Jake is such a bright kid that he took Algebra I, a freshman math class, as a 12-year-old seventh-grader four years ago. Now a high school junior, Jake’s stratospheric SAT math score, 700, indicates his math proficiency already exceeds that of more than 95 percent of students nationwide. In a day and age when the U.S. lags far behind the rest of the world in math proficiency, Jake (his real name was changed for privacy) and a couple of dozen other high-achievers at Matanzas High School are studying, and succeeding, in college level calculus and other higher level math courses.
Their reward for such meritorious achievement?
They get to take even more inane, unnecessary standardized tests, courtesy of FLDOE’S serpentine “graduation requirements for statewide assessments.” Under the guise of “raising achievement,” the state is making hundreds of good students take an extra test to prove their aptitude in a subject in which they long ago demonstrated competency.
Last week, four years after passing Algebra I, Jake and about 50 of his classmates found out that Florida law will force them to take to take an additional standardized test in math in order to graduate next year. Although these teens took and passed Algebra I in 2010 or 2011 in middle school, and before Florida’s Algebra 1 End-of-Course exam (EOC) even existed (it was introduced in 2012) they still must meet the assessment requirements enacted for students who started high school in the 2011-2012 school year. To meet graduation requirements, these bright kids are required either to take an EOC exam for a class that ended, for them, three or four years ago, or take the math component of another college entrance test called PERT (Post Secondary Educational Readiness Test).
But why should these students have to take yet another test to illustrate their “college readiness” in math when their SAT scores clearly already do? How many unnecessary, time-consuming tests are we going to continue to subject our students to?
Earlier this year, every junior at both Matanzas and Flagler Palm Coast High School took the SAT for free, courtesy of the College Board’s Florida Partnership. Those who earned a score of 440 in SAT reading, writing or math were deemed “college ready” in that area, and after graduation, can take college-level classes such as ENC 1101 (Freshman Composition) and MAC 1105 (College Algebra), since they don’t need costly, time-consuming remedial courses. Students who attained 440 in any component of the SAT are exempt from taking the PERT –because their SAT scores already illustrate their college readiness. Ironically, however, this provision doesn’t apply to Jake and his classmates, who took Algebra I as middle-schoolers, and whose SAT scores in math far exceed 440. They’ve instead been informed they’re not exempt from the PERT –though their SAT scores would otherwise preclude them from having to take it.
Choose your poison, the state told them. What will it be? Take the Algebra I EOC or take the PERT. Otherwise, we won’t let you graduate next year.
So for the past two weeks, my classroom’s been abuzz with disappointed, angry students, unexpectedly yanked out of their regularly scheduled classes (including my own Advanced Placement English Language class, where we were intensively reviewing for the May 9 AP English exam). Some students argued, pleaded, begged and cried, after being informed, with little or no notice, that they’d have to take the PERT that day –but to no avail.
And it isn’t just in math that this absurdity exists. Last month, dozens of highly motivated students who were enrolled all year in Advanced Placement U.S. History (and who took the AP exam in History on May 14, which could net them as many as six college credits with a passing score), were forced to take Florida’s U.S. History EOC – in addition to the much more challenging AP History exam. This essentially penalized them for taking a much harder course, by making them take two tests. Even more ridiculous: some dual-enrolled students who’d already taken and passed AMH 2010 and 2020 and have already earned six college credits in U.S. History had to come back to take the high-school level U.S. History EOC –after passing two college U.S History courses!
Clearly, although Florida rightfully prides itself on educational opportunities afforded to students, including dual enrollment, AP, IB and other classes, its assessment options have failed to keep up with other states. For example, in Washington, students may use their scores on the SAT, ACT or AP tests to meet graduation assessment requirements in math, reading or writing. Texas, too, is working to allow students with satisfactory performance on AP, IB, SAT, SAT Subject Tests, or the ACT to use it to satisfy the EOC requirements for equivalent courses.
The solution to this boondoggle is easier than selecting A, B, C, or D. Really, it’s not a trick question, Florida. Simply choose the correct answer: eliminate duplicative tests for students who’ve already made the grade and achieved the required score.
Jo Ann C. Nahirny, a 1985 graduate of Columbia University and a National Board Certified Teacher, teaches English at Matanzas High School in Palm Coast. Reach her by email here.
What are we trying to prove here? Our kids can take tests? Last I checked there is little of that in the real world and much more hands on activity. The most important skill is thinking outside of the box people.
Just an observation says
The writer makes an excellent point. To have students lose classroom time in subjects they are currently enrolled in to take test in subjects they passed with flying colors years ago is ludicrous.
I wonder how much tax dollars are being spent on these test. I am sure we could find much better use of the money and the students time.
Seminole Pride says
Test are good, but can they balance a checkbook or implement a budget ?
Wouldn’t it be interesting if our School Board voted to ignore State requirements and exempt these kids from taking a meaningless test and allow them to graduate by substituting their SAT or AP scores; but that would take courage and risk on there part, something that is no longer part of our make up.
Testing prepares kids for the rigors of the real world without mommy and daddy protecting them.
I must disagree completely. Testing prepares kids for testing and nothing more. Students the high schools are pulled from classes from early April until Memorial DAy weekend and miss a ton of class time. Kids don’t get prepared for life or college anymore – only for tests. It’s ridiculous.
It don’t make that much difference, most have very low IQ & can’t count or read. Most of big companies import qualify people do to IT, manufacturing job.
Nancy N. says
oh the unintended irony in that comment…
If you actually read and understood the article you would have learned that the kids that are being forced to take these tests are the district’s highest achieving students – the kids who are co-enrolled in college classes while still in high school. These kids can definitely read and write and do math and do not have low IQ’s.
Ken Dodge says
“Testing prepares kids for testing and nothing more.” Reminds me that statistics increasingly show improving opportunities for statisticians.
The Chinese invented test taking way back during Confucius era when he proposed civil service exams to prove the competency of those placed in governing and leadership positions. It was then integrated into general education over time. Hence the reason those Asians excel at test taking.
PISA test shows ‘stagnation.’ Is US education reform failing?
“More than 510,000 15-year-old students in 65 countries and other education programs took part in the 2012 PISA test. Students from Shanghai-China, Hong Kong, Singapore, Japan, and South Korea scored highest in all three subjects. Switzerland and the Netherlands also ranked near the top. … One bright spot was in the results for students in three US states – Massachusetts, Connecticut and Florida. While Florida’s score was on par with the US average, Massachusetts, long at or near the top of US educational performance, outperformed all but three education systems, with Connecticut close behind.”
I was surprised to find out from the 2013? US Census figures that only 12% of the US population is foreign born. Although this number is very small, it is also worth pointing out that not all foreign born immigrants speak a foreign language or are non-English speakers. So the whole claim about ELL students driving down scores is another myth. I like how the article points out other false claims made by America in terms of its “unique cultural/diverse background.”
Other informative article on 12th grade graduation stats produced by the NAEP
Has anyone tried to “follow the money” relative to this “testing”? What companies stand to financially benefit from all this “testing”? Reminds me of Rick Scott’s wife benefiting from all the drug testing done on everyone including welfare recipients.
Steve Wolfe says
I smell a bureaucracy. That’s a source of stupid, redundant actions that have fancy program names complete with acronyms (enabling pencil-pushers to speak more bureaucratic horse hockey to one another), which in the end benefit no one except the bureaucracies. They like to make their actions and policies sound too difficult for us mere mortals (meaning tax payers, citizens, voters) to comprehend, which is their main tool for advancing one of the common agendas of bureaucrats: grow the bureaucracy. Along the way the agencies blow lots of smoke to create the impression that they are indispensable, mainly because no one else can understand their structures and processes. That, by the way, means more desks, computers, conference rooms and coffee pots (all of which has an annual replacement budget on a use it or lose it basis), more employees who receive salaries and benefits determined internally, and more management, whose salaries grow with their expanding empires. They operate beyond public scrutiny, only facing the staff members of elected representatives annually to present their fiscal demands, which always increase, accompanied by the usual horse-hockey that they have exclusive ability to speak and understand (at least within their respective departments).
What we see are stupid rules and regulations that no one seems to be able to challenge, no one can determine who made them, no one is accountable for, and even our representatives can’t reign in. It is the fourth branch of government, but not a co-equal branch. It is entrenched social management. We are all subjects of this branch, because now many agencies have SWAT teams which have already used the force of arms against our fellow citizens without due process or recourse.
Welcome to Amerika.
Teachers, like the one who wrote this article, hate tests. No one really likes to be evaluated on the job and that’s what testing students does to teachers. They resist testing in any form and would rather show movies and go on “field trips” and basically goof off. Wouldn’t we all? But testing shows how effective they’ve been and they have a natural dislike for that. Other countries that are miles ahead of the USA in education levels test ALL the time.
Ryan McDermott says
How do you explain tests being good when one of the best countries for education, Finland, has only one evaluation at the end of a students schooling?
Finland also naturally treats the position of a teach as prestigious as a doctor and teachers in Finland are paid much more than here.
I am not offering a solution, just food for thought about tests and how broken american education is as a whole.
I completely disagree with this. I graduated around the time that they were implementing these tests and they were giving them to us to “test the system”. I will never forget my 12th grade economics/government class. The first half of the class was a government class in which we took a real supreme court case and studied it in class including a full mock trial and lots of other real world things. Come the end of government class, we learned a lot but not what was in the book so almost everyone in the class failed the test. Then for the second half of the class, my teacher learned his lesson and taught from the book. We all passed the economics test but didn’t take anything away from the class.
After I graduated and these tests became required to graduate, they started devoting half of every class period to FCAT review. Why would students in AP Calculus or AP English need to spend half of their class studying for the FCAT that they passed when they were in 10th grade? It really does make no sense.
JoAnn Nahirny says
Comment to Lone Wolfe:
I hate tests? That’s why I teach SAT Prep classes to 80 students? That’s why I teach AP ENG LANG which has a 3.5 hour culminating test every May? But you are SO RIGHT, lone wolf… the tests my students take show how effective I am… HIGHLY EFFECTIVE for the past 16 years because of how and what I teach them! That’s why my SAT Prep students raised their scores an average of 88 points this year, and the pass rate of the students who take my AP ENG LANG class annually beats the state and national average.
Neither I nor my students dislike tests which are reasonable –but we object to tests which are unnecessary, duplicative and cost taxpayers more than they should have to pay.
Why test studenst in Algebra I FOUR YEARS after they took the class? Why re-test a student who already outscores 95% of the country in math?
Toni Baker, Candidate for School Board says
Congratulations on your accomplishments! I have 13 year old twins who are in AP and have taken the 7th grade EOC for Civics (new) and one has taken the EOC with almost a perfect score in Algebra I. I give great thanks to Mr. Dentler and Ms. Buck for this! The Civics teachers were flying blind and managed to get their classes outstanding scores for the first test! I can’t wait for them to be in your AP classes! I am mostly tired of our children being guinea pigs for the state DOE. I would assume, that they need to take the “test” so it can be calculated into the school grades, etc. Standardization at it’s best, or not! I agree that it should be a default 100% if they passed the college entrance exams with a certain score or higher! Keep doing what you are doing! We are on our way!
Raul Troche says
I agree with Sally’s posting and also understand why the good teachers I know have either left the profession or are considering it. All but one of the at least seven I know are very disappointed with the system and the one I haven’t really asked. These teachers all love what they do but hate the system. Like Ronald Reagan said, Government is not the solution but rather the problem. I hope that they will get things right for the sake of our students and those wonderful caring teachers.
Terri Gillard says
Let’s not forget that as wonderful as the world makes college sound, what about adults who wish to go back to school and take a college course. I graduated Class of ’79 and I had to take a college placement test at DSC. I can tell you now, I bombed completely. Now, I am unable to attend college for anything purpose. So, would you like fries with that? Looks like I am going to continue to be a Steak and Shake manager a little longer until something better comes along since college is not an option. Apparently I am to dumb in today’s standards. I like to think of it as going to boot camp in the service. Once you graduate out of boot camp, and plan to move up in a ranks, do you have to go back to boot camp again! College is a money racket. I am really good a crafts and wanted to take a course related to that, however I was unable to get in to it thanks to not being smart enough. I don’t get today’s education level and don’t care to learn. I TRIED, but it was too time consuming to improve my education level just for some silly art class that had nothing to do with math for example. So there. If you think it is hard for students, then I’d love to read an article about adult struggles for community/state college.