Monday, September 28, 2009

"Reading Incomprehension" opinion piece

Reading Incomprehension by Todd Farley is a New York Times opinion piece that discusses the author's experience as a scorer of the essay portions of standardized tests. Strasser was a graduate student working part-time under tight deadlines, not an education professional. Based on this opinion piece, I plan to take a look at Strasser's forthcoming book, Making the Grades: My Misadventures in the Standardized Testing Industry.

7 comments:

Anamaria (bookstogether) said...

Interesting. I scored the essay portion of the SAT a number of times, and while I never had an essay that could have been a 0 or a 6 (the top of our scale), depending on who read it, I did have a number of essays--at least half, I would say--which could have been a 3 OR a 4, etc.

Sam said...

Thanks for linking to that. Yet another reason to avoid standardized testing.

The part where he said that success largely depended on who happened to read your work reminded me of the publishing industry.

Elaine Magliaro said...

Thanks for the link to this article. One of the reasons I left the elementary classroom to become a school librarian was because of the pressure we teachers were beginning to feel to teach to state-mandated tests. It's so sad that prepping kids for standardized tests is becoming the main focus of our educational system.

Lone Star Ma said...

Get me started not.

tanita davis said...

30 essays an hour (yes, one every two minutes), for eight hours a day, five days a week...

Whoa. Whoa, whoa, whoa.

And that kid who did the essay on Debbie Does Dallas -- good grief. Were the instructions to judge the essay on content or on structure!? Aaargh.

Saints and Spinners said...

Reading all of your comments reminds me of the functional writing test everyone had to take before s/he could pass high school. Our teachers coached us to write long, wordy sentences about safe subjects. As soon as everyone in the class had passed the test, my teacher said, "Now, forget everything you learned in order to pass that test." I heard later from my journalism teacher that he had a student who took journalism before she took the functional writing test. She wrote a wonderful essay, but it was concise with no wasted words. As a result, she failed the test.

Elaine Magliaro said...

Alkelda,

I think some of the people scoring the kids' writing samples don't really know what good writing is. Good writing is CLEAR and CONCISE.

I remember years ago when administrators gave us copies of children's benchmark writing samples that had been graded in four categories: Advanced, Proficient, Needs Improvement, Unsatisfactory (I'm actually not sure of the label of the last category.) Most of us teachers thought the "proficient" sample was much better written than the "advanced" sample, which was overly word and way too long.