Testing News

October 04, 1989 2 min read

Two of the most prominent critics of standardized tests have issued reports that renew their charges against what they say is the misuse of major tests.

John Jacob Cannell, the former West Virginia physician who reported in 1987 that nearly all elementary students scored “above average” on commercially available achievement tests, concludes in a new analysis that students in at least 80 percent of school districts continue to score above that level.

In his study, Dr. Cannell, now a psychiatric resident in Albuquerque, N.M., found that 48 of the 50 states--all but Arizona and Louisiana--report scores “above the national norm” on the tests.

Although test-makers say that the high scores reflect genuine improvements in student achievement, Dr. Cannell--citing a study of test-security practices and anecdotal evidence from teachers--charges that the results “are often caused by lax security, nonstandard test practices, deceptive statistics, and misleading impressions.”

Copies of the report, “How Public Educators Cheat on Standardized Achievement Tests,” are available for $15 each from Friends for Education, 600 Girard Blvd., N.E., Albuquerque, N.M. 87106.

Meanwhile, the National Center for Fair & Open Testing has published a book aimed at helping students and parents “stand up to the Scholastic Aptitude Test.”

Charging that the sat is biased against women and members of minority groups, Standing Up To the sat, published by Arco, a division of Simon & Schuster Inc., includes information about the rights of test-takers, as well as about colleges that no longer require the test for admission.

In addition, it includes test-taking tips intended to help students ''beat” the test.

In a statement, officials from the College Board, which administers the sat, responded that the book is misleading and includes “half-truth and innuendo.”

Despite a growing national concern about the level of students’ “cultural literacy,” the standardized tests used in most secondary schools tend to ignore that aspect of education, a new study concludes.

The study found that between two-thirds and four-fifths of the test questions focus on reading comprehension. Only a few college-level tests ask questions about authors, characters, or style, it found.

Copies of the study, “The Current State of Assessment in Literature,” are available for $7 each from the Center for the Learning and Teaching of Literature, School of Education, State University of New York at Albany, 1400 Washington Ave., Albany, N.Y. 12222.--rr

A version of this article appeared in the October 04, 1989 edition of Education Week as Testing News