#039;Take the Test#039; good way to #039;demystify#039; standardized testing

Published 12:00 am Sunday, December 14, 2003

Walking into Bowman Auditorium at Ohio University's Southern campus, I'll admit, I was a tad nervous.

Who could blame me? It had been more than a decade since I'd been asked to take an academic test. But that's exactly what Ironton Superintendent Dean Nance had asked me to do a week or two prior when he invited me to Friday's event.

The event was a "Take the Test" program sponsored by the Ohio Department of Education. Its purpose was to fine-tune a plan ODE will present to the public later this month. The plan's goal is to reduce the misconceptions and misnomers that surround proficiency testing.

Email newsletter signup

We've all heard the criticisms:

4We're forcing teachers to teach for the test instead of teaching students to learn.

4We focus too much on the test and not enough about individual learning.

The criticism can go on and on.

But on Friday, if for a brief moment, I along with a few dozen teachers and administrators were turned into pupils. We were confronted with a small sample of the Ohio Grade 3 Reading Achievement Test and the Ohio Graduation Tests for Reading and Mathematics.

As we settled into our seats, ODE Director of Communication Patti Grey handed out the No. 2 pencils. You remember, the little yellow pencils synonymous with standardized testing.

Before we started the test, ODE officials showed some examples of how long testing has been around and how it has changed through the years.

Here's a sample question from the past:

A wagon is 2 feet deep by 10 feet long by 3 feet wide. How many bushels of apples will it hold?


Well, certainly in 1895 when Ohio students were asked this question it wasn't so far-fetched.

Today, students and adults alike might struggle to answer such a question.

And that was the point in using such a question as an introduction. It opened our eyes to how the testing process has evolved and changed with the times.

As the testing began on Friday, the first part, the grade 3 questions, was pretty simple. Many folks kept whispering quietly among themselves as they worked the questions, but those whispers soon turned silent and the only noise was the quiet hum of fluorescent lights overhead.

The graduation test, particularly the math portion, was a bit more challenging.

At the conclusion, ODE officials walked through each question and answer. Along the way, they explained exactly how the tests are scored and how the process of creating questions is completed.

By the end of December, ODE plans to release the "Take the Test" program for use by schools, cities, church groups and anyone else who wishes to learn more about the test.

For anyone with an interest in public education - whether as merely a taxpayer or as a parent - the Take the Test program looks to be a good, informative way to, as one official said, "demystify" the tests.

Kevin Cooper is publisher of The Ironton Tribune. He can be reached at (740) 532-1445 ext. 12 or by e-mail to kevin.cooper@irontontribune.com.