Sunday, February 04, 2007

The symphony of CST criticism: Somebody does it better

"California has lousy standards and assessments. If you want to see a state that gets it right, check out what they've done in [StateName]."
Actually, I've never seen this criticism. I hope for it every year, but it never comes through.

While it is a great and worthy exercise to criticize California's published and readily-available standards and assessments, the product of such criticism is a statement of "how it would be if I were king." And those are great. But alas, you are not king. Nor am I. (Make no mistake; I should be king. But I am not.) There is a process by which standards and assessments come about. The process is filled with panels, committees, the legislature, the state board of education, obligations to state and federal law, etc. None of which fetter your (or my) vision of the perfect assessment tool.

My challenge to the critics is to point out the state that got it right. Did Idaho nail it? Was it perfected in Kansas? Should we hope to emulate Texas? Which state does it in a manner you would approve of? (And your own state of mind doesn't count on this one.)

Some come close to this criticism when they mention Advanced Placement, SAT Physics, or the Force Concept Inventory.
The problem is that none of those are standards-based, criterion-referenced assessments intended for all high school students. That's what the CST is. So comparisons between the CST and those other exams are apples and oranges.

So let me rephrase to make the challenge more clear. California's statewide assessment of high school physics (The Physics CST) is the best one in the country. There isn't a single state in the union that does it better. If you think I'm wrong, let me know. And name the state.


Anonymous said...

New York has done a great job with the Regents Exams over the years. Students must pass the Regents exam to get credit for the course. It is taken in lieu of a final exam. The level of rigor is higher than California standards. Their "standards" focus on Physics knowlege and skills. Why doesn't California look at other states and see what these states are doing better (since California is 47th in Science)?

Dean Baird said...

I have no reason to doubt that the Regents Exams are anything but first-rate. But they aren't intended for all high school students enrolled in physics.

California made an effort to emulate the Regents in the 1990s. It was called The Golden State Exam. The GSEs were more robust than the CSTs in the sense that they included open-ended questions. In science, there were laboratory tasks that students had to complete.

The GSE was discontinued a few years ago. So California has no counterpart to the Regents.

Does New York have a counterpart to our CSTs? I'm still eager to hear about the state that has implemented a better criterion-referenced exam for all high school physics students.