Monday, March 8, 2010

Concerns Over Test Scores and Questions

I decided to post two concerns in this blog regarding tests. The first is a comment from two teachers regarding test taking skills and the other is example of the difference in test questions between the US and Australia. Both of these were found in the NEA Today magazine. I just want to get people to think carefully about "Race to the Top" and the direction we are leading our students in with continuous testing.

I found these quotes from teachers and thought it was an appropriate response that sums up what teachers are up against with "Race to the Top."

I have seen more students who can pass [the test] but cannot apply those skills to anything if it's not the test format. I have students who can do the test but cannot look up words in the dictionary and understand the different meanings.

"The Perils of Merit Pay" brings to light that I, a teacher with 27 years of experience, would be paid less [than other teachers] because mine are the students distracted from learning. Mine are the students who experience empty bellies, ear infections, homelessness, or gunshots echoing in the night. I would be the one paid less because I do not have a class full of native English speakers with college-educated parents. Neither my Master of Science degree nor 27 years of experience can, in one school year, make students learn English faster, catch up to the rest, or have experiences in the world like children from more affluent areas. Let the children of our President and his Administration “walk a mile on our side of the tracks.”

I also found some example questions between the US National Assessment of Education Progress and a biology exam in Australia. Which questions are preparing students for higher levels of thinking, college, and preparing them for real life experiences?

First, two questions from the eighth- and 12th-grade science test of the United States National Assessment of Educational Progress.

1. What two gases make up most of the Earth’s atmosphere?
1. Hydrogen and oxygen
2. Hydrogen and nitrogen
3. Oxygen and carbon dioxide
4. Oxygen and nitrogen

2. Is a hamburger an example of stored energy? Explain why or why not.

Next, from a biology exam in Victoria, Australia.

3. When scientists design drugs against infectious agents, the term “designed drug” is often used.
1. Explain what is meant by this term.

Scientists aim to develop a drug against a particular virus that infects humans. The virus has a protein coat and different parts of the coat play different roles in the infective cycle. Some sites assist in the attachment of the virus to a host cell; others are important in the release from a host cell.

The structure is represented below: (not included in the blog)

The virus reproduces by attaching itself to the surface of a host cell and injecting its DNA into the host cell. The viral DNA then uses the components of the host cell to re-produce its parts, and hundreds of new viruses bud off from the host cell. Ultimately the host cell dies.
2. Design a drug that will be effective against this virus. In your answer, outline the important aspects you would need to consider. Outline how your drug would prevent continuation of the cycle of reproduction of the virus particle. Use diagrams in your answer.

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