The SAT decides what colleges accept you, and now in school districts, you must pass a standardized test to graduate elementary and middle school. In one case, even the test graders have started to resent the difficulty these tests provide.
The Ohio Proficiency Test, which is the standardized test used by the State of Ohio as well as others, has controversy surrounding it. Former test graders have come out and expressed their worries over the bureaucracy that goes into grading the tests.
One former grader said that at times, the answer key for the essay questions, or the rubric as it is called, had been modified up to twenty-seven pages due to the variety of answers that could be correct. Before the updates, graders would plague their superiors with questions over whether or not an answer should be graded a certain way if a student’s answer seemed to be right but could not be found on the rubric.
The bigger problem grows out of the frustration of the graders. Some fear that students are not being graded fairly because the graders grow tired of having to check every answer with a twenty-seven-page answer key.
One of the former OPT graders, Mr. John Koudela, fears that the same problems that plagued the OPT will occur with the grading of the Washington Assessment of Student Learning, or WASL test.
Cathy Taylor, one of the creators of the WASL, stated that they would never ask questions that could have various interpretations as the OPT did.
Joseph Wilhoft, the Assessment Director for public school testing for the state of Washington, added that it takes eighteen months for an item to be added to the test. In that eighteen-month period, the items are scrutinized by a Content Review Committee.
After it passes through review, it is placed on the exam as a non-credit question which allows for the students to actually answer the question without any penalties to their actual scores. Often, these questions will confuse students. When a question does create confusion or multiple answers, it is up to the test contractors to create an answer key with all the valid answers.
The WASL is recognized for their approach to prevent a reoccurrence of the OPT problems. Still, as Wilhoft admitted, sometimes the questions do warrant multiple answers. Is that fair to the students? Who is failing whom in this system? Is it the students for being too open-minded or the test contractors for being too small-minded?
The test contractor, the Pearson Company, has a good reputation in the educational system. Still, it has its fair share of problems. There have been complaints about mistakes on tests in different states, including 400,000 higher grades given to WASL students in 2000.
Matthew Murphy is an intern at Accuracy in Academia.