Name that test (nice words only, now…)

Ohboyohboyohboy, but that Jim Rex is a glutton for punishment. The day after he and Jim Foster came to see us, I got this release from Jim (Foster, that is):

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

South Carolinians to select name of state’s new  testing system; deadline to vote is Labor Day

EDITOR’S NOTE – The direct link to the online ballot is

COLUMBIA – State Superintendent of Education Jim Rex announced today that South Carolinians will name the state’s new standardized testing system, which will replace PACT  tests that have been administered statewide since 1999.

Voters can visit the South Carolina Department of Education’s web site and cast their ballots on line.  The deadline to vote is Labor Day, Sept. 1, at 5 p.m., and Rex will announce the winning name on Wednesday, Sept. 3.

I replied to Jim (Foster, that is) with three words: Don’t tempt me!

Given the wild unpopularity of this test, offering the public the chance to name it seemed to me like what Huck Finn said about telling the truth:

… it does seem most like setting down on a kag of powder and touching it off just to see where you’ll go to.

But then I followed the link, and saw that Jim (Rex) wasn’t taking near the chance that I thought. It’s multiple choice, not essay. The public won’t get to express itself fully with this "choice," to say the least.

12 thoughts on “Name that test (nice words only, now…)

  1. Doug Ross

    It’ll be nice someday when we have a Superintendent of Education who is interested in education instead of public relations.
    It’s widely rumored that Rex is going to run for governor. If he does then all this marketing crap is basically just free publicity for him.
    We should be using a national test and not wasting precious time and resources on coming up with our own test. It’s a great gig for educrats. Come up with a test one year, test it out for a couple years, claim success when the results go up, blame demographics when the results go down, then replace the test with a new one and start the whole process again.
    We should measure our students against the other states. We should also stop kidding ourselves that a test score is indicative of the quality of education.
    And I just saw today that Richland One has come up with the latest in educrat-speak. What were once called failing schools are now called A+ schools. No lie. The people who come up with those charades are actually paid by tax dollars. What a joke!

  2. Greg

    How about TWIT? (Time Wasted In Testing)
    Or VIEW? (Valuable Instruction and Education time Wasted)
    The amount of time most schools spend teaching to the test could be used so much more effectively in additional instruction.

  3. Gary

    If you don’t like all of this testing, then there’s only one way to change that: vote for the presidential candidate who wants to reform No Child Left Behind to have less emphasis on test scores. I probably don’t have to tell you which candidate that is.

  4. Doug Ross

    We had a decade of PACT testing. Is there anyone out there who can make a believable claim that our kids are better educated now than they were a decade ago?
    I had at least one child taking PACT tests for its entire existence. I saw no difference between the education my now 20 year old got from that of my 15 year old. And I wouldn’t expect to. It’s teachers who make the difference, not tests.

  5. Brad Warthen

    I don’t really want to get into defending the PACT here — the whole thing has gotten out of hand — but if it had worked exactly as intended, the last way I would have tried to gauge its success would be by looking at one student and asking whether it made a difference.
    Although students take the test, they are not who is being tested. It’s about aggregate scores, to give us an objective measurement of whether SCHOOLS and DISTRICTS are meeting standards. And what standards are those? The standards adopted following the 1998 Education Accountability Act, which had come about because business leaders and Republicans in the Legislature were saying kids weren’t been taught what they should be taught. Basically, we set a high bar for what we wanted kids to learn at various grade levels. The test was designed to measure whether the schools were succeeding at teaching those standards, so that the state could tell which schools and/or districts needed extra help and/or intervention to get the job done.
    It was NOT a test meant to boost individual performance. There are other instruments for doing that.
    The PACT has been a failure because of the Observer Effect — the phenomenon whereby the observer and the observed interact through the process of observation. The results have been contaminated from the get-go by the fact that teachers felt so much pressure to make sure THEIR students did well, and put so much pressure on the kids, and so much time was therefore spent getting ready for, and administering, the tests that it just distorted everything.
    The ideal test would be one that neither the teachers nor the students even know they’re taking. Let me know when you find a test like that.
    Actually, I take that back — when I was a kid in school, I took standardized tests. But they were alway a lark, a diversion from school routine. They didn’t count toward my grade, so who cared how I did on them? I always did well, but not because I was trying. I think being relaxed helped.
    Now, standardized testing is just way too high-stakes.
    And Gary — one thing I will NOT do is decide which presidential candidate to support based on what he thinks of NCLB, or education in general. That’s not what we elect a president for.

  6. Doug Ross

    Here’s information that somehow never seems to get the same publicity that naming the new test gets.. can anyone but an educrat apologist read this and claim we’re seeing progress in South Carolina’s public schools?
    Link here
    “A new report by Dr. Harold L. Long (formerly of Clemson’s Strom Thurmond Institute) has more bad news about SC graduation rates.
    Bureaucrats at the State Department of Education continue to claim public schools are graduating over 70 percent of students, but the real rate calculated by Long is just 49 percent.
    Long notes that public educators cook-the-books by only measuring the “completers” who are already in their senior year. In other words, twenty-two percent of high schools seniors drop out in just the nine months before graduation.
    The real measure of graduation – adopted by 47 states at a recent governors’ convention- is determined by dividing the total number of entering 9th graders by the number of students that received diplomas four school years later. In South Carolina that number is just 49 percent.
    This uncontroversial and common sensical methodology is totally ignored by South Carolina, leaving our state with the nation’s largest gap between our published graduation rate and the actual rate. It also means more than 150 drop-outs leave the public school system each and every school day.
    Sadly, this worst-in-the-nation ranking is no surprise.
    Spending over $11,480 per child, but only letting a tiny trickle of the reach the classroom (just 44 percent), the so-called “professional educators” at the State Department are just as apt covering up failure as they are at perpetuating it.”

  7. Doug Ross

    I know the test is meant to test schools and districts. Can you provide for me the list of schools and districts which you are absolutely certain are better now because of PACT testing? Are there any that are worse now than when PACT started? If so, how could that happen?
    So if PACT failed the people of South Carolina, what gives you any confidence that the new test will be any different?
    It’s a waste of time and money.

  8. p.m.

    PACT let us know where the problems were, Doug. It was an indicator, not a solution.
    If anybody ever tried to fix the problems PACT showed, I never saw evidence of it.
    I voted for STEP, State Test of Educational Progress, so there, I’ve done my part, and now I’ll go do my best as a school board member to fight against acronyms and programs that make something very simple altogether too complicated and bureaucratic just so it will give educrats more money to split up.

  9. ruintuit

    As I see it, the problem wasn’t with the PACT test. The problem was the shift in importance that the results from the PACT test took on when NCLB came into effect. South Carolina was admirable in setting high goals. Unfortunately, that came back to bite us when our goals were so much higher than other states. From what I understand, our National rankings were determined by these state-determined tests and South Carolina’s goals were much higher than others in the nation thus making our schools look much worse in the rankings than we really are. Please correct me if I am wrong in this assumption. I have been listening to frustrated educators whose lives (and curriculum) revolve around results from one test.
    IMHO if we must continue with the NCLB madness, what we should have is one national test to be used and compared across the nation. Until we do that, won’t we still be comparing apples to oranges using this new test? Testing is a necessary evil, but it has grown into a monster that hampers education rather than helps it. I am thankful that I came up during a time when our tests were more of a diversion and teachers were free to teach students instead of teaching a test.

  10. Dave

    Having a friend who teaches in RD1, I can pretty much agree with everything I’ve heard here.
    She’s at one of the poorly performing schools. She really cares about her students and tries to have a one-on-one relationship with every single one of them.
    Even though she’s teaching middle school, she has to be wary of how she decorates her classroom to make sure she doesn’t favor any single gang color. In the classroom, her focus has become mostly on getting these kids ready for the PACT. Many of these kids don’t have much of a foundation at home – what most of us would consider basic values such as respect to other people – they never saw it growing up and they haven’t learned it.
    The few that make it out of that kind of life do so thanks to a few good teachers being their mentors. It shouldn’t be that way – it’s a parent’s responsibility to raise their children, not a teacher’s responsibility.
    As a teacher, my friend is doing what she can to try to raise these children, because no one else is doing that job. Teaching them is definitely not her only responsibility. PACT tests and other standardized tests aren’t going to change that. Until these kids are taught how to become functioning future adults (at home and not at school), I don’t think PACT test scores will matter much.
    Also, I don’t have much faith in standardized testing, period… I scored well on the SAT and the GMAT – I just seem to do well at that kind of testing. I know people who scored better than I did. I also know people who scored badly on the SAT. And I also know people who dropped out of high school and never even took the SAT. I don’t consider a single one of those people smarter than another.
    Education is the key to our children’s future, as they say. But, it’s a different path for everyone – not English or Math test scores. It definitely starts at home though.

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