Florida school official says state standardized tests are unfair, worthless

Here and Now

Florida’s school districts were ranked recently and some school officials say the rankings aren’t fair.

In an effort to prove that, one school board member, Rick Roach took the test to see how well he would do on the standardized tests that are the basis for the rankings. His results? An F on the math test and a D on the reading test.

That, says Roach, who has a bachelor’s degree, two master’s degrees, and 15 credit hours toward a doctorate, is proof that the tests are worthless and the rankings meaningless. He says he didn’t know a single one of the math questions and got a 62 percent on the reading test.

“That’s how I did on the 10th grade version of our state assessment test,” Roach said. “One way is to explain it is the state assessment reading is a different planet than learning to read to pick up things that you need to learn and you want to learn. I don’t think anyone can question that I can read.”

Can you pass the state’s reading test? Try these sample reading question from an actual FCAT via the Washington Post. If that’s easy enough, try these math questions, also from the Post.

Roach criticized that the tests, which in many cases determine whether a student should go to college, have little relevance to real world adult life. He levied complaints at state educational officials and asked to know who is responsible for putting together and evaluating the tests.

Roach also rejected the argument that learning math teaches students higher level thinking that is useful to them in many parts of their lives. He said he’s been unable to find any research that supports that argument.

“If you might need the math, you absolutely ought to take the math. It’s a track you should be on. If you need the graphic arts to be successful, you need to be tracked into that with a high emphasis on those areas. Your goal in life, your profession in life that you’re trying to attain, ought to dictate what you take,” Roach said.

He’s found many friends and allies in his quest.

“About 98 percent of everybody who’s personally contacted me has told me that I was, No. 1, a hero, a leader,” he said. “Stories have come out from people who are in their 50s now who were told when they were teens they would not be college material or that they weren’t very smart. Then they want on to become successful and thumbed their nose at people later on.”

Critics say that Roach failing the test isn’t an indictment of the test but a criticism of his middle school education. Others say while perhaps he didn’t get them right now, but he would have in high school.

“A lot of people guard the tests with their lives,” Roach said. “They’re not looking at the objective part of it. A lot of people hear me saying two things. One, that math’s not important, and that’s not what I’m saying at all.”

Rather than expecting all students to know calculus and trigonometry, Roach said we should focus on everyday math, like multiplication, division, percentages and statistics.

To prove that he’s on the right track, Roach cites a ream of examples from otherwise successful students who failed the state test. In one instance, he said a girl who is in all honors classes and has six As and a B, wasn’t feeling well and failed the test, and is now in a remedial reading class. Some 300 students that had a 3.0 GPA or better in their high school careers and otherwise completed all the necessary credits they need to graduate, won’t receive diplomas this year because they failed the FCAT, he said.

“These kids get put into an academic jail, because some test says they can’t read. It’s just not right,” Roach said. “That cannot be fail.”

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