What is a test? The Webster’s New American Dictionary defines a test as “a critical examination or evaluation”. The World Book 2000 Encyclopedia defines testing as “an attempt to measure a person’s knowledge, intelligence, or other characteristics in a systematic way”. The Wisconsin 2004 freshmen will have to take a graduation test in order to graduate their senior year. They have four chances to pass the graduation examination. This paper will explain how the current requirements for graduating compare to the graduation standardized test. Included are the obstacles that are involved with implementing the test, group and individual opinions concerning the graduation test, and a recent survey of people involved with the test.
The graduation requirements at most high schools are similar to the graduation test standards in many content areas. To graduate, a student needs to complete four credits of English, three credits of social studies, two credits of mathematics, and two credits of science. (Misky) The four credits of English include instruction in written and oral communication, grammar and usage of the English language, and literature. (Misky) This is similar to the test, which measures reading, literature, writing, language, media and technology, and research and inquiry. (Wisconsin) The three credits of Social Studies cover instruction in state and local government. (Misky) The test includes geography, history, politics, economics, and behavioral sciences. (Wisconsin) The two credits of math provide instruction in the properties, processes, and symbols of arithmetic, and elements of algebra, geometry, and statistics. (Misky) The test contains mathematical processes, number operations and relationships, measurement, geometry, statistics and probability, and algebraic relationships. (Wisconsin) The two credits of science incorporate Physical science and Life science. (Misky) The test provides science connections, nature of science, science inquiry, Physical science, Earth and Space science, Life and Environmental science, science applications, and science in personal and social perspectives. (Wisconsin) In most cases the categories are equivalent with each other. The categories that fall short will just have to be propelled or altered to fit the test.
The decision to have a graduation test or not met with a great deal of resistance. One of the largest problems was the parents’ perspective on the test. The parents didn’t want their kids to take the test because of the high risk of failure. Another problem group was the legislators. They didn’t want to pass the test because they fear the parents. Tommy Thompson had to push the test through many times before it was accepted. (Thompson) Other problems included the budget for the test, developing an opt- out path, and trying to erase the fear of failure.
The governor of Wisconsin strongly supported the tests. Tommy Thompson said, “Wisconsin taxpayers invest a great deal of money to provide the children of this state with a quality education. So when a student graduates from high school, I want the student, their parents and the taxpayers to have something to show for that investment.” He also says:
“Parents and the community will be able to examine the success of their students and compare it to other schools to assess the quality of their schools. The test will help communities determine where their schools are doing well and where they may need some improvement. From teachers to parents to taxpayers, we all want our schools to be as strong as possible and for our children to be as well educated as possible. The graduation test will serve as a tool to help us achieve that goal.” (Restore)
All he is doing is trying to restore meaning to the diploma, and create a new standard for evaluation.
Students are split down the middle about the test. Jason, says, “I like the concept, but this test is not realistic.” He thinks it is unfair to test students on a course they haven’t taken yet. (Davis) Josh is worried that teachers will change the way they teach, and the students will get bored with a set curriculum. (Davis) Other students say that the test is too long, but the questions were workable with reasoning skills. (Davis)
I say that the test is a great idea. I took the Minnesota graduation test toward the end of my eighth grade year. I passed the test with ease except in my weak area, which was English. When I passed I received a report that said that I passed; I had to use the document later to show that I passed the test.
Many other places went through this same kind of dilemma. So I found a poll at Public Agenda: Reality Check 2001 that questions people who have gone through this problem and told what they thought. The survey was categorized into many sections called findings, so I took out the findings that related to testing.
Finding Two: All groups voice strong support for local efforts to raise standards and for using high stakes standardized tests as part of the effort. However, all groups strongly oppose basing promotion or graduation solely on the results of testing—a policy that teachers say is still quite rare.
Q: Overall, would you say that the schools are careful and reasonable in putting in place higher academic standards, or are they being too careless and unreasonable?
Percent saying “Careful and reasonable”: Employers 86%, Parents 81%, Teachers 80%, and Professors 71%.
Q: Before students are awarded a high school diploma, would you want your school district to require students to: pass a basic skills test in reading, writing and math; pass a more challenging test showing they have learned at higher levels; or do you think that requiring kids to pass a test is a bad idea?
Percentage of parents saying: 57% basic skills test, 27% more challenging, and 13% bad idea.
Percentage of teachers saying: 56% basic skills test, 26% more challenging, and 15% bad idea.
Q: It’s wrong to use the results of just on test to decide whether a student gets promoted or graduates. Would you say you agree or disagree with this view? Is that strongly or somewhat?
Percentage of teachers saying: 79% strongly agree and 11% some what agree.
Percentage of parents saying: 56% strongly agree and 19% some what agree.
Q: At your school, are students promoted base solely on their standardized test scores, only in part, or are the scores not part of the promotion decision?
Percent of teachers saying: Test scores are not part of the decision 56%, Test scores are used only in part 38%, Promoted solely on scores 3%, and don’t know 3%. (Reality)
The findings show that most people, who have taken the test or dealt with it, think it is a good idea.
No matter what happens there will always be problems, it just matters how they are dealt with. There will always be the fear of not graduating and the panic of taking the test, but what are you going to do in life. Are you just going to run away, opt- out, or face what you fear and conquer it? I realize that not everyone can take tests, but that is why I think that the test should only be part of the graduating process.