On Monday, The Washington Post ran a story of a local school board member who took his state's version of the 10th grade standardized tests -- one in math and one in reading.

Here's how the author describes him:

"By any reasonable measure, my friend is a success. His now-grown kids are well-educated. He has a big house in a good part of town. Paid-for condo in the Caribbean. Influential friends. Lots of frequent flyer miles. Enough time of his own to give serious attention to his school board responsibilities."

2 Masters and a Bachelor of Science degree. And yet he bombed the tests. He knew none of the answers on the math test (but did guess 10 out of 60 correctly) and only earned a 62% on the reading test. An "F" and a "D" respectively.

On Tuesday, The Washington Post ran a follow-up story, revealing the school board member to be Rick Roach from Orange County, Florida. Although state law says that only students can sit the exams, Roach convinced officials to let him take a version of Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test (FCAT) earlier this year.

It's something Roach says he's been curious about for a while, as he's begun to question whether or not these tests are fair or accurate assessments of student performance. (No doubt, for an elected school board member, this is a political stand, not just a pedagogical one.) Roach does recognize that he's been out of school a long time and that some will suggest that's why he scored so poorly, but he says that that argument misses the point. If these tests are meant to assess to student ability, he argues, his scores shouldn't be so divergent from his academic and business successes.

"If I'd been required to take those two tests when I was a 10th grader, my life would almost certainly have been very different. I'd have been told I wasn't 'college material,' would probably have believed it, and looked for work appropriate for the level of ability that the test said I had."

Roach says that he sees this disconnect among current students too where some who perform well in classes are unable to pass the exams. And in the state of Florida, that means no high school diploma.

The Washington Post story has prompted some to call for more education officials to take their local and state standardized tests.

It's an interesting idea.

Roach was able to pull some strings to take Florida's state-mandated tests. But there are other opportunities for the public (parents and pundits) to take similar sorts of standardized tests. Easiest perhaps is the SAT, next scheduled for January 28. (The January test also offers the subject area versions, so you can test your literature, physics, or chemistry knowledge too).

How well do you think you'd do? What would you do, between now and then, to help prepare yourself for the test?

Earlier this year, I wrote about Debbie Stier's quest to ace the SAT. She's studying for the test alongside her son, and with her Perfect Score Project, she's been chronicling her test-prep and test-taking. Stier has tried a number of different software and tutoring options and as such, her blog offers lots of insight into the very lucrative (but not always very helpful) testing industry.

For a long time, standardized tests purported to tell us about students' abilities and knowledge. What will we learn if more adults start taking them too?

Audrey Watters


Hack Education

The History of the Future of Education Technology

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