Thursday, October 31, 2013

Why tests do not tell you what a child knows!

She stood before me puzzled.  Clearly she had no idea what I expected of her.  I tried a second time.  You see, this is your reading range 5-12  (translate that beginning reader to about the first couple of months of 1st grade). You need to choose a book between these two numbers.    She headed back to the shelves to look for a book with which she could practice reading.
Moments later she returned with another book with a 15 on the spine.  I was up for the challenge.  “Honey, does 15 come after 12?”   “No.” was the response.  “Let’s make a number line and see if 15 comes after 12”  As I drew the number line on a piece of scratch paper, I said, “You see,  you can choose any book that is between the numbers 5 and 12.  You can choose 5, or 6, or 7, or 8, or…..I waited and she hesitatingly said 9, or…..again a pause and with a little more assurance "10?”  She counted up to 12 growing ever bolder as she approached 12.   Believing she now grasped the concept, I said smiling, “You see this book is 15. It comes after 12 so you can’t take it for your reading practice book.”
She again looked baffled.  “You do see 15 comes after 12 doesn’t it?”  Still looking baffled, I asked, “What comes after 12?”  “13!”  She announced boldly.  Suddenly I understood.  “Of course 13 is exactly what comes after 12.”  She was answering what in her mind was a VERY specific question!
The number that comes immediately after 12 is not 15!
This is just one example of why tests are so poor at indicating the level of sophistication and knowledge of children.  They ask a question which the child may understand, but cannot articulate an answer in the format in which the question is presented.  The test mistakenly indicates that the child doesn’t have a certain knowledge set. Please someone out there --- TELL those who think they know what questions to ask to live with children for a while.