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Test Expert Criticizes State's Test Quality in Wake of Jailed Atlanta Educators

Test Expert Criticizes State's Test Quality in Wake of Jailed Atlanta Educators

A test-evaluating expert slams Georgia's standardized tests for being of poor quality, claims that superiors in the state's Department of Education share the responsibility, and sympathizes with teachers who suffer as a result. 

Dr. Angelika Pohl, founder and president of Better Testing and Evaluations, argues that for such high-stakes tests, the poor quality of the tests and their questions is unacceptable, according to an article on AJC.com.

Pohl says that state tests are often riddled with "poor grammar, confusing wording, and misspelled words...trivial and ambiguous questions...flawed graphs and visually confusing charts, and questions testing reading skills that bear no resemblance to any authentic texts that the student might have read in real life," according to the article.

This, she said, is unforgivable from a test whose results are depended on by educators and students alike. "High-stakes tests have indeed turned out to have high stakes: they have caused seasoned educators to be sent to prison," she said.

She's referring to the nine Atlanta educators who were jailed after being convicted in a cheating scandal, but according to her, they're not the only ones in Georgia's history who have faced punishment.

"A few years ago a teacher in a metro Atlanta school system dared to publicize and critique a test question; he was punished for breaching test security — never mind questioning test quality."

Pohl describes her time working for Georgia's Department of Education as frustrating.

"My years of training for precision and clarity would not let me accept these items [tests errors] so I spent truly countless hours editing them myself. This effort was not appreciated at the department. My colleagues and my director were of the opinion that items could just be thrown into a pilot test, submitted to hapless tens of thousands of students across Georgia, and then checked for statistical results," she said, according to the article.

The statistical results "do not tell you whether a test question is written clearly, without grammatical or usage flaws, whether it makes sense, or has any educational value whatsoever," and as a result Pohl claims state-level tests in Georgia are poorly constructed.

She urges the"higher-ups" to focus on increasing the quality of state-level exams for the greater good of the education system as a whole.

Read the full article here and comment below.

Article by Nicole Gorman, Education World Contributor

4/17/15

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