Lots of kids and lots of schools depend on doing well on tests to get ahead and get funding. But when those tests are scored arbitrarily by people without adequate training and without a background in education, the results can be less a measure of the person taking the test than they are of the person scoring the test. That’s the contention of Todd Farley, whose book Making the Grades: My Misadventures in the Standardized Testing Industry is now available.
Farley has worked in the test scoring business for fifteen years and offers some interesting insights into how those essay questions are actually graded. Take, for example, the ninth grade review of Debbie Does Dallas, the well-known pornographic film — should the student get full marks for a well-written review or a zero because the scorer is not a fan of the genre? Even worse is the case when some unscored tests were found after Farley and his colleague had already started in on happy hour. Not exactly the situation you want your kid’s future to depend upon.
So what’s the answer? I’m not sure, but I’d certainly agree with Farley’s recommendation that if such tests are going to be used that they be graded by education professionals rather than college kids looking to make some easy dough.