Sunday, February 04, 2007

The symphony of CST criticism: Bad science

"The science is wrong in question X."
My experience with physics teachers (high school, college, and university) is that we tend to have some opinions on content and assessment. Strong opinions. And they don't all match.

Given a hundred potential exam items, I wonder how many would gain unanimous approval from attendees of a section meeting of The American Association of Physics Teachers. We're a clever lot, and we can likely poke holes in any test item you put before us, no matter how simple or straightforward you think it is.

All questions on the CST are vetted and field-tested. Items written for the testing contractor are vetted by the contractor, California Department of Education personnel, and the Assessment Review Panel, which is made up of professional scientists and science educators (kindergarten through university). Many questions get burned at one level or another as they make their way to the CST. Some less-than-perfect questions even get included on operation forms. But as far as anyone in the process knows, the questions have solid content and are aligned to standards.

And if I failed to mention it before, releasing a question puts it beyond the reach of future operational forms.


Anonymous said...

I think one has to be a bit careful here in distinguishing two types of criticisms. One - which your title seems to refer to - is that the question is legitimately and universally recognized as incorrect (e.g. F = m a^3).
The second - which the text of your post seems to address - is that the question is a bit ill posed or has a foggy or subjective answer (e.g. which method would be "easiest").

I would say that the test does no contain anything of the first type and a few of the second. Ideally the test should contain neither. That said - I cannot recall ever taking a standardized test and not thinking that at least one of the questions was (umm..) questionable..

On the whole the test is fairly good - though I would remove the questions which have been commented on. There are also a couple questions which it boggles the mind (well, at least it boggles my mind) that anyone could possibly miss - even having never taken a physics course in their life. But, thats another matter

Dean Baird said...

All the questions that have been commented on have been removed from the test; they have been released to the public and will never again appear on an operational form.

All items that do appear on live forms have been field tested and found to be neither too easy nor too hard.