Thursday, March 6, 2014

Are NYS's 3-8 Tests Valid?

It's been widely reported that the College Board decided to revamp the SATs and is partnering with Khan Academy wherein Khan Academy will provide free online test-prep tutorials.

What is really interesting, though, is that the validity of the SAT is really being called into question. Does this test really serve as an effective predictor of likely success in college? Many believe the SAT does not.. The essay part of the test is of particular interest. Apparently, the students who wrote the most, received higher scores. Quantity over quality. Some students decided to make up facts, book titles, quotations, characters, etc. The essays were not fact-checked. So much for test validity.

In addition, I am sure that those with neater handwriting received better scores and since females often have neater handwriting, I believe females - as a group - probably received higher grades than males on the essay section of the test. Whether this likely bias in favor of one gender was examined by the College Board, I do not know. However, what the proposed  SAT changes prompts us to question is the validity of the SAT and of tests in general.

NYSED has mandated math and English (ELA) tests for for students in grades 3-8. Students are sitting for three 2-hour sessions one week and the same the following week. As a former English & reading teacher who worked with students in grades 3-12, I am astonished that anyone believes six hours of testing in ELA is needed to ascertain skill levels. Many have complained about the quality of these tests. What is unacceptable is that students, and their teachers and parents, are not permitted to prepare for upcoming tests by examining tests given in the past. NYSED permits high schoolers to review past Regents Examinations but the same benefit is not being given to elementary and middle school students. Why?

These 3-8 tests are being used to determine student learning levels and teacher competence. If The College Board (makers of the SAT's), after all these years, are publicly discussing the inadequacies in (and thus validity of) the SATs, maybe it's time for parents and school leaders to demand that the validity and age-appropriateness of the 3-8 tests be examined asap. Let's not wait for Pearson, like The College Board, to tell us - years after the fact - that its tests (and the grading of them) are flawed and  need to be changed and improved. And, maybe it's also time for parents to be able to opt-out altogether.

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