Thursday, April 21, 2011

Declining top marks in English exams puzzles educators

In October 2009, the Edmonton Journal posted the following article:

Declining top marks in English exams puzzles educators

In the article it states:

A shrinking proportion of Alberta students writing their Grade 12 English diploma exams are scoring top marks on the important test…

The key problem with the English diploma exams, according to Alberta Education officials, is the written portion, which requires students to write both a personal response and a critical/analytic response to texts…

…"It matters because how your best students do affects how your average students and how your poorer performing students do," said John Rymer, Alberta Education's executive director of Learner Assessment…

Still, McCabe [Edmonton public’s principal of student assessment] said, the results might say something larger about how teens communicate today
"It's very different from 10 years ago, but we haven't changed the format of the exams," she said. "I think it's time to examine, are there other ways for kids to show what they know other than a formal essay?"...

… "The new curriculum allows so many different ways to engage with text and so many different ways to express what you've found and learn," Rymer said. "So if there's a subtle shift in the classroom from written work to oral presentations, have I given up on other things?"

This article sums up, what I believe, are some of the issues with standardized testing. 

First, Rymer states that it is the best students who determine how the rest of the students perform.  If this is true, then in reality the test is ONLY informing the school how smart their “best” students are.  I wonder how parents would react if they realized that their child’s mark (on this test which makes up 50% of their mark) depends on how other students perform?

Second, I 100% agree with McCabe when she said it is time to realize there are other ways for students to illustrate their learning.  Recently, one of my math students, showed me how talented he is at Photoshop.  Below are two demonstrations of his talent and creativity.

He is one amazing student, and has demonstrated how creative he can be multiple times. 

I fear that on diplomas, the only way students can demonstrate creativity would be to doodle on the blank pages. I believe it is time that our standardized test “makers” realize that traditional testing is not the best way to assess knowledge, learning, or passions and need to start allowing students to be creative.

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