27.7.09

Unethical Decisions Have Consequences, or Another Reason Homeschoolers Can Have Bad Reputations

When my daughter recently completed her standardized testing, as required at the end of third grade by state law, we chose to have her tested through the same organization that runs her arts enrichment program. We reasoned that a familiar location with familiar faces would likely be a boon, and we appreciated not having to delve further into our testing options with this, our first venture into the world of testing.

Accordingly, I admit that I failed on some level. I didn't inquire as to through whom the test would be scored (though I knew that it wasn't directly from the test publisher). To be honest, I didn't want to know. If I didn't know for sure, then I wasn't deliberately doing something I found distasteful and unethical. My fears were confirmed, though, when her score report arrived. The accompanying booklet about interpreting scores was, in fact, marked as I feared - BJU Press.

I don't buy from the major fundamentalist curriculum companies, such as Alpha Omega or A Beka. Beyond my reasoning for those decisions, though, are even more reasons not to purchase from Bob Jones University. I think most people are aware that they had a ban on interracial dating until the year 2000. I'm upset that any part of my money went to their organization, and I'm forced to conclude that we'll be testing on our own next year, or through an organization that gets tests from another supplier.

If that weren't bad enough, though, there was the oddity on the score report. The subtest Math Computation had an asterisk beside it, and the explanation given was simple. "Math Computation not included in Totals or Composite." My daughter and I were both understandably a bit bummed by this - she had gotten all twenty-five problems in this section correct! I didn't go back to it, though, and more or less put it out of my mind.

Just a few days later, though, a thread was started on the Well-Trained Mind forums. Another poster had tested her children using ITBS through BJU, and since her child's scores could have been brought up by inclusion of the math computation score, she wanted to know why it wasn't included. A few of us responded that we, too, would like to know the answer to that question. Then a few more people responded that their children's score reports did not have the asterisk or the explanatory note. It was finally pieced together than those who had the asterisk all had, purposefully or inadvertently, tested their children through BJU.

The original poster decided to call and ask why this was the case. Here's what she reported back to the board:

Apparently it's an option for a company to include it or not. The math computation section is a timed drill, and apparently based on feedback from other homeschoolers, BJU has opted to not include it in the totals, so as to not drag down the scores.

Other companies, who have that same option to include it or not, apparently do include it.


Yes, you read that correctly. Homeschoolers felt that including a timed drill on their children's tests would bring down their children's scores, and consequently, BJU opted not to include it in the totals or composite.

I almost don't have adequate words to discuss this. No, the ability to do add, subtract, and multiply whole numbers (the three categories tested by Math Computation) does not directly relate to mathematical reasoning ability. However, the ability to quickly calculate sums, differences, and products is essential, especially as one leaves arithmetic and begins to study mathematics proper. Beyond that line of reasoning, however, is the fact that standardized tests are explicitly designed to measure certain items. People may argue about what standardized tests do and don't reveal, but rarely will you hear an argument that a standardized test is anything less than carefully planned - because it is almost painstakingly prepared. Further, no other subtest is singled out for elimination. True, the science, social studies, and maps & diagrams subtests are labeled optional, but if the student opts to take the test, they are included in the composite score. No other scores are eliminated, even though, in truth, they all are "timed drills." It's a test that is timed and each question, due to the nature of a multiple-choice test, has just one correct answer. It could be argued, and probably quite persuasively, that the ITBS in its entirety is a timed drill.

Manipulating the totals and composite score so that homeschooled children appear to do better on standardized testing than their public-schooled counterparts is, in my mind, distasteful. It's just another reason to continue to avoid ever giving my money to BJU Press.

1 comments:

Jana said...

This is an older post, but I just found your blog and wish to comment on it.

I am sure one of the reasons they have chosen not to include them as to homeschoolers requests, although I do agree with you. Is that some of the newer math curriculums don't push to master math facts. They are more about how to process maths.

I tend to lean more towards mastery.

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