\doc\web\99\01\ohtest.txt DESIGN OF MATH TEST ISN'T ADDING UP by
Betty Raskoff Kazmin (Forum/Opinion piece) The Columbus Dispatch, Jan
23,'99 How reasonable is it for Ohio legislators to subject
schoolchildren to the law of unintended consequences?
Senate Bill 55 decrees that fourth graders must pass a state reading test
to advance to fifth grade, beginning in 2001. More than half of Ohio's
fourth graders failed the reading test given last spring.
Arthur's concern seems to be in regard to a national problem. From a
friend in Ohio:
Wayne.
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DESIGN OF MATH TEST ISN'T ADDING UP
by Betty Raskoff Kazmin
(Forum/Opinion piece) The Columbus Dispatch, Jan 23,'99
How reasonable is it for Ohio legislators to subject schoolchildren to the
law of unintended consequences?
Senate Bill 55 decrees that fourth graders must pass a state reading test
to advance to fifth grade, beginning in 2001. More than half of Ohio's
fourth graders failed the reading test given last spring.
Many average ability, hard working high school students are not college
bound but do reach tenth grade on schedule. Under this same Senate Bill
55, beginning in 2003, all Ohio students must take and pass exit exams in
reading, writing, math, science and citizenship. Failure to pass ALL parts
by their senior year will prevent their receiving a high school diploma.
As a veteran math teacher, I am deeply concerned by the math portion of
the new exit exam. It was created by a committee of 25 Ohio math educators
who met six times last year to draft a series of concepts, like students
shall understand the properties of geometric figures, shall use
proportions, shall apply probability. Each concept was accompanied by a
sample problem, such as "find the increase in the length of the label for
a soup can if the diameter of the can is increased by one inch." Or "find
the height of an amusement park ride when given the angle of elevation
from a specified location."
In the fall, 150,000 sample exit exams were mailed to various civic,
business, and educational groups statewide, with requests for written
responses. Only 9000 such responses were returned and tabulated--a mere
six percent. The math exam committee then held a final meeting in Columbus
on December 2 to consider the public response. I was permitted to attend
as an observer only, unable to speak or see key documents. I did see the
enormous collection of written public comments on the math exam; they were
overwhelmingly negative, and included:
"I am horrified by what this committee has deemed critical to survival and
productivity. I doubt the members of the State Board of Education even
comprehend what these concepts are." And "Not all students are capable of
grasping the concepts the state has decided the masses should grasp. There
are too many variables not being considered and too many hard working
students are being set up for failure." And "Those who legislate it should
have to pass it.
"Those who legislated mandatory exit exams for Ohio students want
educational accountability. But children are not widgits, schools are not
factories, teachers are not magicians. I wonder how many Ohio legislators
understand the current controversy raging over what constitutes proper
math curriculum or that the approach embodied in Ohio's Model is now being
disavowed nationwide and that students preparing for college take
different coursework from those who are not.
Do legislators know the difference between criterion referenced tests and
norm
referenced tests? Or how diverse the backgrounds and abilities can be
within a school district's fourth graders or high school students? Or how
many bright, capable students never do well on standardized tests? Is it
fair that a test required for high school graduation be based on
coursework required for college? And on highly controversial math
curriculum? I submit it is unfair.
The math exam committee considered the public concerns, then chose to
delete all the actual problems from the sample exam. Thus the State Board
of Education received only 16 bare concepts for approval, without any
worrisome problems. Eventually those concepts will go to professional test
developers, who will restore math problems in all their grand complexity.
This will be done far from the light of public scrutiny. Even legislators
and board members will not see what they have created.
Here are the unintended consequences I predict Ohioans will see: At the
elementary school level, extreme frustration among students, parents,
teachers and administrators together with a curriculum focused solely on
passing the reading test. Those children who would pass easily will be
ignored as all energy focuses on unready-readers. At the high school
level, most bright students taking rigorous college- preparatory courses
will pass the exam and graduate. Most of the terrific young people
choosing different career paths and coursework will fail to receive high
school diplomas and be set adrift.
Because there will be a disproportionate impact on certain population
groups,
and because similarly situated students in neighboring states would
receive diplomas, I predict massive lawsuits and eventual reversal of
course.
But how many young Ohioans will be irreparably harmed, and how many
millions of dollars and precious resources wasted, and to what extent will
our educational system be damaged, before these secretive exams are
brought forth into the sunlight?
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