Saturday March 8, 2014
You've been there.
Seated at a desk, staring intently at a reading comprehension test with dread thumping in your heart and beads of sweat dotting your lip.
Were you going to be reading about the midnight ride of Paul Revere? Vegetation in the Appalacian Mountains? Pottery-making in the 1600's? Or a different compilation of banal trivia you'd never really heard about before?
What was the test designed to measure? According to the proctor (and the endless sea of test designers) the test, where you read a passage of goop and answer some multiple-choice questions related to that goop, was going to determine how well you could read.
The problem is, that's just not true.
The reading theory was tested in 1988. A study was conducted on a group of seventh and eighth graders. They were subdivided into two groups: those who could read well, and those who couldn't. The kids were then divided again according to their level of baseball knowledge, and were given a reading passage about baseball. Guess what? The weak readers with high baseball knowledge outperformed the strong readers with low baseball knowledge.
Content is everything.
If the standardized tests were changed to reflect common content knowledge in the classrooms, we might get an accurate representation of what a student can actually encode. It doesn't make sense to base a child's reading comprehension on passages that are completely foreign. Sure, they need to read new things, learn about new ideas, understand new concepts, but a standardized test is not the place to introduce new stuff.
Ask yourself this: How well would you score on a reading comprehension test that focused on molecular biology? Or scenes of modernity in modern theater? Or locating nontrivial zeros of the Riemann zeta function in advanced math?
Exactly. So why should we test our kids the same way?
Speaking of Reading Comprehension:
Wednesday March 5, 2014
The College Board announced today that big changes are coming for the SAT in 2016. What's new? Here's a list:
- The SAT essay will be optional, like it is on the ACT.
- The new SAT will not penalize for wrong answers as it currently does.
- Obscure vocabulary words are now off the exam altogether and will be replaced with vocabulary words often used in college.
- The scoring system will go from its current 2400 back to 1600. Half of those points will come from math and the other half from a new section titled, "Evidence-Based Reading and Writing." This new section will include passages from science and social sciences.
- The exam will be available on both the computer and on paper.
- Calculators will only be allowed on part of the Math section.
So, what's with the changes? College Board president, David Coleman, wants to make the tests more accessible and more aligned with the curriculum of today's schools. He says that College Board has reworked the test so that more test prep will not necessarily mean a better score. In fact, College Board aims to level the playing field altogether by offering free online practice tests and instructional videos, so money isn't a condition for being well-prepared for the exam.
Worried that your current test prep is out of date? Don't be...yet. Students graduating this year and next will not be affected as the new SAT will not available until the spring of 2016.
Tuesday March 4, 2014
As a general rule, you know who you are. You find out in kindergarten that you're the fastest at the numbers worksheets. Or really, really good at hopscotch. You find out that you're still on the first page when others are finished with their books and deduce that you're a perfectionist. Or a slow reader. Or not reading at all. By your entrance into first grade, you kinda know who you are academically. You've compared yourself to others in your class and have figured out your strengths and weaknesses. Sure, people can change, but as far as academics go, you kind of tend to be the same person throughout your educational career unless something dramatic happens to push you forward or hold you back.
As it turns out, people are aware of their strengths and weaknesses on into adulthood. The GRE paints a really clear picture of people's ability to pinpoint their strengths. How? Check out the GRE scores by Intended Major, updated with the latest statistics.
The people headed into Mathematics, for instance, are rocking the Quantitative section on the GRE. The Philosophers are scoring high on Verbal Reasoning. The English majors are good at Analytical Writing. It just works out that the majors people are choosing tend to go along with their strengths, which is a good thing because if the potential Physics majors were scoring in the 130s in Quantitative Reasoning, you'd have to wonder.
Check out the statistics and see if you're as self-aware as the students who tested as recently as last year.
Saturday March 1, 2014
What's coming up this week in test dates? Here are the registration deadlines, test administrations, score release dates and more!
Week: March 2 - 8
Wednesday, March 5
Friday, March 7
- Regular registration ends for the April 12 ACT exam
Saturday, March 8