections, she managed just one right answer in algebra, "probably
        by
        > accident. ''
        >
        > When she tallied the results of the 146-question test (the actual
        STAR has
        >
        > some 585 questions), she finished with a 67 percent. My total was
        higher,
        > but not much, just 71 percent. If those were the totals for a
        school, they
        >
        > would be right on the brink of not demonstrating "adequate yearly
        > progress'' (AYP).
        >
        > Schools who do not make their AYP levels, calculated against other
        schools
        >
        > in the state and across the country, face sanctions, the most
        severe of
        > which could be reassignment of the staff and even the closing of the
        > school.
        >
        > So while it is amusing for us adults to shrug helplessly when
        asked "Which
        >
        > of the following atoms has six valence electrons?'' it is serious
        business
        >
        > at the schools.
        >
        > The result is a case of what sounds like a reasonable idea --
        making sure
        > students meet a standard of learning -- turning into a
        counterproductive
        > mess.
        >
        > For starters, the kids have no incentive to do well on the tests.
        The
        > score
        > doesn't affect their grade, nor does it help high-school students
        get into
        >
        > college. It is just a long, boring week every year, spending hours
        filling
        >
        > in multiple-choice bubbles.
        >
        > Second, the teachers face pressure to "teach the test'' rather than
        > broader
        > concepts. Instead of critical thinkers, the ideal STAR test
        students would
        >
        > be multiple-choice experts who have memorized catch phrases and
        equations.
        >
        > Finally, many of the questions in the math and science sections are
        > incredibly obscure. Unless you are a mathematician or scientist,
        why would
        >
        > you need to know that information later in life? Ober says several
        adults
        > remarked on "how little those subjects we failed at mean to our
        lives
        > today.''
        >
        > And that's not to mention the inherent problems of multiple-choice
        tests.
        > They encourage guessing, are stressful, and most of them -- the
        STAR is no
        >
        > exception -- feature trick questions designed to trip up test-takers
        > rather
        > than to evaluate learning.
        >
        > Oh c'mon, you say. It can't be that bad. OK, smartie, try it
        yourself.
        > Sample tests can be found at www.cde.ca.gov/ta/tg/sr/css05rtq.asp.
        >
        > Let me know how you do.
        >
        > (Just a hint: better brush up on congruent angles.)
        >
        > C.W. Nevius' column appears Tuesdays and Saturdays in the Bay Area
        section
        >
        > and Fridays in East Bay Life. E-mail him at cwnevius@s...
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