PSAT for 5-15-12: Let’s expose some more testing idiocies

It seems that there are crazy, stupid, disturbing testing stories cropping up every day or so these days, and I have another one in the hopper right now (stay tuned…).

School officials and policy makers give the test companies so much power over judging our students, teachers, and schools, yet these companies are allowed to operate in secret, even after so many bad questions are exposed.

Well, it’s all about profit, they say. We have to make money. We can’t let you see the questions because then we would have to pay people to write even more of them.

Not that I would encourage them to do more of what they already do so badly. But still… that is just not a good enough excuse for us to allow them to operate in secret, and to have no right to monitor what kinds of questions they are putting on the tests.

Lots of Chicago folksĀ  and advocates around the US will remember what CPS did to George Schmidt when he published a set of Chicago Public Schools end-of-course exams, the CASE exams, back in 1999. CPS sued George for $1.4 million. After long litigation, CPS “settled” for 0 dollars and never allowed George to teach in CPS again. Oh, and they also dropped the CASE exam. Because it was a lousy test.

We have ways of exposing the tests even without publication of all the questions (though that is the only sure way to hold the test publishers and testing officials accountable). The public needs to scrutinize these tests now, and share what we know. Anonymity can be maintained. No one else should lose their job over the test companies’ failures.

So for Public Schools Action Tuesday today, I am asking you to share your stories. Students, write to me about your weird or stupid test question experiences. Parents, ask your children if they ever felt that there was a strange or silly question on a test. Teachers, ask the question as part of a teacher-made test. You know what to do. You see this stuff all the time.

Share what you find with me. I will not disclose any information without your permission. You can also send them to Susan Ohanion who has a web site filled with stupid test questions and other atrocities.

Let’s keep exposing the truth behind those testing secrets.

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About the PURE Thoughts blogger
Julie Woestehoff is PURE's executive director. Julie's work has earned her a Ford Foundation award and recognition as one of the 100 Most Powerful Women in Chicago.