Standardized Testing

Standardized Testing

Amidst Testing Scandal Florida Education Commissioner Gerard Robinson Resigns

Florida’s education commissioner Gerard Robinson announced his resignation and will leave his post by August 31 of this year. This news comes amid a lot of controversy in Florida surrounding some issues with the state’s standardized test-based accountability system. Robinson has only been in office for a year after being recruited from Virginia where he served as education secretary.

Although the reason cited for Robinson’s resignation is that he missed his family that never relocated to Florida with him, many suspect that he was the fall guy for several scandals associated with the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test exams, or the FCAT. Some may be thinking that if Robinson is gone the suspicion around the testing scandal will quietly fade away with him. Read the rest of this entry »

Whistle-blowing Teachers Targeted in Atlanta Test Score Scandal

More information continues to surface in the ongoing investigation concerning teachers cheating to raise students test scores in the Atlanta School District. Teachers who report instances of cheating that they witness find that they become the target of investigations, are punished for making those claims and in some cases face being fired.

The school district is being investigated for widespread cheating on the 2009 CRCT test. Many teachers have come forward to report that other teachers were cheating by changing students’ answers after they had completed the test or giving students answers while they were completing the test. Teachers are under constant pressure for their students to pass the tests and many educators have been reporting on cheating for years. Unfortunately, those who do the cheating seem to be praised and those who speak out against it are the ones at risk. When a teacher reports that they have witnessed cheating, an investigation is usually launched against the reporting teacher. There is no confidentiality when a report is filed and word spreads quickly about who made the claim and all of the details involved.

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Is Good Teaching Quantifiable? Bill Gates Thinks So

Bill-Gates-in-ClassroomEvery aspect of a student’s academic production is assigned a number. Tests get a percentage, papers and essays get letter grades. These letter grades are in turn averaged and become GPAs. Standardized tests place students in percentiles. These numbers become the foremost measure of a student’s abilities.

But how do we quantify a teacher’s abilities? Is the performance of their students enough?

It’s been shown that quality of teaching makes one of the biggest impacts on student performance. That’s why the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is launching a three-year study to determine the components of effective teaching. “Do they work longer hours? Do they break the classroom down more?” Asks Microsoft founder Bill Gates. The study is called Measures of Effective Teaching, and will evaluate 3,000 teachers from across the nation. The project will cost half a billion dollars.

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Standardized Tests Finally to Receive Overhaul

new-standardized-testsIt appears that bubbles will be banished in the new system of standardized testing. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan announced yesterday that the new state standardized tests will be computer-based, to better evaluate students ability to synthesize information and conduct research projects. “The use of smarter technology in assessments,” Mr. Duncan explains, “makes it possible to assess students by asking them to design products of experiments, to manipulate parameters, run tests and record data.”

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How to Read Your SAT Scores

classroomBetween deciding what colleges to apply to and then filling out your college applications, getting into college is stressful. On top of selecting, applying and getting accepted into a college, there are the ever-dreaded standardized tests. Most schools base their acceptance of a student on their high school GPA, high school extracurricular activities and standardized test scores. Each college varies on which version of standardized test that they require for acceptance, whether it be the SAT (Scholastic Assessment Test) or the ACT (American College Test) but standardized tests are a must for the college-bound student.

The stress of these tests is huge, but reading the scores can be just as intimidating. Prior to taking your test of choice, (it doesn’t hurt to take both, if you are still undecided) you can arrange to have your scores sent directly to the colleges and universities of your choice, but you’ll want to know your scores, and what they mean, to see if all your hard work paid off.

For those taking the SAT, the following information can help you become comfortable with reading your SAT test scores so that you’re ready when you receive them. Read the rest of this entry »

Tips for LSAT Prep

law schoolThe LSAT, or Law School Admission Test, is a test that anyone wanting to go to law school must take for admittance. The LSAT is a standardized test that typically takes a half-day to complete and is only given four times per year. There are five sections of multiple-choice questions on the test, each taking 35 minutes to complete. The multiple-choice questions of the LSAT fall into one of three categories: reading comprehension, analytical reasoning and logical reasoning. Being able to successfully answer these types of questions helps measure your perceived level of success in law school. One of those sections is actually not scored, and that section is typically used to introduce possible new test questions.

There is also an essay, or writing sample, portion of the test that takes 35 minutes. Although the writing section of the test is not counted towards an overall score, it is sent to all of the schools that students are applying to for admission. Read the rest of this entry »

New System Holds Universities Responsible for Training Teachers

apple for teacherImagine this: Jenny Smith is a second-year teacher at a Happytown Elementary. Her students have been acing every standardized test they take. Smith is so proud of her students. But Smith isn’t the only one who is proud of the people who have learned from her; the college that Smith earned her degree from is also benefiting from the improved scores on her students’ tests.

On the opposite end of the spectrum: Jake Snow is another new teacher at Frownyville Middle School. His students’ test scores have been falling every year that he has been teaching. And now, the university where Snow graduated from is being scrutinized to see if they are adequately training their students.

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Texas Students’ Academics Benefit from Fitness

pe classA new study published this week by Dr. Kenneth Cooper, of the Cooper Institute of Dallas, suggests that students in Texas are greatly benefiting by being physically active. Their testing scores are higher and their behavior is better. Cooper performed physical fitness assessments with more than 2.4 million students in Texas’ public schools. The children who were the most fit and engaged in the most exercise were the ones who saw a greater capacity to learn. On standardized tests required of public school students in Texas, the “TAKS” test or Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills, results were higher in these active children. Schools also reported better attendance.

While physical education programs continually fall to the bottom of budget priorities for school districts, Sen. Jane Nelson is sponsoring legislation that will raise the P.E. credits required by Texas’ middle school children. The state currently requires four semesters of physical education classes, she is proposing six.

“There is more work to do to combat obesity and get children in shape,” said Nelson, “We need to move forward on this issue as if lives depend on it – because they do.”


The Dreaded Number Game

Unfortunately, one of the biggest parts of a college’s application and acceptance process is something known to many of my friends as “The Number Game,” and I’m sure that many of you can take a guess that this refers to the ever-so-exciting standardized tests. For some, standardized test refers to only the ACT or the SAT, but for other it’s also means SAT IIs, AP tests, and IB tests.

Quite a few students wait until the beginning of their senior year to take there ACTs/SATs while IB tests are junior and senior year and the SAT IIs and AP tests can take place any year you elect to take them. For me, I decided to get a head start on my ACTs/SATs.

I decided to take a practice round of each test at the beginning of my second semester of junior year (I believe in February). While I wasn’t entirely satisfied with my SAT score of 1760 (out of 2400) I was very pleased with my 30 (out of 36) on my ACT! After giving it some thought, I decided to retake both. June 7th was the test day for the SAT and only a week later, on the 14th, I had to take my ACT. I studied for both, mostly the SAT, hoping that my studying would pay off. After the grueling 4 week wait to receive my scores I was pleased to see my SAT score go up to an 1850, but even more excited about the fact I got a 31 on my ACT!

TSAT Study Bookhis improvement in both my scores show that proper preparation for standardized tests does pay off. So for those of you that are worried or stressing over standardized testing, don’t! Just be sure, that if you are nervous, to prepare yourself properly. The best way to study for these types of tests is to familiarize yourself with the format of the tests by using practice tests. You can find all types of study aids at any book store and most are in the $20-$30 range (depending on how much study material is in the aid).

A great way to prepare for the SAT is to take the PSAT if your school offers it. The PSAT is the Pre-SAT, a much shorter version that familiarizes you with the format of the SAT and also gives an accurate score as to what you will receive on your SAT. Freshmen, Sophomores, and Juniors are eligible for taking this test. I was forced to take it, but taking it definately helped me in the long run!

SAT IIs are much similar to AP tests. Both test only in a certain subject area and can help with placement during your freshman year of college. While AP is more likely to earn you credits, the SAT IIs are more so used for placement. I took the Literature SAT II and scored 610 (out of 800) and Mathematics level 2, scoring 690 (out of 800).

There are also many study aids available for these tests. But know that while the SAT tests your reasoning ability, the SAT IIs are more like the ACT in the sense that they test your knowledge of a certain subject. SAT IIs are not required, but most colleges, but some do require you to take them. Or if you are looking at a school that “recommends” them, that’s just saying that you should take them, only in a much nicer way!

So don’t let the numbers game scare you! With proper preparation, you can beat any test that comes your way!


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