Reporters Assess State Tests

Reporters Assess State Tests
October 1, 2000

George A. Clowes

George Clowes is a Heartland senior fellow addressing education policy. He served as founding... (read full bio)



New York: Teacher Certification Test

New York Times reporter Abby Goodnough recently related her experiences in taking New York State's main certification exam for teachers, who must score at least 220 of a possible 300 to pass. Goodnough noted she had not taken a standardized test in 14 years and had virtually no preparation. In high school, she failed precalculus and took no science after 10th-grade chemistry.

Despite her limited math and science background, Goodnough achieved a perfect score on the certification exam’s math and science questions. Though as a reporter she was "mortified to report that my worst score--a 260--was on the essay," she aced the test with a final score of 284.

However, 59 percent of the 4,314 other people who took the test with Goodnough that day failed.

"If I were in charge of the test, I would probably make it a little tougher," she concluded.

The New York Times

August 23, 2000



California: Teacher Entrance Exam

In 1996, Mike Antonucci of the Education Intelligence Agency took the California Basic Educational Skills Test (CBEST), the state's "teacher entrance exam," to prepare for a story about a lawsuit filed by minority groups against the test. The reading, math, and writing tests require a passing score of 41 each, for a total of 123. Candidates who fail a particular portion of the test may retake just that portion.

According to state officials, 70 percent of test-takers passed on their first try, with 82 to 85 percent eventually passing. However, trial testimony revealed the first-time passing rate was 80 percent for whites, 60 percent for Asians, 47 percent for Hispanics, and 37 percent for blacks.

Antonucci scored 205 out of a possible 240, with his worst score--a 63--in writing.

The Education Intelligence Agency Communiqué

August 28, 2000



Washington: Grading the Test-Graders

Much attention has been focused on how students and teachers react to the grades they achieve on tests. Seattle Times reporter Jolayne Houtz recently took a different approach to test reporting, investigating how grades on the Washington Assessment of Student Learning are assigned.

The WASL is a series of reading, writing, and math tests that contain not only multiple-choice responses, but also "performance-based" assessments, such as short answers and essays. Such tests have been developed to respond to criticism that multiple-choice, machine-scored tests fail to provide a broad evaluation of student knowledge.

Houtz discovered the essays are scored by low-paid part-timers who may or may not have some expertise in what they are assigned to score. She estimated the score-givers spend only 2 ½ minutes on each essay, and as little as 20 seconds on each math problem.

The Seattle Times

August 27, 2000


George A. Clowes is managing editor of School Reform News.

George A. Clowes

George Clowes is a Heartland senior fellow addressing education policy. He served as founding... (read full bio)