ACT, PSAT, SAT, IQ, MAP.
What do all these acronyms have in common? They are all tests that public school students in the United States must take. This type of test is called a standardized test.Standardized tests are high stakes tests that determine whether students are proficient in given subjects and are sometimes ineffective in the assessment of all students.
Unfortunately, colleges and universities look at student’s scores on some of these tests to determine whether they should be accepted or not.These tests are supposed to cover the required knowledge of all students who will be taking it. Here’s, according to Stateline.org, how the tests are made:
The state prepares a blueprint for creating, distributing, scoring and reporting results for a test. The blueprint includes which strands, or sub-categories in a subject the state wants to measure, how many questions for each strand and what kinds of questions the state wants (such as multiple choice, written answer, etc.) Test production companies turn in bids, and the state accepts one.
The company’s writers, knowledgeable in the content area and often former or current teachers, write test questions based on the state’s standards. Nothing gets written that doesn’t meet these standards.
The company conducts an internal review of content and style. They can be altered or dropped based on whether they appear biased against English-language learners or special education students.
The company meets with a state committee, usually made up of teachers. The committee meets for two to three days reviewing whether the items are valid for their state. Some test questions are revised or dropped.
Questions are now field-tested by including them on a regular state test, but at this point they are not scored. Students cannot distinguish between experimental questions and real test questions.
The company meets again with committee from the state, and questions are again altered or dropped based on statistics on how the given question preformed on the field test, as well as any evidence of bias. Altered questions go back into the next round of field testing.
Approved questions enter a question “bank.” The questions are broken down into strands measuring specific standards, and are assigned weighted scores based on how difficult they are.
Questions are chosen from the question bank for the new test based on the original blueprint given by the state. The company’s psychometrician analyzes the data on each item to ensure the test’s passing score (which determines proficiency) matches the blueprint’s target, which is usually to make the test as difficult as previous tests. It becomes a live text only after the project leader, the psychometrician, and the state agree that the test meets all the content and statistical requirements.
Major standardized tests like the SAT and ACT are tests that all colleges pay attention to when deciding whether or not to accept a student. These tests are also timed and are mostly multiple choice questions.
Roger Farr, a professor of education at Indiana University once said,
“I don’t think there’s any way to build a multiple choice question that allows students to show what they can do with what they know.”
There are many colleges that look very little at standardized tests like the MAP when deciding whether or not to accept students. This has been used as an argument on both sides. Pro-test people argue that it would take the stress of the tests off of students to know that their futures aren’t entirely dependent on these tests.
Those against the tests say that if there are colleges that don’t actually look at them, why even take them? Why put students through that stress? Despite all these unanswered questions, standardized testing remains the number one way to assess students as early as kindergarten.