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. 

Commentarium (5 Comments)

Dec 07 11 - 2:01pm

It's possible to get a Master's degree in education and still be dumber than a 10th grader.

Dec 07 11 - 3:14pm

It is a test of life skills.
Those that passed the test showed that they can accomplish tedious long term tasks. Which includes most the big tasks in life.
Just as GPA can show they can show up on time, not piss off authority figures and can do repetitive tasks day in and day out.

What more can a corporation hope to get from a wage slave.

Dec 07 11 - 3:41pm

I can fail a test too if I want to prove that tests are bullshit. Had he contrived to get only half of the questions right, his claims would be somewhat credible. But he did worse than just guessing? No way.

Dec 07 11 - 3:56pm

Your premise is based on all questions having two answers to choose from.

Most standardized tests I've taken are of the A, B, C, D variety, and if the answers were evenly divided across the four options, and you simply selected A every time you would score 25%.

But guessing isn't blindly selecting an answer as much as we think it is, even a minimal understanding of the subject matter will guide you in eliminating some of the answers as just not possible. So that 25% might climb to 30% even when "guessing" on a multiple choice test with 4 options.

Dec 07 11 - 5:20pm

Here we go. Tests are measurements of how much kids learn in school, not on how some old guy remembers from his math class from 20 years ago. They have a specific place and purpose.