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Standardized Tests

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Irviding
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#1

Posted 12 November 2011 - 03:56 AM

What do you guys think of them? Especially things like the SAT/ACT. Do you think they are the right things to use to measure students' ability?

.Olbricht.
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#2

Posted 12 November 2011 - 04:11 AM

I think it's enough to give a basic idea of a student's capability. But they'll always be a tad inaccurate in my opinion, considering the factors that could affect the student's performance like his state of mind, how well he slept the night before, etc;

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#3

Posted 12 November 2011 - 05:18 AM

QUOTE
Do you think they are the right things to use to measure students' ability?


Yep. They work pretty well in Australia, in the sense that they act as a really great incentive for high-school students to work well, but that may be because entrance to most universities and courses in Australia are purely based on academic merit, without any consideration to "extra-curricular" activities. Even Bond University (the largest private university in Australia) accepts entrance based on academic performance in conjunction with an essay of application. When you know that the course you want to get into requires you to beat 98% of the other Year 12 students in Victoria/New South Wales/Queensland (like it is for undergraduate law, for example), you're going to work hard. If universities (or, at least, public universities) in the US realigned their acceptances based more on SAT scores rather than on sh*t like interviews, then I think the quality of students entering undergraduate courses in the US would increase (not that they're currently weak), but most importantly it would also strengthen high-school education by encouraging students to work towards a good SAT score. Of course, there'd have to be a centralised body which enforces a relatively stringent nation-wide standard for the standardised test, to the point where you avoid problems associated with NCLB, with schools teaching "to the test" which are made inherently easy by their respective state bodies.

There's nothing inherently wrong with it since it's the only objective way of truly measuring a student's performance in comparison to how the rest of the state/country performs, and in a suitable system, it works great in making high school students competitive. By the way, are the normal distributions which determine an SAT/ACT mark US-wide or state-wide?

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#4

Posted 12 November 2011 - 11:05 AM

There's been quite a lot of noise made by certain circles in the UK about stopping segregating children based on their educational ability and intelligence. Personally, I think it's all bollocks. At the end of the day, they're going to spend the rest of their life getting pigeon-holed one way or another by just about any organisation they work for. Might as well start when they're young so they can get used to it. Another thing that infuriates me is the seemingly ever-accelerating war on the "grammar school"- that is, for those of you not familiar with the UK educational system, secondary schools through which the possibility for entry is determined by sitting an examination. The drive for "educational equality" has left many of these schools financially out of pocket (due to a formula that penalises selectiveness), yet they have (and still) constantly achieve the best results-to-cost ratio of any schools in the public sector.

Personally, I think we should be more selective, not less.

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#5

Posted 12 November 2011 - 12:21 PM

Well...

Grading someones knowledge in general is an interesting concept.
And more interestingly, it has the same error concepts as a analog-to-digital converter.

I view them as a necessity. You NEED some form of objective segregation in a capitalist society. Firstly, education isnt cheap, so, weeding out the weaker ones allowes it to be more efficient. Secondly, it ensures a certain degree of qualification for the student to carry on studying or working. And finally, it gives students the incentive to study.

I dont, however, agree with how the grading system is sometimes handled. For example, there are systems in which you can pass with 50% (and in some cases even 20%). Besides the obvious fact that knowing only 50% of the subject matter is largely insufficient, theres also the matter of not actually being able to tell what that missing 50% consists of. Being able to do so would require direct intervention by the teacher, which itself is rather rare, especially since the student is automatically considered "qualified enough" by those standards. So, in essence you could have a situation (and Im simplifying my example to the extreme here) where a student knows how to add but not how to subtract. That means theres something fundamentally absent and thus the system has essentially failed the student, with no chance of rectifying it.

I think we should embrace the opportunities technology provides us. If correctly implented, it would enable us much better overview of how a student has progressed and what his/her shortcomings are. That of course doesnt mean that standardized tests would become obsolete, quite the contrary. In fact, I think they could become much more accurate that way.

Irviding
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#6

Posted 12 November 2011 - 06:03 PM

One thing I find that they really help for is dealing with grade inflation, too. In the US since the 80s or so grade inflation at the HS level has progressively increased... colleges looking at students' GPA cannot accurately decide if he is better than a student with another GPA. They have to use a system that is the same across the country to have an objective view. though I do disagree with the extra benefits for blacks and whatever else.

sivispacem
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#7

Posted 12 November 2011 - 06:32 PM

QUOTE (Irviding @ Saturday, Nov 12 2011, 19:03)
One thing I find that they really help for is dealing with grade inflation, too. In the US since the 80s or so grade inflation at the HS level has progressively increased... colleges looking at students' GPA cannot accurately decide if he is better than a student with another GPA. They have to use a system that is the same across the country to have an objective view. though I do disagree with the extra benefits for blacks and whatever else.

As an aside, one thing that standardised tests can never demonstrate properly is lateral thinking. Then again, I don't think that's something that you can learn, you can either do it or you cant. It's also hugely important in any working role that requires any kind of analysis.

3niX
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#8

Posted 12 November 2011 - 07:44 PM

Well...

QUOTE
As an aside, one thing that standardised tests can never demonstrate properly is lateral thinking. Then again, I don't think that's something that you can learn, you can either do it or you cant. It's also hugely important in any working role that requires any kind of analysis.

Thats certainly true. However, you can sort of gauge such things through some playful teaching and interesting word problems (which quite a lot of kids actually love doing). I think it wouldnt be that bad of an idea to add optional assignments which gauge such capabilities to certain tests (not necessarily standardized). Afterall, the whole goal of tests is to get a clue of the persons current capabilities/knowledge and then move on from there.

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#9

Posted 13 November 2011 - 07:52 AM

The education system as a whole just depresses the hell out of me. It took me 11 years to finally realize I was somewhere between a gerbil on a wheel and a prisoner serving out his sentence. Several years later I can't shake that feeling. What was the point of it?

I guess Standardized Tests should be fair at determining if the material you want them to know is known, but at the same time it limits what the education system is going to approach. If you only care that people score high in Science and Math, then school will weight their programs towards Science and Math regardless of the implications. Also the combined influences of rote-education and teaching-for-the-test may limit students overall capability but still show good, possibly great test scores. In the States there is also a concern that national standardized testing diminishes a State's ability to groom students to address local problems.

Finally, as I plummet towards unconsciousness I add this to assist an education discussion:



Rown rampage_ani.gif

Melchior
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#10

Posted 29 December 2012 - 11:36 AM Edited by Melchior, 29 December 2012 - 01:56 PM.

QUOTE (sivispacem @ Saturday, Nov 12 2011, 21:05)
Another thing that infuriates me is the seemingly ever-accelerating war on the "grammar school"

Indeed, a policy that insulates the more motivated and/or intelligent students and puts them in an environment that accommodates their approach is generally a positive thing. It would be quite unfortunate if academically successful students who have a competitive mindset were put in with other students who are given (and almost always want) a more relaxed experience.

That said, granting acceptance to these schools based on marks and ranks does succeed in making sure only the less relaxed and more adept students attend, but it also attaches tangible benefit to high marks, thus incentivising parents to put pressure on their kids to succeed (particularly in the case of immigrants) and this takes an immeasurable toll on mental health. But it's simply an immature approach to simply ditch grammar schools altogether (though I do think they shouldn't get any more resources than other schools, the students' experience shouldn't be any richer, it should only facilitate their approach to education).

What we need is actual reform, not a few easy, broad policy changes like getting rid of grammar schools - the kind of thing that is always proposed by the left, like the problems with education can be fixed by pressing a few buttons, so to speak. The only way forward is to demolish the current system and build a better one in its place. Eventually we should eliminate grammar schools and all forms institutionalised differentiation (including standardised tests) in favour of a system that accommodates all approaches to education - as if a system that penalises kids who don't grasp the curriculum by ranking them and giving them low marks is going to someone how encourage them to understand it better. A good start would be smaller classes with more teachers.

Ideally, we need to give the kids the power to approach education in a way that suits the many variables that affect academic success or lack thereof (ability, upbringing, levels of motivation, socio-economic background, goals, general attitude) without any concept of penalisation or reward. Simply getting rid of standardised tests wouldn't achieve this, we need a new paradigm altogether. A completely new way of presenting the curriculum, teaching it to them and having them demonstrate their understanding of it. What we need to do, and I mean right now, is set up some kind of institute full of experts, tell them this is their goal, and put them to work.

EDIT: Also on the subject of grammar schools, they have to maintain a certain rank or they lose their selective status, and in order to maintain this the administrators (working at a selective school looks good on a resume) institute a policy of offering only the most rudimentary subjects in the final year. My friend left her school and came to mine to finish for this very reason - she simply couldn't chose engaging subjects or ones that we were relevant to her future career, so she had to switch to a different school, leaving behind a selective environment that I thought benefited and accommodated her greatly. So make of that what you will.

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#11

Posted 29 December 2012 - 02:27 PM

Standardized tests are idiotic. The entire educational system is idiotic. It creates idiots to work within the idiotic system, run the idiotic country and teach other kids how to be idiots. It's killing creativity and innovation.
Your ability to sit down and memorize piles of crap because you've been promised a bright future in some corporation is not something we should strive for as species. Instead of how to think we've been thought what to think.
We tend to admire and idolize free thinkers and innovators, yet we teach kids to do and expect the exact opposite. It's pathetic. The system is supposedly rewarding hard working students. But how hard working are they? All they do is sit down and memorize a bunch of useless data. Is that what hard working is? The ability to do what is expected of you? And for what? What is their reward? A job at some corporation? A government job? A chance to sit in an office, wear a suit and look forward to your next paycheck. And why? So they could survive long enough to see another paycheck, and another and another...And maybe if the economy is good and their boss isn't an asshole they'll get a promotion. Maybe they'll have enough money to go on a vacation. To see another country for a few days. And the ultimate reward is the f*ckin' pension. Is that what we should be teaching people to expect from their lives? Even worse, to want from their lives?
If you think the current system is OK and that we should enforce it, then you're just another successful product of the shortsighted idiotic system, and therefore you too are an idiot.

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#12

Posted 29 December 2012 - 04:09 PM

My issue with standardized tests is that most of them, the majority of the test (if not the whole thing) is multiple choice. Now in terms of grading, I can see why multiple choice is popular, because all you have to do is feed the bubble sheet into a machine and within a second, the paper is graded. If you have long response, then you have to pay people to grade it and if it's like most standardized tests, two people will grade a question and if they can't agree on a mark, then a third person has to look at it - in other words, it turns into a big mess fast.

Now, for certain subjects, I can see the appeal of multiple choice. You know, if you have a history exam with a question like:

Question. Which war was started by the assassination of Arch-Duke Franz Ferdinand?
A. World War I
B. World War II
C. Cold War
D. Tech War
E. Korean War

Well, it's pretty clear-cut. There's no real work involved in getting that answer. It's just something you should know if you took the history course covering World War I.

However, if you have something like the following:

Question. The following wave function Ψ = A*exp(-|x|/λ) is for some wave in a quantum system. Determine the value of A such that Ψ is normalized.

Well, this question involves doing some work (integration) to get the answer; it's not like, "yup, the answer is 1/sqrt(λ)," unless you can do math like that in your head really fast.


My point? For a question like the latter, multiple choice strips you of any marks for the work you would have to show. You basically either get the answer right or wrong - there's no part marks, which I really don't like, especially in the sciences and mathematics. The whole point of asking these questions is to see if the student understands the procedure and the overall concepts. If someone gets a multiple choice question wrong, the instructor can't tell if the student got it wrong by a simple algebra mistake (which we're all guilty of from time-to-time) or if there's a fundamental misunderstanding of the material.

So for that, multiple choice bothers me, because a student can have the right procedure and everything, but at the very end, they might make a small error in the algebra and boom, zero marks, whereas in a written exam, if it was at the end, you'd probably get 9/10. So with multiple choice, you get a 0 on that question; with long response, you might get a 90 (and hell, some instructors might give you a 10/10 if the mistake was right at the very end of the question - it's all up to preference).

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#13

Posted 29 December 2012 - 04:22 PM Edited by Morpheus72, 29 December 2012 - 04:25 PM.

QUOTE (.Olbricht. @ Saturday, Nov 12 2011, 04:11)
I think it's enough to give a basic idea of a student's capability. But they'll always be a tad inaccurate in my opinion, considering the factors that could affect the student's performance like his state of mind, how well he slept the night before, etc;

I agree. If you are intelligent there is no excuse for scoring badly on these tests, you should be able to get an above-average grade even if you're lazy and undisciplined. Needless to say, a child of average intelligence could get a high grade if he applied himself, which will indicate he has self-discipline and drive (something more beneficial than intelligence in the adult world).

I'm all for them.

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#14

Posted 30 December 2012 - 07:15 AM Edited by finn4life, 30 December 2012 - 07:23 AM.

QUOTE (sivispacem @ Sunday, Nov 13 2011, 05:32)
QUOTE (Irviding @ Saturday, Nov 12 2011, 19:03)
One thing I find that they really help for is dealing with grade inflation, too. In the US since the 80s or so grade inflation at the HS level has progressively increased... colleges looking at students' GPA cannot accurately decide if he is better than a student with another GPA. They have to use a system that is the same across the country to have an objective view. though I do disagree with the extra benefits for blacks and whatever else.

As an aside, one thing that standardised tests can never demonstrate properly is lateral thinking. Then again, I don't think that's something that you can learn, you can either do it or you cant. It's also hugely important in any working role that requires any kind of analysis.

Well I think in Australia they teach lateral thinking quite well to people capable of it, testing it is difficult, but I think English is definitely the best subject which tests that, hence why it is mandatory for senior high school students.

I remember talking to a nuclear physicist in Sydney who makes radio isotopes for medicinal use, he thinks Australians are some of the best lateral thinkers, he's worked in several nuclear facilities around the world and claims that Australian educated nuclear folk are the most creative and come up with the best inventions, notably he said how they were selling those neutron reflector things around the world (Big mirrored tunnels that beam neutrons or something, i forget the exact details now, but he said it's something we do in the education system.

I'll be damned if I know what.

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#15

Posted 30 December 2012 - 05:52 PM

Part of the problem with these tests is they remove the incentive to teach students lateral thinking. Teachers in the US at least are ordered to teach to the test - not waste time with petty nonsense (lateral thinking).

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#16

Posted 02 January 2013 - 05:49 AM

QUOTE (GTAvanja @ Sunday, Dec 30 2012, 01:27)
Standardized tests are idiotic. The entire educational system is idiotic. It creates idiots to work within the idiotic system, run the idiotic country and teach other kids how to be idiots. It's killing creativity and innovation.
Your ability to sit down and memorize piles of crap because you've been promised a bright future in some corporation is not something we should strive for as species. Instead of how to think we've been thought what to think.
We tend to admire and idolize free thinkers and innovators, yet we teach kids to do and expect the exact opposite. It's pathetic. The system is supposedly rewarding hard working students. But how hard working are they? All they do is sit down and memorize a bunch of useless data. Is that what hard working is? The ability to do what is expected of you? And for what? What is their reward? A job at some corporation? A government job? A chance to sit in an office, wear a suit and look forward to your next paycheck. And why? So they could survive long enough to see another paycheck, and another and another...And maybe if the economy is good and their boss isn't an asshole they'll get a promotion. Maybe they'll have enough money to go on a vacation. To see another country for a few days. And the ultimate reward is the f*ckin' pension. Is that what we should be teaching people to expect from their lives? Even worse, to want from their lives?
If you think the current system is OK and that we should enforce it, then you're just another successful product of the shortsighted idiotic system, and therefore you too are an idiot.

I disagree, I think the veracity of your post is short-sighted. The problems you address are not borne out of standardised testing specifically, but arise out of the culture of "teaching to the test" in general. If a standardised test is poorly written, of course the perpetual effects of such a test will be negative, forcing students to rote learn for a few pages of facts and figures, the results of which are used to compare students against students. I can't use other nations' standardised tests as a yard-stick, but the testing I went through at the end of high school in Victoria (which was standardised; the scores were used to determine which uni course you could enter) was actually quite dynamic and, whodathunkit, actually invoked some lateral thinking on my behalf. This wasn't necessarily borne out of the curriculum provided to schools, though I thought it was aptly designed, but it was also induced by teachers who always emphasised that we should think critically and laterally about what we were learning, instead of merely memorising it (though, then again, I went to an "elitist" private school, so I can't argue how the students I competed against at public schools were taught).

The curriculum itself, though, did also place some emphasis on lateral and critical thinking, hence why the curricula for subjects like Maths (whether advanced or basic) and the scientific disciplines (such as Chemistry, which I took in high school) are constructed, as I mentioned earlier, to test one's critical understanding of the concepts being taught, instead of merely testing one's basic knowledge of the content, which is easily rote-learnable.

Needless to say, there were some facts which had to be rote-learned, but rote-learning for these tests, flat-out, could not get you a good mark. Especially in humanities subjects, such as Philosophy, Sociology, Political Science etc. whose exams were based entirely on rather lengthy essays which tested a student's ability to critically answer/discuss a question from multiple angles; something, again, which can't be achieved by rote-learning. Thus, I don't think standardised testing is inherently bad; without sounding clich, it's about the quality of the tests themselves, and most importantly, the quality and intuitiveness of the educators. I mean, standardised testing is merely providing the same test to every single student within a discipline, and then ranking the students based off their results; it's a bit silly to say that that, alone, is a cause for concern within modern education.

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#17

Posted 02 January 2013 - 06:20 AM

QUOTE (Stefche @ Wednesday, Jan 2 2013, 15:49)
Especially in humanities subjects, such as Philosophy, Sociology, Political Science etc. whose exams were based entirely on rather lengthy essays which tested a student's ability to critically answer/discuss a question from multiple angles; something, again, which can't be achieved by rote-learning.

And that's why a lot of schools do not offer these subjects at all. Most any schools that want to increase their "ranking" will cut these subjects completely, at least for the last two years. I remember we did legal studies and we got to choose as a class what the subject matter would be, the teacher informed us that a certain topic would be "easiest to remember" (basically, the others were more dynamic) and basically the whole class apart from me went with the easily taught topic.

Upon questioning my fellow students about it, I got the idea that they all saw learning as a secondary goal - if they cared at all; the primary goal was to simply grit your teeth and meet the system's requirements and get into university. Even topics like English where thinking and personal interpretations could not be avoided were similar fare - they'd teach you an interpretation of the text, you memorise and reproduce it. Perhaps it was different for you, going to a prep school, they make themselves attractive to students and parents because of their facilities and alumni and by exploiting the Australian bias toward private education, where as public schools have nothing to rely on but academic results, and have to do whatever they can to increase them.

I don't know how anyone can defend standardised testing- or any kind of "testing" for that matter- unless they truly believe that the main function of education is to systematically rank and subsequently differentiate discriminate against students. The competitive aspect of the system will always penalise anyone who doesn't grasp the curriculum - now what kind of system is that? How can a system that totally ignores the numerous factors that make students different; approach, attitude, background to name a few, ever be considered practical, let alone ethical? Students approach the process differently, and start out with differing levels of advantage, and we need a system that caters for that.

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#18

Posted 02 January 2013 - 12:25 PM Edited by GTAvanja, 02 January 2013 - 01:12 PM.

@Stefche: you missed the point. I didn't say that standardized testing is the problem. It is a symptom. You can't just fix standardized testing without fixing the real problem. The real problem isn't singular either. It's a whole system of intertwined bullsh*t. Basically, the sh*t didn't hit the fan. Semtex hit the fan and now the whole fan and it's mechanism need to be replaced with a new, better one. You can't just wipe it clean.




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