Re: NY Regent's Exam
- Subject: Re: NY Regent's Exam
- From: MacUser <5alive@PYRAMID.NET>
- Date: Sun, 7 Nov 1999 10:07:51 -0800
- Reply-to: Assessment Reform Network Mailing List <ARN-L@LISTS.CUA.EDU>
- Sender: Assessment Reform Network Mailing List <ARN-L@LISTS.CUA.EDU>
Dear John et al,
I know about norming because I was forced, as a graduate student, to
read the writing samples from the CBEST for slave wages. The norming
was only as good as the information we got, the people in the pool of
graders, and the graders assumptions about "good writing." (The outcome
was that 67% of the potential teachers who took the test we graded could
string together a five-paragraph formulaic essay on an irrelevant topic
in less than an hour. Whoopee!)
In communication there are always three variables: 1) What was
intended, 2) what was written, shown, or stated, and 3) what was
The more complex the form, the harder it is to grade as a "pass" or
"fail." Therefore, using complex forms of writing like essay or short
story for a standardized test does not make any sense.
A essay, like any piece of art, can be judged in two primary ways-- as a
work by a student who is not competent and needs to be corrected, or as
the work of an artist who is competent, is in control of his/her medium,
and whom we must, as readers, stretch ourselves to understand. If I am
looking at my students' essays as works of art, and another teacher
looks at them as works by incompetent students--we will judge the same
papers very differently most of the time.
Although essays are important to arguing and organizing ideas on the
academic and social stage, they are very elusive forms of writing to
grade because a great essay is never written to a formula. When an
essay is used in standardized testing, a good essay writer is in as much
peril as a bad essay writer when it comes to facing a grader who can't
take the time to understand the nuances expressed in truly imaginative
essay. Those who are successful are those who do not take risks and
write to a formula.
Perhaps New York would be better to give a test on a type of writing
which should be a formula: i.e. a letter of complaint, a memo, an
incident report, or any form of technical writing whose purpose is not
to show competence and understanding, but communicate one simple message
effectively and clearly. This would be an easier form to grade fairly.
Also, when the teachers teach the test rather than kids, they will at
least be teaching a practical skill their students can use in the
workplace later. This should please the business community, who will
finally get what they want--a mildly competent worker who knows how to
communicate simple information.
A formula essay is never useful.
New York Regents, the CBEST, and other tests with writing components
should leave the assessment of essays and creative writing to those who
care about students and what they are trying to communicate.
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