The interwebs have been aflutter about a piece from the Washington Post about a school board member who took a standardized test meant for 10th graders and flunked it miserably. The adult tester, an educator and counselor from Orange County, FL. named Rick Roach, calls for reforms in standardized testing, a racket he believes destroys kids, rather than helping them.
Roach took a test called the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test (FCAT). The test is given to Florida students in grades three through 11 each year and measures their aptitudes in math, reading, science and writing.
On the math portion of the test, Roach got 10 out of 60 questions correct. He said that he knew none of the answers on the test absolutely, but he was able to guess on the 10 questions he did answer correctly. On the four-part reading test, Roach scored a 62%--a D in the Florida system—that would have gotten him a double block of reading instruction if he were still in school.
Roach isn’t some sort of academic slouch, either. He holds a bachelor of science degree in education and two masters degree in education and educational psychology. In fact, he trains educators who teach students how to perform well on standardized tests.
Many would say that Roach was out of practice with the material required for a test like this one. Roach agrees that that may be the case, but also thinks that standardized tests should include practical knowledge that—as a test that determines futures for Florida schoolchildren—will be relevant to students’ careers.
Material aside, standardized test taking, regardless of the material on the test and one's familiarity with it, is something that must be practiced. If Roach wants to talk about real-world applications, he should recognize that his success and ability to make sense of complex data, as he says, relies on a number of factors that aren't allowed on standardized tests. Outside of time limits, real world jobs require ample time to sit and ponder, reference materials for consultation and co-workers to question.
The problem with all standardized tests isn’t necessarily the material—I’ve looked at the Florida test and learning to read in context is certainly universally relevant, it is the artificial conditions that students have to master before they can even begin to think about successfully maneuvering the material on the test. Even in your college life, when are you told to write a well-reasoned essay in 30-minutes or less? Never, but that's what millions of students have to do each year across the country.