Tag Archives: testing

Testing, Testing, 1-2-3

20 Feb

Here is another example of how creating and administering more difficult and diligent testing does not increase performance nor create better test results in those who are tested.

The United States Air Force is responsible for training and overseeing the “missileers”  who man the underground bunkers across the country and who operate our strategic defenses in case of nuclear attack. The missileers are the military airmen who are responsible for reading the launch codes and standing at the ready of our ICBM force around the clock should they ever be needed to…you know…push the buttons.

For about a decade now the United States ICBM force has been performing at less than optimum proficiency… and that’s according to the Unites States Air force. Apparently many of the missileers have been showing signs of greater stress and boredom and have been performing at less than their usual proficiency, dexterity and alertness.

So, in an effort to get the soldiers to work harder and improve their skills, the The Air Force has toughened their already highly technical launch code tests and made promotion within the force more difficult unless the airmen score higher and learn and memorize increasingly more difficult launch code sequences etc. Today, 90% is considered a passing grade and a score of 100% is needed in order to be promoted to a higher rank within this strategic force…remember No Child Left Behind and President Bush’s benchmark of reaching 100% proficiency in the basic skills test for America’s children by 2014? (or else schools would be left behind)

So how is the air force doing with its upgraded testing program?

This past January, 92 of the 200 airmen who operate ICBMs at a Montana base were caught cheating or were involved in the cheating on their monthly proficiency tests, by using their cell phones to share answers. And supposedly this is nothing new but rather a practice that has been going on for years. It seems that the tougher the tests got, the more cheating became necessary.

But why didn’t the airmen just study and work harder to do better on the tests?

Because the missileers, mostly young officers who did not volunteer for the program, apparently know something that their older commanders still fail to acknowledge…The Cold War if over! Their job is obsolete! No matter how many missile codes they memorize and no matter how hard they study, no one is ever going to ask them to blow up the world with ICBMs anymore!

So spending countless hours underground, for days on end, being diligent and proficient in a skill that they are not going to use nor be asked to use, seems a bit silly to them… and studying to be promoted in this useless proficiency, seems even sillier. In fact, guess what happens to the airmen if they fail the test or get caught cheating at it?

They get decertified and can’t go down into the underground silos!… And those who pass?… They get to work double shifts!

So how do we fix this dilemma?…More difficult tests of course.

But wait, you say! Don’t we need these warriors with their arcane skills and outdated missile system to stay sharp… just in case we need to blow Russia or China or somewhere else off the map…you know… just in case?

Well, maybe you and I and the joint chiefs think so but it’s getting harder and harder to convince the younger generations of that…and besides we still have 14 Ohio-class submarines loaded with nuclear missiles and patrolling the oceans day and night, pretty much unopposed by any other navy…not to mention the 60 B-2 and B-52 bombers on constant alert around the globe, loaded with world ending nuclear weapons too of course…and unopposed by any other air force.

I wonder if those young, well trained, sailors, soldiers and airmen are getting bored too?

So what do you think? More testing? Or is it time for all of us to put down the old tests and start learning something new?

 

 

 

Galileo Gali…fianakis?

18 Feb

1.Does the Earth go around the Sun, or the Sun go around the Earth; and how long does this journey take?

2.Did Zack Galifianakis appear in the movie The Hangover; and did he appear in a sequel to that movie?

Odds are that if these questions were asked as part of a national survey, question #2 would receive more correct responses than question #1, because in a recent survey conducted by the National Science Foundation only 73% of those surveyed knew that the Earth revolves around the sun…and of those only 71% also knew that it takes 1 year for the Earth to complete said journey.

Wow! And why do we suppose that is?

Is it because only 74% of America’s science teachers in America’s public schools have ever mentioned or illustrated this amazing fact to America’s students?

Is it because only 74% of America’s parents have ever had “that talk” with their children about where the sun goes at night?

Is it because we are a Christian country and as such only 74 of us will ever believe in both god and science?

There must be an answer because the National Science Foundation has been conducting this survey with these exact same questions every two years over the past 20 years as part of a report that the National Science Board presents to the President and Congress and guess what?…According to their own report, “Generally speaking, the percentages have had little variation over the past twenty years.”

So 20 years ago one quarter of those surveyed did not know that the Earth revolves around the sun…and 20 years later one quarter of the U.S. population still doesn’t know this simple and basic fact…nor have any of the other questions received any significant increase in the number of correct responses.

What gives? 25% of Americans just can’t learn? Ever? Or is there something uniquely American when it comes to taking tests? I taught high school students for 33 years and every year I would meet children who could recite countless hip-hop songs from memory yet couldn’t remember 2 words on a vocabulary test. I had students who could surf their way through the internet on the newest computers with the greatest of ease but could not master the basics of Algebra I, even after 4 years in Freshman level Algebra! There were classes filled with young adults who could program and operate through their complicated cell phone menus and send and receive text messages using just their thumbs on a keypad smaller than Thumbelina’s purse and yet they could not write a coherent introductory paragraph for an essay question while using a pen and notebook, no matter how hard they tried…

And no matter how many standardized tests we gave them…and no matter how important we told them these tests were…and no matter how many times we revised the curriculum…and no matter how many times we developed new and improved learning strategies…and no matter how many times we replaced the Superintendent and Principal or revamped the teaching staff or asked the parents to please get involved or threatened the students with failure and the withholding of diplomas…or declared nationally that we would “Leave No Child Behind”…their test scores little improved.

I’m willing to bet that just about every American knows that the Earth goes around the sun. It’s just that a certain percentage of us just don’t see the importance of remembering that fact or in paying attention to someone who wants to ask us such a stupid question to see if we know it. Does the Earth or Sun care? They’re still going to be doing their thing whether I answer that question correctly or not, right? And don’t you have something better to do than ask me that?

We’re Americans after all…and we’re busy! We’re a nation of seriously professional consumers who have been trained literally from birth to buy and sell and entertain and be entertained and consume and waste and innovate and reinvent and get bored if all of that takes too long.

The question and answer test, especially in pencil. paper and booklet form, is just no longer relevant to the 21st century world and I believe that we 20th century minded educators are the ones who have to get out of the way and stop worrying about numbers on tests as the only way to discern and/or prove whether or not learning is taking place.

Here’s the National Science Foundation’s test. Take it and see how well you score. Then ask yourself how many times these answers were given to you over the course of your lifetime by your teachers and parents and how many times these topics were probably covered during your schooling or lifetime… And then ask yourself if how well you did or did not just score on this test has any bearing or relevance to your present life or living conditions, even if it once did. When you’re playing on your X-Box do you really need to still be tested on your Atari skills? If you score better than a 7 on the following test then…you’re not average…and maybe even not American?

Physical Science

  1. True or False: The center of the Earth is very hot.
  2. True or False: The continents on which we live have been moving their locations for millions of years and will continue to move in the future.
  3. Does the Earth go around the Sun, or the Sun go around the Earth; and how long does this journey take?
  4. True or False: All radioactivity is man-made.
  5. True or False: Electrons are smaller than atoms.
  6. True or False: Lasers work by focusing sound waves.
  7. True or False: The universe began with a huge explosion.

Biological Science

  1. True or False: It is the father’s gene that decides whether the baby is a boy or a girl.
  2. True or False: Antibiotics kill viruses as well as bacteria.
  3. True or False: Human beings, as we know them today, developed from earlier species of animals.

Why Kids Don’t Pass the Basic Skills Test

28 Jan

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Why is it that so many kids in our public schools can’t pass a basic skills test?

Many kids just don’t care. Many kids just don’t want to. Better yet, they don’t want to have to prove it…not after 12 years of 180 days of study and lecture and practice and test taking and homework and notes and did I say 12 years??? They just went to school for 12 years and now, after having passed all of their required classes and met all other graduation requirements asked of them by their local school district, they still have to prove to the state that they were there and that all of the teachers and all of the administrators and guidance counselors and everyone else who says that they are ready to move on aren’t lying.

Of course those of us who make up the 70% of Americans who were raised to be anal retentive are more than happy to sit through 9 hours of testing over 3 days to prove that we know what you already know we know because, well because we’re anal retentive and we always do what we’re told. We just spent 12 years doing this crap! Now may I have a test please? May I have another?

But there is a percentage of children out there who have developed personalities that just don’t see any reward in proving it over and over, again and again, and certainly not in a marathon exam of tedious questions and answers. So they don’t take the test seriously. They fall asleep. They pick any old answers and skip the long winded and open ended questions and skimp on the essays just to get it over with as fast as they can. It’s the Pledge of Allegiance all over again. What does all of that repetition get you? How much rote learning will make you a patriot?

Many students just don’t see the logic of 12 years of schooling vs. 9 hours of testing especially when it is the 9 hours of testing that is most important and that will get them the diploma, not the 12 years. If the tests are so important then why not let children take them whenever they are ready? My own children could have graduated high school when they were 12 if that were the case. Yet students are asked to plow on through school until they are 17 years old and then Wham! Test time! Why do they have to do this? Because we have a government bureaucracy that demands standardized testing. And why do they demand this? Could it be because they are bureaucrats and that’s what bureaucrats do?

Students find standardized tests boring. They find most things that require their attention for more than 10 seconds boring but especially testing and tests. Asking a student to sit quietly for three hours and concentrate is like asking them to sit quietly without listening to their iPods for three minutes. Impossible! And many students never even get to the questions. No child left behind? They leave themselves behind: utterly and completely bored out of their minds. Give them a story to read about Dick and Jane or some other equally mundane 1950s characters or topics and they are guaranteed to be asleep in 10 minutes…boring, boring, booooooring!

Our students live in the 21st century but our standardized tests shall forever linger, as the students would say, “back-in-the-day”. I’d like to give all of the members of Congress and all of the elected members of all of the state governments a 9 hour exam on the Constitution of the United States and Federal and State laws and Robert’s Rules of Order and what ethics and honesty and trust mean and I’d like to give them a Basic Skills test too, including grammar and math and science and health. Then I’d like to make the test results public and have every person who did not pass, step down from office and return all of the money they had earned while doing a job that they were not qualified for. We could call it, “No Candidate Left Behind”.

Let teachers and schools and local boards of education do their jobs and let students who complete 12 long hard years of schooling, graduate with a high school diploma. Do you have any idea how much money we’ll all save in taxes if we all just go back to doing that? Those bureaucrats, who would never consent (For quite obvious reasons) to taking the test that I have just proposed, know…and it’s a fortune.

But let’s “be real” and assume that we are going to have to continue to give our public school students these tedious and ridiculous tests. How do we get kids to pass their high school exit exams whether it is The Regents, The High School Proficiency Assessment or whatever you want to call it? How do we get them to prove that they have actually learned something and have mastered basic skills in Mathematics and English after spending 12 years in school?

Well now let’s think about this for a minute…there is one test that everyone takes and everyone passes. Can you name it? It’s the Driver’s Test! Both the road test and written exam are taken and passed by virtually all who take it, and before they leave high school!

How is it possible that teenagers who cannot put pen to paper to prove that they can read with comprehension or cipher with the comparative skill of Lassie, can pass a test that allows them a license to operate a 2 ton vehicle at break neck speeds across interstate lines? And the Driver’s test is not that easy either! Applicants must score 70% or better on a written test containing anywhere from 25-50 questions. And get this! They also have to take a practical test! They have to actually drive the car! With an examiner in the passenger’s seat! Who’s an officer of the law! And they pass! Almost Everyone! You, me, Forest Gump! Who doesn’t get their license to drive?? And are the streets filled with unskilled drivers and haphazard carnage? Well, yes, but you see where I’m going here. They pass the test. They prove to the state that they know the rules and understand the regulations and can put the key in the ignition and even define ignition for that matter! And they know what yield means! And they can calculate mileage and read road signs and Parallel Park! And they study for this test in school and at home and on their own time because it is of paramount importance to them that they pass!

Yet these same 17 year old geniuses can’t pass a Basic Skills Test in Reading and Math after 12 years of study! Drivers test: 87-100%. Basic skills: 60-80%. Prove to me that you can do the most dangerous thing on Earth; (operating an automobile in traffic) everyone passes! Prove to me you’re a little bit smarter than a chimpanzee? 40% fail! How is this possible???

In the meantime…

You want to drive a car?

Then graduate from high school.

You drop out? YOU WALK! Problem solved!

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