Saturday, September 15, 2007

Ed Dept. Data Zealots Prefer Quick Data To Worthwhile Data (Ignore Technology Solution)

From: Washington Post
"To Speed Grading, Tests Will Be Multiple Choice - Essay Questions Slowing Graders"
"Maryland plans to eliminate written-response questions from its high school exit exams to address long-standing complaints about how slowly test results are processed, state education officials said yesterday.
Beginning in May 2009, the Maryland school system will phase out "brief constructed responses" and "extended constructed responses" -- questions requiring a short or long written answer -- from its four tests covering algebra, English, biology and government, said Ronald A. Peiffer, the state's deputy superintendent for academic policy..."
Is it possible for education policy makers to loose their way any further? Despite the statement that "... the exams would remain as challenging and accurate as before and that classroom instruction would not change... They now have a level of sophistication in the selected-response items (multiple choice) they didn't have (previously). The kinds of things we could only test with constructed-response items (essays) before now can be done in a valid and accurate way with selected-response items in a way that's just as good or better." I find it hard to believe that anyone really buys that. I recommend these educators take a look at the kinds of learning their multiple choice questions purport to measure and then locate them on Bloom's Taxonomy. The kinds of meaning making, problem solving, and inferential learning that become ever more important as we move into and (hopefully) compete in the 21st Century global marketplace are not well measured by multiple choice!

But what's galling in the extreme is the conclusion by these backward thinking slaves to expedience that the only sort of assessment that can be handled by computers (computer testing is quick and cheap) is multiple choice. Computer grading of essays has been possible for quite a few years. Unfortunatley, like digital texts, this is another chicken or the egg situation. Until school districts commit to purchase computer graded assessments, their producers won't invest the large sums required to make what's already possible, as practical as those multiple choice exams which few informed educators hold as having value.

This is a startlingly clear example of how the culture of expedience that drives much of education takes us 3 steps backward as we struggle to move 1 step forward.

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