Daily Archives: November 30, 2009

New York State’s 5th Grade Social Studies Test: A Race to the Bottom!

I’ve been knee deep in short answers and essay questions since before Thanksgiving break.  I really need to vent on this–fast!

If there was ever a situation where standardized test scores were meaningless, it is with the 5th grade social studies test in New York State.  This test makes a court eunuch look like a stud horse.  I won’t go into particulars, since I cannot by law, but I will fill you in on some trends:

(1) You only need a minimal amount of knowledge to pass this test.  Most of the questions are charts, graphs, maps, quotations, pictures, etc.  While these skills are useful, and come in handing in reading and math tests, it doesn’t necessarily test what the kid knows.  And I don’t buy into the nonsense that kids don’t need to know facts.  The next brat that asks me if George Washington is still alive will be thrown out a window.  At this rate, in a few years you can safely pass the state test without knowing ANY history, geography (beyond the basics), or rudimentary civics. 

(2) The parts that require more time–and skill–count little.  The parts that require minimal brain function (like multiple choice) count the most.  This leads to a skewed scale wherein a student can ace the multiple choice, do okay on the short answer questions, and tank the essay completely.  This genius not only passes, but almost achieves superior proficiency, according to New York State.  Makes a lot of sense, doesn’t it?

(3) The rubrics for the short answers and essay make it next to impossible to fail, unless you really want to do so.  For some questions, the acceptable right answers take up half the page, while the strict, non-bending wrong aswers (I’m sorry–incorrect.  Can’t use the “w” word) occupy a measly one or two lines.  I’m all for giving a kid a break when he knows the material but can’t express it in perfect Oxbridge quality.  Yet this system rewards the saps who copy from documents and score high marks using sheer dumb luck.

I’d like to hear if other New York teachers have had similar experiences with this test in particular, or tests in general.  Comments are always welcome.

There.  I feel better now.

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