Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Vexed to Nightmare. Writing Standard 9WS1.0.

Yeah, I quoted W.B. Yeats there, and I didn't put quotation marks around the phrase I quoted, and if I wrote an essay I'd lose points. But I could express ideas.
If I  could figure out on a standardized test that the title needed quotation marks, I'd be golden.
I have a one in four chance of getting that question right.
I could write an essay in which  I could quote the poem, and  if someone could read my essay  and I talked about what is now slouching towards Bethlehem (another quote) metaphorically and why it matters that there is a bird of prey and why the words "slouch" and "rough beast" are some of the most ominous, creep-inducing words in the English language,  I could show my words and my thinking
My words and my thinking do not matter.
I can only choose one of four answers to show my writing skills and ideas.
I went on a field trip to the California Department of Education website. No, I am not providing the link here, because part of the fun of taking a field trip is getting there.
At least that should be part of the fun.
Here is a quote for you:
"The following seven California English-Language Arts content standards are included in the Writing Strategies strand/cluster and are represented in this booklet by 25 test questions for grade 9. These questions represent only some ways in which these standards may be assessed on the Grade 9 California English-Language Arts Standards Test."
I know this is exhilarating. But wait, there's more.
Here is Standard 9WS1.0:
"WRITING STRATEGIES: Students write coherent and focused essays that convey a well-defined perspective and tightly reasoned argument. The writing demonstrates students' awareness of the audience and purpose. Students progress through the stages of the writing process as needed."
Wait. What?
You gotta answer twenty-five questions that SHOW you know how to write a coherent and focused essay?
There are questions about the writing process?
But you don't actually WRITE?
Well slap me twice and hand me to my mother.
All those English teachers out there, slaving over essay after essay, why don't you just make up a multiple choice test?
I spent years grading papers at night and on weekends.No wonder no one asks me to help make these tests!
Standardized tests.
Make it up to your kids by taking them to a bookstore and letting them choose a Good Book that they will never be tested on.
Make it happen.


  1. Yeah. I am thinking my son would not do well with this. Great post.


    1. Hi K.D.
      Thanks for the comment. It is ironic that so much of what we do during the school day, if we are doing it correctly, does not get addressed at all by standardized testing.

  2. I'm torn on this one. I understand why they don't have actual writing on most of the tests:
    1. They take too long to score.
    2. They have to have someone read each one, so they take too long to score.
    3. The handwriting can be very difficult to understand, so they take even longer to read, so they take too long to score.
    4. Writing samples lack a strong objective quality, so they are difficult to score.
    5. Student writing can actually be beyond the ability of the people scoring the tests for them to be able to score them accurately. That means that each writing sample would need to be scored by multiple people, so we end up at #1 again.

    I understand these things, but I do not like them. I think it's wrong. The only real way to change this is to make education enough of a priority to pay teachers and staff enough to make it worth their while to make sure it's all happening as it should happen.

    My kids are in the middle of STAR testing, right now.

  3. You are right, Andrew. Assessing writing is expensive. The state of CA had a solid writing assessment in the 80's. Not great, but a far sight better than what we have now. And yes, it was time consuming and expensive. I was a reader and I spent three or four days reading and assessing essays. Three people scored each one. I saved the state money by staying with my aunt, and I got paid not for the Thursday-Friday,becuase I would have been teaching, but for the Saturday/Sunday, which I thought was sensible and fair. The process was rigorous and had its own amount of human error, but it was HUMAN error. And the kids wrote. I liked that their ideas mattered, and their thinking.
    As things are now, ideas and thinking don't matter.
    I hope your kids have some good books to read, at least.
    Thanks, as always, for stopping by.

  4. So...let's just test new drivers on their knowledge of driving, but without seeing if they can actually drive.

    Hey...maybe we can apply the same thinking to airline pilots!