Dumbing Down

I work in the educational field. Well, it’s pseudo-educational. We teach people how to do something, but we don’t teach them their ABCs or algebra. We don’t prepare people to perform surgery on other people or even on cars or computers. It doesn’t take much smarts to do what we teach. It also doesn’t take a smart person to teach people to do what we teach. This is why we have a motley crew of persons who are just a little left of center, and many of my employees are totally weird.

The state regulates our business, and they recently decided to change the test questions for the final exam. The other test questions, in my mind, were perfectly reasonable. In order to pass, you had to get 80%. That’s not an unreachable expectation. My daughter got a 90% on her test, and she has ADD and dyslexia. My son fared only a bit better, with a 93%. Most people can pass that test.

However, now they decided to come up with a plan to “protect the integrity of the test.” This is the rhetoric, but I don’t believe it for an instant, and a recent perusal of the new questions is confirmation in my mind that this entire test change was a bureaucratic hoo-ha to keep a couple of people employed for a few years.

Now, school administrators must go online and get eighty test questions (assembled in random order from a pool of 300) and assemble test booklets and answer sheets. After three months of use, we have to shred the tests. This part of the change is fine by me, even though environmentally it’s a colossal waste of manpower and paper. However, the questions part of the equation is just too much.

I can’t give out the question, but let’s just say this. Let’s say you teach algebra and you need to construct a test. In order to weigh what your students are absorbing in your class, would you insert a spelling question in your test? Or a question regarding the War of 1812? This is what is happening here. Some of the test questions have absolutely nothing to do with what we are teaching.

The other slightly annoying thing about this is that they’ve lowered the standard for passing. Now the students have to get a 70% to pass. When did 70% become a passing grade? When I was in school, a 79% was nothing to brag about, in fact, it was something to be ashamed of.

I’m so irritated about the entire thing, I’m not sure what to do.


10 Responses

  1. That is seriously messed up! It reminds me of the tests we had to take when I worked for the Department of Human Services. I was a case manager for several years and we had to take these types of tests every so often to keep our case manager status – or if we wanted to move up. I found them to be rather insulting to my intelligence for the most part. Government regulated stuff is just screwy no matter how you look at it.

    By the way, I committed “suicide” a few weeks ago and haven’t felt better!!!! (I’m not sure if it’s that or the fact that I get to take 3 happy pills every day!)

    Stop by sometime! I miss seeing you!

  2. Hmm…I’m confused, as usual.

    Back when I was a lad a C was 70 to 80. Lots of people got Cs and were happy with them. 60% of my high school graduating class went to a 4 year college. 89% of them had less than a B average. Oh yeah, we also enjoyed getting up at 3AM to walk to school in the snow in June too. 🙂 The grade stuff is true though.

    What’s the deal with the test questions?

  3. Sorry, I didn’t realize a text emoticon would turn into that ghastly smiley face.

  4. Yes, this sounds like the brainchild of bureaucrats.

    Did I tell you about when I took an online traffic school class to clear a speeding ticket? It was ridiculous. I skimmed the reading then took the test. I failed because I didn’t know the following:
    1. The name of the wife of the police officer in one of the examples.
    2. The name of the composition Joe Blow was studying when a car crashed through his window.
    3. The subject that Plain Jane got an A on when she got a C in her driving class.
    4. The name of the plant where Joe Blowup was employed until he got his failure to appear and got locked up.

    Really, it was all this frivolous crap around the real meat of the matter. So I had to retake the stupid thing. They allow you to retake it as many times as you want but you cannot retake it twice in the same hour so I had to wait an hour to retake it and get my 100%.

  5. Hey, Rebecca. I will bookmark you as to not forget. I’m so glad to see your suicide went smoothly. There IS life over here! Really and truly!

    Oh, Corina. I wonder if those people moved from your location to mine. Those questions sound suspiciously similar to what I’m seeing here.

  6. I always pick (D) None of the above.
    I hate tests, I hate bureaucrats.

  7. I wouldn’t be surprised. They are a nationwide online testing company. You fill in the state and county and they score accordingly.

  8. What Jojo said.

  9. Protect the integrity of the test? Wow! Normally they say they’re improving it when they downgrade. They must have known they were really downgrading and figured any claim at improvement would have caused a huge outcry to say something like that.

  10. I poo-pooed Dan Rather for saying CBS is “dumbing down” the news, thinking he’s just mad he’s not there anymore. But the other night there were two men, a giant pad of white paper and a large magic marker, drawing cartoons to teach us what Super Delegates are. I thought, Dan, sorry, I thought you were just bitter.

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