Why are the reading passages on standardized tests...

Discussion in 'General Education' started by MissJill, Apr 27, 2010.

  1. MissJill

    MissJill Cohort

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    so boring???

    Obviously I can't go into detail what was on our test today, but it was unbelievably boring, used old English, and was hard to follow. They are using words that my kids cannot connect with. I saw my good readers struggle to keep up. It's disheartening and frustrating when I have worked so hard with them this year and I know they have worked very hard as well.

    Why can't they give something that the kids can actually relate with and enjoy reading?
     
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  3. hac711

    hac711 Companion

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    because the people making the test have never worked with children before in their whole life??
     
  4. mmswm

    mmswm Moderator

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    Because the people who make the tests aren't teachers and probably finished raising their kids in 1947?
     
  5. MissJill

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    So frustrating!
     
  6. mmswm

    mmswm Moderator

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    I was doing a workshop at the college where I taught, and one of the activities I did had to do with this subject. I copied a passage out of one of my graduate level math books (abstract algebra, to be specific), and asked a few multiple choice comprehension questions. A mere 10 seconds into the exercise most of the participants eyes were glazed over. Nobdy scored perfectly and only a few got most of the answers correct. When we talked about it, even those who got the correct answers admitted they had no clue what they had just read, but they employed strategies they taught their students in order to ferret out the correct answer. The kicker, is that the passage I chose was something easy to understand. Its a topic taught in 3rd grade (and sometimes 2nd). It was simply the formal statement, proof, and discussion of the standard algorithm for division. It was an eye opening experience for the participants.

    Now, if only I could give that workshop to test writers.....
     
  7. TeacherGroupie

    TeacherGroupie Moderator

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    The people who write the passages don't always have much control over this, in fact: for a given grade's test, a passage needs to be within a certain rather narrow Lexile range - this is a score composed of word frequency plus sentence length.
     
  8. mmswm

    mmswm Moderator

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    TG, I get that, but somebody has to sit down and write those passages. At the very least, they could consider the interests of the children taking the tests.
     
  9. MissJill

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    I just don't see why they have to make something almost unbearable to read when they're testing comprehension. I don't retain information that easily if I'm not interested.
     
  10. Mrs. K.

    Mrs. K. Enthusiast

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    Diane Ravitch's book The Language Police has some very interesting insights as to the reasons behind the quality of standardized tests.
     
  11. TeacherGroupie

    TeacherGroupie Moderator

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    Among A to Z's members are people who've written passages for standardized tests. By and large, the passages are outsourced, along with a raft of specifications, to freelancers most of whom are indeed teachers. I know of a freelance team - veteran teachers, bright people, skilled stylists - who took pains to craft good passages, and then had to rewrite them and rewrite them: a deftly composed and quite accessible sentence was a word or two too long, and a word that the passage overtly defined at the beginning could be used twice but not three times because that many long words exceeded the lexile for the grade.

    I'm not arguing that the passages are fine, but rather that those who compose the passages are not necessarily in control of the process.
     
  12. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    I think that's part of the test.

    If all the passages were fascinating, it might make the test too easy. I would imagine that part of what is being tested is the abilty to comprehend difficult, or even boring information.

    We all know that, as college students and adults, there are a number of times when we have to wade through information that's dull. It's a life skill, and perhaps that's part of what's being tested here.

    Or it could be a matter of wanting a wide range of scores. If all the passages are "easy" to read because they're interested, then perhaps the scores will be inflated. Part of making a reading comprehension passage difficult is that level of interest.
     
  13. MissJill

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    It's not that a passage is easy, it's that they're interested. Two different things. I think you can make a grade appropriate reading passage that is both interesting to the kids and tests them accurately.

    Boring them to death is not testing them accurately either.
     
  14. KinderCowgirl

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    I think part of it too is that they want to give the kids something to actually test their comprehension, not necessarily something with prior knowledge they may already bring to the table. That would also probably make it unfair to some kids who already knew about that subject. I notice even on the practice tests I use for tutorials, I end up learning something new because the passages often are about obscure people or facts.
     
  15. FourSquare

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    We had a practice word problem involving Chuck E. Cheese's once. That's about as close as they've gotten to anything interesting.

    We surprised the kids with the ohio writing assessment yesterday. Man, were they pissed. They had to write so many paragraphs about nothing!
     
  16. MissJill

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    Fourtunately their writing assignments and reading passages today weren't THAT bad.

    I understand not giving them a topic that they might have prior knowledge on, but still when you write something that a fifth grader cannot connect with it's pointless.

    They have to have some understanding of what is being talked about.

    My friend told me one year that it was a picture writing prompt and it was a picture of a child alone in an airport with luggage. Most of the kids have never flown, how are they supposed to relate to that? (heck I didn't fly until I was in 9th grade and that was for a school trip).
     
  17. Grover

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    Hmmm... perhaps we could get an even wider range of scores if we had rats nibble on the children's toes as they take the test. After all, the real world is full of distractions... No, wait, we already HAVE plenty of low scores.
     
  18. YoungTeacherGuy

    YoungTeacherGuy Phenom

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    THIS MADE ME LAUGH OUT LOUD!!!!! :D
     
  19. MissJill

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    What do you mean you surprised them?
     
  20. MissJill

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    Also, obscure, fine.....boring....not fine LOL That's how I see it anyway. We drain these kids with 4 days of testing and it's crazy to give them 2 30 minute BORING reading tests the first 2 days.

    I was very pleased with the writing though.
     
  21. mmswm

    mmswm Moderator

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    Alice, I could agree with you if we were talking about high school, but for the most part, we're tlaking elementary school. I don't think it's okay to have reading passages that are so boring that even I don't want to read them. At the elementary level, we should be more concerned about basic reading comprehension. I can't imagine holding a 9 year old to the same standards as college students. They're not there yet.

    I'm not saying they should be all fun and games, but they could at least be of interest. For example, a couple years back, there was a reading passage that was both challenging and of interest all at the same time. It was probably the most difficult passage on the test. It used unfamiliar words, complex sentence structure and a more formal tone than the kids usually read. It was absolutely an academic passage, not a leisure reading passage. This was the passage that required us to lay the law down regarding not talking about what was on the test. Oh, and the passage was historical in nature, not something current, but it was very well written.

    Writting good, interesting passages can be done. That passage proves it. I'm sure there are many other examples of good reading comprehension passages, but there are just too many that aren't good. Those are the ones I gripe about.
     
  22. Missy99

    Missy99 Connoisseur

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    Our TAKS tests usually feature interesting stories.

    Google "Released TAKS tests" and then look up the reading tests. My students always comment afterward on how much they liked the stories.
     
  23. MissJill

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    I just looked up the TASK.

    Those tests actually look interesting!
     
  24. newbie87

    newbie87 Comrade

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    It used German words? :unsure: Old English is a language that resembles German and French. If it's Shakespearian, it's still considered :eek:hmy: Modern English.... I'm just can't stand when people exergate. It makes everything else seem fake.

    Old English: http://www.wmich.edu/medieval/resources/IOE/aelfric.gif
     
  25. mmswm

    mmswm Moderator

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    There's a difference between old English an Old English. Old English is as you defined, but old English, is outdated, old-fashioned use of the English language.
     
  26. MissJill

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    Thank you.

    I'm not exaggerating.
     
  27. Toak

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    I remember when I had to take standardized tests in middle school, I'd get hopelessly confused on the reading passages because it would be a story about Apurbis and Apurbos and we had to answer questions about how those two people were different. The teachers always said they used unusual names like that so that black and indian kids didn't feel left out - well I think you could have made all races feel included without picking the most similar-sounding foreign names you could come up with
     
  28. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    I'm not saying it's OK.

    The question asked why. I was attempting to offer some ideas.
     
  29. mmswm

    mmswm Moderator

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    Alice, I know. I was just pointing out my objections.

    I also took a peak at the old TAKS exams. If the state of Texas can come up with reasonable passages, why cant the rest of them?
     
  30. MissJill

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    Even the way it's laid out is nice. My test looked absolutely jumbled and confusing. This is NJASK 5 btw. I have heard similar stories for NJASK 6-8 as well.
     
  31. TeacherGroupie

    TeacherGroupie Moderator

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    Herewith a bit of a hijack:

    Nice passage from Aelfric. None of the words in it, however, bears the slightest resemblance to French. They're all Germanic, as we see in the first five:

    ic 'I' (compare German ich but French je)
    thancige 'thank' (German danken but Latinate gratias agere 'give thanks', French remercier)
    thaes 'the' (compare German der/die/das but French le/la)
    aelmihtigum 'almighty' (compare German macht 'might', but Latin omnipotens 'all-powerful' and French puissant 'powerful')
    Scyppende, 'shaper, maker' (compare German schaffen 'make' but Latinate creator or factor)

    (Forgive the transliterations and silent expansions of abbreviations. I don't think the runic characters thorn, eth, and aesc will show up on the screen of anyone who doesn't own a Mac.) It isn't until after the Norman Conquest that French influences show up much in English - and even then it remains the case that the French influence is largely absent both from syntax and from basic vocabulary (note that the vast majority of kinship terms and counting terms are Germanic, not Romance).

    I wish linguistics and language history were more often taught, and taught better.
     
  32. MissJill

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    Pick pick pick ...this post has nothing to do with old English, but people will just keep picking away at it.
    I don't understand why this is what happens here.

    My post has to do with boring passages that students have to read to prove that they comprehend what they're reading and instead we have people who will pick apart one phrase. Fine if you don't refer to it as old English, but that is what I have heard in the past and obviously others have. Thank you so much for the definitions...
     
  33. TeacherGroupie

    TeacherGroupie Moderator

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    My apologies, MissJill: please forgive me for having allowed myself to be carried off by one of my hobbyhorses. May I plead, though, that I was intending to ride to your rescue here? I see nothing wrong with your use of the phrase "old English" to refer to something other than the language "Old English".
     
  34. MissJill

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    I'm sorry if I interpreted your post in the wrong way, it's just hard when some people here always pick on whatever is said.
     
  35. TeacherGroupie

    TeacherGroupie Moderator

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    MissJill, could you perhaps use a nice big virtual hug?
     
  36. MissJill

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    :lol
    Thanks, I need a long virtual vacation....too bad there are two more days of testing :( Poor kids, at least the next two days are math!
     
  37. TeacherGroupie

    TeacherGroupie Moderator

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    No, I'm gonna pick-pick again, can't help it: I think you need a long REAL vacation!
     
  38. TeacherGroupie

    TeacherGroupie Moderator

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    On which note, I'm going to excuse myself for a couple of hours, but I'll check back in later.
     
  39. Missy99

    Missy99 Connoisseur

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    :lol:
     
  40. MissJill

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    That's great that your tests are not timed! Our tests are only not timed for students with iep's.

    Today we took our math sections of our tests and there was a typo that sent my students into a complete panic.

    It was a word problem about some guy named Jack. Jack this, Jack that....and then they asked so how much did John have?

    All I hear is, "Miss E!!! Who is John?!"
    Poor kids.

    I felt so bad for them today, the open ended questions on the math had so many different questions to complete they were getting so confused!

    One more day!!!! I bought them cupcakes to make them feel better (and I bought some for the teachers too) :)
     
  41. Missy99

    Missy99 Connoisseur

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    I just love this totally disjointed thread.
     

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