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Thread: Standardized Testing as a Diagnostic Tool

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    Chairman of the bored Maister's avatar
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    Standardized Testing as a Diagnostic Tool

    Seems like we're seeing more and more use of standardized testing. Particularly in schools. How do y'all feel about standardized tests (you know, fill in the multiple choice bubble with a number 2 pencil with the best answer porvided)- do they provide fairly accurate means to evaluate knowlege or skills?
    People will miss that it once meant something to be Southern or Midwestern. It doesn't mean much now, except for the climate. The question, “Where are you from?” doesn't lead to anything odd or interesting. They live somewhere near a Gap store, and what else do you need to know? - Garrison Keillor

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    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by Maister
    Seems like we're seeing more and more use of standardized testing. Particularly in schools. How do y'all feel about standardized tests (you know, fill in the multiple choice bubble with a number 2 pencil with the best answer porvided)- do they provide fairly accurate means to evaluate knowlege or skills?
    Not when the teacher gives the answer to make them look good

    Classes here are put on hold so the class can study for ISAT (Illinois standard aptidude test or something like that). Struggling students are given help during the test. So in this capacity, no, they do not fairly evaluate knowledge or skills.

  3. #3
    Unfrozen Caveman Planner mendelman's avatar
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    On average, maybe, but I know many people that are 'bad' test takers, but otherwise quite bright and knowledgable.

    I, myself, am a 'bad' standardized test taker....I hated the GRE.
    I'm sorry. Is my bias showing?

    The ends can justify the means.

  4. #4
    The ISTEP test in Indiana includes standardized sections and written responses. Little 'dunker did quite well :prouddademoticon: although I can tell you I had a fair amount of trepidation because his handwriting is horrificly bad.

    I suppose, as a method of testing, it's about the best we've got.
    Je suis Charlie

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    Cyburbian donk's avatar
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    I took the GMAT last year and scored exceptionally well on the verbal section(81 percentile), but blew the math section (40 percentile). Considering I did not know half of the grammar rules they were testing, but knew the cheats, and it has had only a minimal impact on my writing style I'd say that stanarddized tests, especially adaptive ones are not too useful. On teh math section, even though I knew the cheats and what to look for I did not test well because the information made no sense to me.
    Too lazy to beat myself up for being to lazy to beat myself up for being too lazy to... well you get the point....

  6. #6
    moderator in moderation Suburb Repairman's avatar
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    As a general rule, standardized testing does not work. However, we really don't have a better method to compare students, teachers, schools, etc.

    There have been some good changes recently in that arena though. The SAT & GRE now has a writing portion that can help those more creative folks that don't do well on traditional testing.

    I don't like to criticize the actual test too much because I really don't have a better answer. What I will criticize is the effect this has had on teachers that now focus on "teaching the test" rather than "exposing minds to knowledge". I am convinced that if teachers would return to the latter (or if their supervisors would let them), the U.S. standing in education worldwide would increase significantly. Give the kids knowledge; the test will take care of itself.

    "Oh, that is all well and good, but, voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country."

    - Herman Göring at the Nuremburg trials (thoughts on democracy)

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    Cyburbian otterpop's avatar
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    For the most part I think they are a good system.

    I am sure quite a lot of you do know the horror of taking a standardized test then realizing several to many answers later that you accidently skipped one row, so you answered question No. 29 in No.30's row and all the following responses are simlarly off. You are never fully sure that the erasures and corrections won't be misread by the machine.

    Let's face it, for the most part, these tests are easier because the answer is in the question, all that is required of you is enough knowledge of the subject matter to discern the right from the wrong answers or whether the question is true, partly true (thus false) or totally false.

    Whether it is a good system depends partly on if you are taking the test (then it is a good system) or you are the person giving the test (when it is not the best way to discern mastery of the information, but it is easier to grade.)
    "I am very good at reading women, but I get into trouble for using the Braille method."

    ~ Otterpop ~

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    Cyburbian Wannaplan?'s avatar
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    As long as teachers teach to the test, I think it's a good measure that gets good results and can effectively guide decisions.



































    NOT!

  9. #9
    Cyburbian Tide's avatar
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    Evaluating Knowledge = Yes
    Evaluating Skill = No (unless that skill is test taking)

    I don't like the excuse "I'm a bad test taker" because I feel it is only an excuse. The real problem is people panic, cramp up, and out-think themselves. Since we know that standardized testing is the most widely accepted test of knowledge around and probably will be forever we should teach our kids to take these kind of tests and learn to accept that fact ourselves.

    PS. 100th post!
    @GigCityPlanner

  10. #10
    Cyburbian
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    Standarized tests are the only way to go for massive test application, for things such as University/College admission. Sure it may be bad for a few and extremely good for a few too, but for the median it's quite good. And the most important thing is that you can train for these tests and by doing so, those who have problems with these kinds of tests can be more familiar with it and have a better result.

  11. #11
    Unfrozen Caveman Planner mendelman's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Tide
    Evaluating Knowledge = Yes
    Evaluating Skill = No (unless that skill is test taking)

    I don't like the excuse "I'm a bad test taker" because I feel it is only an excuse. The real problem is people panic, cramp up, and out-think themselves. Since we know that standardized testing is the most widely accepted test of knowledge around and probably will be forever we should teach our kids to take these kind of tests and learn to accept that fact ourselves.
    Sorry, I disagree. Acknowledging oneself as a "bad standardzed test taker" is a perfectly valid conclusion, considering it usually is the product of years of personal experience with standardized testing. I certainly do not believe that schools should be teaching students how to take a certain type of test. That is a a waste of time that could be used to actually teacher useful knowledge/skills.

    I do agree, hesitantly, that standardized testing is the best method we have for evaluating certain average 'knowledge/skill' levels that have been predetermined as acceptable/unacceptable by social scientists in a large reserach university and deemed the "standard" by some group of federal/state bureaucrats.

    I'm sorry. Is my bias showing?
    I'm sorry. Is my bias showing?

    The ends can justify the means.

  12. #12
    Cyburbian Mud Princess's avatar
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    I have to admit I am biased, because I attended a private school where writing and doing "hands-on" field work was emphasized. Still, I think we as a nation are going in the wrong direction by focusing on standardized testing as a way to "improve" our educational system. I just don't think it's a good way to evaluate students or to determine whether individual school districts are "performing." Honestly, if we had kids, I wouldn't want them to go to public school -- and we have two public school teachers in the family.

  13. #13
    Cyburbian Plus Zoning Goddess's avatar
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    I'm glad my son takes them and does extremely well, because his grades aren't reflecting his potential. As a result he was just placed in advanced classes at his new school.

    I always did very well on them, as long as I avoided any question that had anything whatsoever to do with algebra. No point in even trying those, thus lowering my test stress level.

    I do see, however, that learning test-taking skills (via practice tests, mainly) and having a good vocabulary help a lot, and if you don't have those, the tests would be difficult.

  14. #14
    Cyburbian Michele Zone's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Tide
    Evaluating Knowledge = Yes
    Evaluating Skill = No (unless that skill is test taking)
    Nah. At best, standardized tests determine how well one can spit back the standard answer that the test-takers want to hear. Bright kids sometimes do poorly on standardized tests because they haven't memorized the "canned" answer and/or can't bring themselves to "tell a lie" or for other reasons. One example: categorize a set of a pictures by the beginning letter of each word. If one of your pictures is a "whale", the test designer likely wants that grouped with the W words. If the child is a whale enthusiast and knows what species of whale it is (or even the scientific classification!), the child may get that answer marked wrong for grouping a Blue Whale with the B words.

    I could drone on about this some more, but, hey, I belong to homeschooling lists for droning on about this particular subject. The short version: Tests are tools and they are only as effective as the person administering them. Mindless tests where you fill in the bubble don't even prove you can actually READ the flippin' test. I know someone who swears they made pretty patterns of answers on their last SAT and it got them a very high score and a scholarship.

  15. #15
    Cyburbian natski's avatar
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    In Australia our very final exams- which give us marks to get into university or not, are very much standardised tests.

    I feel that in some ways they favour students- and i do believe in the bad test taker theory- i reckon that i am one of these people. Ask me a question face to face and i can answer it rather easily, but ask it in a test and it is just more difficult.
    "Have you ever wondered if there was more to life, other than being really, really, ridiculously good looking?" Zoolander

  16. #16
    Cyburbian Otis's avatar
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    I like 'em for me because I'm really good at them. But I don't think they are completely fair, at least not at levels like grade school or high school, where you are forced to take them. People think in different ways and are smart in different ways (visually, kinetically, probably even telepathically), and standardized tests don't relate to some of them well. Probably by the time you are ready to graduate from college you should have enough familiarity with the kind of reasoning that standardized tests reward that they tests become more fair to those who take them. Maybe that's true in part because the further one goes in school the more self-selected the test-taking population becomes. OTOH, maybe that's an artifact of the imperfect nature of the tests (they tend weed out people who aren't good at them).

  17. #17
    Chairman of the bored Maister's avatar
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    Standardized IQ tests

    How about intelligence testing? It's a form of standardized testing having historic controversy and where politics often come into play.

    Here are a couple of related articles from very opposite political orientations:

    http://www.biblebelievers.org.au/dysgenic.htm

    http://www.audiblox2000.com/dyslexia...yslexia014.htm

    Remember the controversy surrounding the "Bell Curve" about 10 years ago? The conclusions of the book were based on the results of standardized tests.
    People will miss that it once meant something to be Southern or Midwestern. It doesn't mean much now, except for the climate. The question, “Where are you from?” doesn't lead to anything odd or interesting. They live somewhere near a Gap store, and what else do you need to know? - Garrison Keillor

  18. #18
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by Michele Zone
    Bright kids sometimes do poorly on standardized tests because they haven't memorized the "canned" answer and/or can't bring themselves to "tell a lie" or for other reasons.
    I saw this and thought of your response
    http://www.barking-moonbat.com/index...blog/math_wiz/
    No question about it, that's "x"

  19. #19
    Cyburbian Michele Zone's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by savemattoon
    I saw this and thought of your response
    http://www.barking-moonbat.com/index...blog/math_wiz/
    No question about it, that's "x"
    Yup, they found it. And I know some extremely intelligent folks who would do exactly the same thing in response to instructions to "Find x".

  20. #20
    Cyburbian chukky's avatar
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    The QCST is the device that compares all students in Queensland; it's one part essay, two parts multi choice and a slab of short answer.

    Start eight o'clock on morning, finish sometime the next day.

    I wrote my essay on sprawl. Does that make me a geek

    Anyway, the QCST has a major failing. Because it is graded on a class and school level, the whole scoring system is a bit hit and miss. While the median student in the median school does ok, and the good students at good schools do better; poor students at good schools get taken along for the ride; and off the scale geniuses who happen to be in dodgy schools get dragged down; so that the geniuses end up with lower scores then the idiots at good schools.


    Your score is also pretty dependant on the ability of your school to pay for QCS training. We took "QCS" as a subject, with additional staff hire to do this and in the months preceding were taught how to sit the test, what was being examined etc.etc.

  21. #21
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by Michele Zone
    Yup, they found it. And I know some extremely intelligent folks who would do exactly the same thing in response to instructions to "Find x".
    Well if someone extremely intelligent can't notice a misworded question and answer what it's supposed to imply (calculate the value of X); then in IMHO they're not that bright... BTW the answer is 5... simple 6th grade geometry...

  22. #22
    Cyburbian Michele Zone's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by SkeLeton
    Well if someone extremely intelligent can't notice a misworded question and answer what it's supposed to imply (calculate the value of X); then in IMHO they're not that bright... BTW the answer is 5... simple 6th grade geometry...
    Einstein couldn't tie his shoes, comb his hair, or remember his own street address (he kept it written down on a card in his pocket). I believe Edison was labeled "retarded" by the school and his mom pulled him out of school and taught him at home.

  23. #23
    The idea of standardized testing is to control for school quality, not student aptitude. The headlines don't say 'Alabama students idiots', they say 'Alabama schools deficient'. The problem, as always, is state control of education.

    More and more I've become convinced that the institution of schools is obsolete. You can provide much better education for kids using a combination of interactive computer programs and a generalist tutor working with maybe a dozen kids at a time. We would save enormously on bureaucracy, real estate and transportation. It would have the quality of home schooling although with a much lower cost.

  24. #24

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    I think everyone has to agree that standard tests inevitably incorporate biases that favor some and penalize others, depending on learning styles, handedness (there are tests that lefties can't do well on), cultural background, etc., etc. That is bad, but at least in theory, it can be accounted for by the people who are evaluating the results relative to a particular individual.

    What I dislike more than the invidious and sometimes inaccurate comparison of individuals is the statement the tests make about our society. That we don't have the time or resources to tailor education to individuals, that maximizing individual potential is not really what we are about. I think jaws has a point - we may need a new model.

  25. #25
    Cyburbian geobandito's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Tide
    Evaluating Knowledge = Yes
    Evaluating Skill = No (unless that skill is test taking)
    As one of those people who was always a 98th-percentile type in school (well, until the GRE!), I totally agree. Unless you consider being able to guess an answer based on how the test is constructed a skill, standardized tests do very little to test your critical thinking skills. I think because I was always a good test taker (both standardized and regular old school tests) I never developed those kinds of skills as well as I should have. It was easy for me to get by quite well without actually trying very hard. And since no one ever raised the bar for me, I got very lazy. That continued right through undergrad since I was a science major. When I got to grad school, I started encountering so many people who could "think" better than I could (but who often did not do very well on standardized tests) and it makes me frustrated at "the system".

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