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Thursday, April 17, 2014


I recently read Making the Grades: My Misadventures in the Standardized Testing Industry by Todd Farley (2009).

What an eye-opener this book is!  Farley details experiences and observations from his 15 years of working in the standardized testing industry as a scorer and trainer.

Some of the highlights include:

  • The machinations of entities like testing giants NCS, ETS, and Pearson, which win state and national contracts to develop, administer, and score standardized tests, all with the fundamental motive of PROFIT.
  • The standard practice of hiring temporary workers to score high-stakes exams for low wages and low standards with respect to credentials required.
  • Persistent manipulation of score data to meet pre-determined parameters as prescribed by psychometricians.
  • The use of scorers who cannot speak English or have severe cognitive deficiencies to grade high-stakes tests.
  • Constant variation in interpretation of rubrics by which tests are scored.
  • Out and out cheating to make the numbers say what they need to say.
  • All sorts of short-cutting in order to meet tight deadlines with high volumes of tests to be graded.
My favorite sentence from the book: 
“The idea that standardized testing can make any sort of fine distinction about students – a very particular and specific commentary on their individual skills and abilities that a classroom teacher was unable to make – seems like folderol to me, absolute folderol.”

Two underlying points are woven through this book:
  1. The testing industry is about profit, not learning.
  2. No amount of standardized testing can assess the level of learning and proficiency of a student as well as a caring teacher who serves that student daily.

IF I had any confidence left in standardized testing (which I don't), this book would have obliterated it.

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