Saturday, July 6, 2013

MAKING THE GRADES -- A short book review

Recently an article about a young man who went to work grading the open-ended test questions on standardized tests has reminded me of a book I read three years ago, a book and author cited in the article.

I know we're to believe that these free-response, open-ended responses are supposed to be the way of the future. "Explain your answer" has always been part of a teacher's arsenal of strategies, and these types of questions SHOULD be a good thing.

But what if they are graded by temp workers, with or without a college degree, with or without any experience reading and evaluating work? What if third graders will be flunked for poor performance on these standardized tests? What if teachers will be evaluated on these scores? What if high school students will be denied a diploma? This is the reality of our world in the classroom. So, it behooves us to look carefully at the way these test items are graded.

Read the article, and read my review of MAKING THE GRADES,  by Todd Farley, a much longer treatment of the horrors of grading standardized tests, and then I dare you to take them seriously.

Remember, this book has been out there since 2009. Continuing to ignore these warnings is folly

""I don't believe the results of standardized testing because most of the major players in the industry are for-profit enterprises that -- even if they do have the word EDUCATION in their names -- are pretty clearly in the business as much to make big bucks as to make good tests." 

I liked a lot of Farley's book because I have such a connection to the setting -- Iowa City! I passed the big standardized testing center several times a week, and never really thought much about what went on inside the complex. 

Well! What went on is scoring student responses for state testing...He shows us with humor and with venom how easy it is to manipulate data, reliability, even scores. He shows how human error and stupidity (not the tested students, but the scorers!!) can affect students' scores and teachers' evaluations. 

If you have any earthly thoughts that those essays and open-ended test questions, scored by rubrics, are on! Farley skewers the industry to the bone. His characterizations of his fellow scorers made me laugh, and want to cry.

 One woman couldn't read English, but she was scoring student responses. One man came to work hungover every day, but he scored student responses.

Farley's last line? "Do what you want, American, but at least you have been warned.""