consultants are sandburs

Friday, January 16, 2015

Arizona Republicans have voted already this term to impose a standardized testing requirement on student graduation. It uses the 100 question citizenship test used for foreign nationals wanting US citizenship. Absent from the report, what private firm prepares and profits from such a test, for either purpose.

Yahoo News carries an AP report, the item stating:

PHOENIX (AP) — Arizona high school students face the nation's first requirement to pass the U.S. citizenship test on civics before they can graduate after the legislation sailed through the Republican-controlled Legislature.

Lawmakers approved the bill amid a growing nationwide effort to boost civics education, and newly elected Republican Gov. Doug Ducey signed it into law Thursday evening.

The swift action comes as states around the country take up similar measures, driven primarily by a conservative institute whose motto is "Patriotism Matters." The leader of the organization is former California U.S. Rep. Frank Riggs, who came in last in Arizona's Republican primary for governor after running a hard-right campaign focused on immigration and rhetoric against President Barack Obama.

The Arizona-based Joe Foss Institute has set a goal of having all 50 states adopt the requirement by 2017, the 230th anniversary of the U.S. Constitution. The institute says legislatures in 15 states are expected to consider it this year. The North Dakota House of Representatives overwhelmingly approved the same measure Thursday, but Arizona's proposal was the first to pass a full Legislature.

The Foss Institute promotes the test to state legislatures as a way to increase knowledge of basic government by students.

The Joe Foss Institute appears to be an Arizona policy outlet, see, e.g., here and here; their homepage, here.

The item continues:

The proposal requires high school students to correctly answer 60 of 100 questions on the civics portion of the test new citizens must pass. The test includes questions about the Founding Fathers, the Bill of Rights and U.S. presidents. Passing it would be required to earn a high school or GED diploma starting in the 2016-17 school year.

The bill garnered support from all 53 Republicans in the House and Senate, plus 10 of 27 Democrats.

But opponents questioned whether the test, which relies on memorization, is the best way to engage students in civics education. And they also wonder what message it sends when the bill was the first order of business at a time when Arizona is facing a large deficit and a court order to repay schools for funding that lawmakers cut during the recession, which approaches $3 billion.

"In the midst of a budget crisis, after we purposely underfunded our public schools, we rush this piece of legislation through in the first week even before we've addressed the investment the courts have ordered us to (pay) to our public schools," Rep. Juan Mendez said, explaining his opposition.

Republican House Majority Leader Steve Montenegro cited a federal study that said two-thirds of students measured below proficiency in civics.

Wait one minute. What in the world is meant by "measured below proficiency?" More sop for the standardized testing hucksters, because if everyone passes easily, why use the test whereas if high failure can be ginned up via focus on nit-picking stuff, the test profit takers can defend it as necessary and/or helpful as a diagnostic tool.

Standard standardized testing stuff? Or, what else?

The AP item ends:

A high school government teacher, Joe Thomas of Mesa, said he was concerned that the 100-question test would take up an entire class period and requires rote memorization rather than critical thinking.

"The interest is promoting civics, and we want to see students engaged," Thomas said. "I don't know if a test engages students."

I don't know that rote memorization and procedures helps much of anything, except helping clerks to count change at the supermarket, but I do remember Ms. Smith, in high school, noting that while Grover Cleveland was running for President opponents bandied about a slogan about an illegitimate child he'd fathered, "Ma, Ma, where's my Pa. He's gone to the Whitehouse, Hah, Hah, Hah." That did help me understand the John Edwards withdrawal from seeking the presidency. It was a true American Civics lesson that way.

My bet, it's not in the hundred questions on that frigging test.

How do you measure the measuring stick? In terms of international measure, there is a Platinum bar kept in a controlled environment in Paris, long the standard meter in length (now a meter is defined as a fixed multiple of the wavelength of a particular spectral line in the emission spectrum of a particular element). Time is kept by atomic clocks kept by NIST, and the GPS system is based on such clocks on precisely positioned satellites.

That is science, and then there is "scientific" testing. How can we consider and weigh the adequacy of presumably a hundred multiple choice question/answer pairings, something easily machine scored, but with the caveat that if the questions are revealed in advance for citizen think-about-it evaluation, the test cannot be used because test takers will have advance notice to train to the test precisely question by question. So the thing is a "TRUST ME" shell game propagated by the testing agencies.

Can an employer in Minnesota administer an IQ test to a job applicant, is that even legal or is it illegal? What are the policy reasons and the sensible reasoning either way?

Yet this testing thing is pushed out by Pearson and others, to flow cash to corporate coffers; never mind actual merit of the stuff, it is the perception of reliability that is being sold. Hence they tell you it is reliable. What else would you expect them to say? That it's hogwash?

It is selling the sizzle, regardless of quality of the steak. Rote memory has a place, but it is not any reasoning person's be-all, and end-all.

FURTHER: There is such a thing as using loaded questions. As a thought experiment consider:

TRUE OR FALSE: Ronald Reagan was responsibe for the fall of the Berlin Wall?


TRUE OR FALSE: Joe McCarthy intentionally ruined careers in order to advance politically?

Each a loaded question, and which would you most expect to see on a standardized test?

How about this one:

The federal government has the power to make oil and gas pipeline routing decisions the states must follow because: [A] The commerce clause in the Constitution authorizes it; [B] The federal government controls the federal budget; [C] The Civil War was fought over the question of federal vs state powers, and the North won; [D] Lobbyists want it that way; [E] Politicians in each of the two major parties are inclined to favor politicians having the ultimate say in major policy questions.

What's the correct choice?

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