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Earlier this year, Rick Roach, currently in his fourth four-year term representing District 3 on the Board of Education in Orange County, Florida, took a version of the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test, known as the FCAT. The FCAT was instituted 1998 and has since been given annually to students in grade three to eleven to assess their knowledge of math, reading, science, and writing. And Roach, fourteen-year veteran of the educational system, bombed it.
Roach (who has a bachelor of science degree in education and masters degrees in education and educational psychology) on his experience with the test:
"I won't beat around the bush. The math section had 60 questions. I knew the answers to none of them, but managed to guess ten out of the 60 correctly. On the reading test, I got 62%. In our system, that's a 'D,' and would get me a mandatory assignment to a double block of reading instruction…
It might be argued that I've been out of school too long, that if I'd actually been in the 10th grade prior to taking the test, the material would have been fresh. But doesn't that miss the point? A test that can determine a student's future life chances should surely relate in some practical way to the requirements of life. I can't see how that could possibly be true of the test I took."
Standardized tests are bullshit? They're setting up a false standard of achievement that often has no bearing on the real world? I'm shocked.
There's plenty written about the "achievement gap" illustrated in standardized tests, but Roach is neither a disenfranchised minority nor a member of the age group supposedly challenged by the test, and he still whiffed it. So why are we still relying so heavily on standardized tests? It's kind of an open secret that education in the U.S. is in desperate need of a closer look, but stories like this really throw that need into sharp relief.