Sunday, January 15, 2017

Standardized Test Companies should end time limits

My ninth-grade son took a Practice-ACT last weekend, and he did exceptionally well, as I would have expected for an advanced learner who aced AP Calculus as an eighth-grader. However, the feedback he gave about the experience simply reinforced my long-standing criticism of the tests such as ACT, SAT, PSAT, and of testing companies like College Board, ETS, & Pearson. Simply put, the time constraints on kids in these tests are completely arbitrary and create an inauthentic view of a student's intellectual and academic abilities.

My son finished the hour-long math section in roughly fifteen minutes and achieved a perfect score. Math at that level takes him almost no time to process. On the other hand, he felt the unnecessary pressure of finishing the 35-minute Reading section. He still did incredibly well on that section, but the ACT Reading section is truly an abomination in the world of literacy. It requires students to read four passages and answer 40 questions (10/per) in 35 minutes. That means averaging roughly eight-and-a-half minutes per passage. That is not reading. That is not literacy. That is not predictive of any applicable skill or intelligence ... other than the ability to do that test.

In a more reasonable environment, my son would have and should have been able to apply the extra 45-minutes from math to the reading section. The reverse may be true for students who can quickly read and answer questions on passages, but may need more than an hour for math. And, really who cares how long it takes to finish the tasks. We all remember taking the tests and hearing the dreaded "Stop, put your pencils down. You may not go back to that section or go forward to other sections." And, seriously, why not? Testing environments should allow the student the freedom to simply work on the whole test at their own pace and leisure.

As a coordinator for tests and testing accommodations, I am quite familiar with students who receive "extended time" on tests. They are required to apply for this privilege, and they must have some extensive documentation about a diagnosed "processing speed" disability or impairment to qualify. But there is no legitimate reason that all kids shouldn't be given extended time. If a kid finishes the tasks in one hour or seven, what's the difference if they can both solve the problems, exhibit the skills and knowledge, and accomplish the tasks.

Free the students. End ridiculous time constraints on standardized tests.

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