A Critique of Standardized Tests  

Prelude
"Delivering literacy--even on the high level appropriate to a knowledge society--will be an easier task than giving students the capacity and the knowledge to keep on learning, and the desire to do it."... "All it requires is to make learners achieve. All it requires is to focus on the strengths and talents of learners so that they excel in whatever it is they do well." ..." But schools do not do it. They focus instead on a learner's weaknesses.1"

1pages 236 and 237 of The New Realities (ISBN 0060916990) by Peter F. Drucker, Clark Professor of Social Science at Claremont Graduate University, California and considered by some “the founding father of the science of management (LA Times)”

Special Note: When the College Board artificially "recentered" SAT scores to 500 apiece for the verbal and math sections in 1995, it created a world of doubt about the reliability of its long-term data.

Since the averages had fallen from a starting point of 500 a half-century ago to 424 verbal and 478 math, recentering essentially added 80 points to the average verbal SAT score and 20 to the average math SAT score to bring them both back up to about 500. For more information read Recentered SAT Yields Apples and Oranges - by Robert Holland


 

If the bottom category of this chart were not open ended, the majority of students taking the test would not even make the chart. 

from the 2/27/06 issue of Business Week

I. Standardized tests that measure mathematics and verbal literacy will be discussed.
A. State primary and secondary proficiency exams like the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS tests).
B. State teacher certification exams
II. The mathematics and verbal literacy of an individual is determined by their mathematics and verbal intelligence, family socioeconomic characteristics, and the efforts of said individual, their parents, and society.
A. Satisfactory completion of standardized tests, passing for some and achieving a certain score for others, requires a certain level of mathematics and verbal intelligence.
1) People below this designed level of intelligence will not earn a satisfactory test result.
2) No attempt is made to measure achievement related to the other kinds of intelligence so important to Education in a World of Multiple Intelligence.
B. 1Kevin J. Clancy, chairman and CEO of Copernicus, a global marketing consulting research firm “ ...developed a statistical model to predict MCAS scores..." at different schools based on these socioeconomic characteristics “... percentage of families that receive aid to dependent children; have two parents; are below the poverty line; are white; and hold a college bachelor’s degree or higher. What we learned is that how well children perform on MCAS scores has almost everything to do with parental socioeconomic backgrounds and less to do with teachers, curricula, or what children learned in the classroom.”
C. Massachusetts student and teacher proficiency exams will be explored.
1) A majority of the fourth, eighth, and twelfth grade students in Massachusetts can not pass the recently instituted student state proficiency exams (MCAS). This is also true for prospective teachers taking the recently instituted state teacher proficiency exam. Low mathematics and verbal intelligence, called critical thinking skills by educators, is the primary reason people are failing these tests.
2) Why have test results changed little over the introductory period.
a) In the short run, 500 years plus or minus, student intelligence is fixed and attempts to increase the percent passing the test will fail unless the intelligence required to pass the test is lowered or the passing score is lowered.
b) Socioeconomic conditions changed little during the period.
c) Teacher test scores are low because we began losing many of our potentially good teachers when career opportunities for women expanded into law, medicine, business, and politics. As a result, high school seniors reporting that they planned to major in education have been at the bottom of the SAT/ACT testing percentiles for many years. Teacher test scores will continue low until we convince our most intelligent people to be teachers.
III. Fourth and eighth grade tests should be designed for the middle 60%, not the top 20%.
A. Many problem are caused by setting goals too high.
1) Some students get discouraged, stop learning, and fail to learn basic material.
2) Failure alters behavior in a negative fashion.
3) Teachers are being blamed because their students aren't substantially above average and can't pass the test. Good teachers are leaving teaching rather than face pressure from parents who are convinced their children must be substantially above average. It is happening in the second grade.
B. The high level of math/verbal literacy being sought by educators can be attained by less than 20% of the population. Fortunately, only about 20% of the jobs require this intelligence level.
1) When a high level of math/verbal education is needed, people will acquire said literacy. For example, students who struggle with algebra somehow find a way to pass the math portion of a real estate exam.
2) The summer of 1998 issue of Occupational Outlook Quarterly published by the U. S. Department of Labor states that between 1996 and 2006, the percentage of jobs requiring a college degree will increase to only 23.1% from 20.8% (page 7) and that about 250,000 college graduates per year (18%) will not find a college level job (page 3). Also reported for 1996 was the fact that 5,600,000 college graduates (17%) worked at jobs that did not require a college degree (page 5).
IV. Students would choose one of many Graduation Requirements
A. Earn at least 70% on all parts of a twelfth grade standardized test.
B. Earn an average of 70% on all parts of a twelfth grade standardized tests.
1) These students would be specialized in one discipline.
2) Students and teacher should be counseled that scores of 60%, 60% and 90% are better than scores of 70%, 70%, 70%. If you don't believe this, the next time you need an operation, choose the doctor with a 70% in Bedside Manners and a 70% in Operating Procedures and leave me the doctor with a 40% in Bedside Manners and a 100% in Operating Procedures
3) Under this method, the 70% average could be waived for someone with one score at least 90% in one of the tests.
C. Earn at least a 80% on all parts of the eighth grade standardized tests.
D. Twelfth grade tests should be replaced by a list of life skills acquired by a student.
1) High schools should not be thought of as prep schools for college but as prep schools for life.
. a) Skills important for economic success, based upon all kinds of intelligence, and chosen by the student, would be taught in our high schools.
b) School guidance departments would provide students and parents with the skill level requirements and the expected return associated with their careers choices.
2) Graduation would happen when a student feels their measured skills, which would be listed on their high school transcript, were adequate.
3) Money saved by students deciding to graduate before completing grade 12 could be used in many ways.
a) Some of the money would be available to students one year after withdrawal for continuing their education.
b) Some of the money could be used to foster intensive preschool programs in communities demonstrating extensive educational need.
V. Ideally, our teachers would be superior in relation to all the human characteristics required to educate our children. Since this is not economically possible, the kind and level of intelligence required of teachers should depend on the grade they teach and their subject discipline.
A. For many subjects and at the lower grades, interpersonal literacy tends to be more important than math/verbal literacy.
1) But, teaching students to read is most important and should be taught by our most intelligent teachers. If you can't read, you can't learn!
a) The November 22, 2000 issue of the Boston Globe reported that "At the Otis School, for example, fourth-grade failure rates between 1998 and 2000 have declined from 43 percent to 17 percent in English, from 71 to 22 percent in math, and from 55 to 16 percent in science.
1. Ninety-three percent of Otis students speak English as a second language.
2. Otis was built in 1905 and the library looks like "a converted basement boiler room".
3. "Principal Thomas J. Connelly credits an expensive, highly scripted reading program for MCAS gains, 
saying it paved the way for success in all subjects. 'Every teacher in the school is a reading teacher,' Connelly said,"
b) Please send other examples concerning the importance of reading skills to Walter Antoniotti at www.businessbookmall.com.
2) Enhancing writing and speaking skills is second. People who can't communicate will find career advancement difficult.
3) Enhancing basic arithmetic is third. Many jobs require basic computational skills.
B. In all other disciplines, teachers should have enough math/verbal and subject literacy to adequately teach a subject at a particular grade level. Someone teaching science in the fourth grade doesn't need the math literacy of someone teaching eleventh grade chemistry.
1) Prospective teachers would not fail the certification exam, they would qualify for certain subjects to be taught at certain grade levels.
2) Let the market determine who gets hired and how much they get paid!
a) First, second, and third grade reading teachers with a bachelors degree might make more than an eleventh grade history teacher with a master's degree but less than a twelfth grade calculus/physics teacher who directs the senior play.
b) Let the tests begin, if they must!
Epilogue
"Education is a very lumpy investment where often there is little or no payoff from having a little bit more." ..."There are big returns to the first years of education (the education where one gains literacy) and big payoffs to the last years of education (a college or graduate degree where one distinguishes oneself from the pack) but only small payoffs to those years of education that move the individual from somewhat below average to somewhat above average." From page 283 of The Future of Capitalism by Lester C. Thurow, former Dean of the MIT Sloan School of Management and published in 1996 by William Morrow and Company, Inc.

1 Making more Sense of MCAS scores, by Kevin J. Clancy, Boston Globe, April 24, 2000, page A19

About the Author of A Critique of Standardized Tests