John Spencer from Arizona posted a very good comment on a previous blog entry entitled "Bismarck - Day 2 - A Long Road Ahead." He said:
Part of what this proves is that local often means better. I feel that the AIMS test would be better if teachers from Arizona wrote the questions. Instead, we end up with McGraw-Hill -created questions that fail to address our state's actual standards.
I found myself responding in a comment that was much too long to say the least. Since I had sooo much to say about it, I thought maybe I should document it here.
To sum up my answer:
While we were reviewing the test questions with the McGraw-Hill representative, we asked if we (the ND English teachers present) could be hired as test writers for McGraw-Hill. The answer was a resounding "Yes!" BUT, we could not write for our own state because that would be a conflict of interest. Stupid, stupid, stupid.
In our tiny neck of the woods we have a county competition called the Knowledge Bowl. Teachers from the curricular areas write 2 or 3 questions each that are put in an ever-increasing pool of questions. The teams from the county compete using questions drawn from the question pool. Rarely do my student report back that they have gotten more than one of my questions during the entire competition.
If teachers from each state were able to write questions specific to their own standards and benchmarks, students would then be assessed on what each state believes is the most important in curriculum and what they 'actually' teach each and every day.
A 'conflict of interest' they call it. Really?! Is it really a conflict of interest to have students assessed by the people who teach them?
Maybe I am just being idealistic. Maybe there really are teachers out there that are so bad that they are not teaching anything during the school day. Maybe there are multitudes of them who know nothing of what should be taught in their curricular areas. Maybe they are completely unable to write a question that accurately assesses the curriculum they teach.
I do know that McGraw-Hill hires teachers from all over the country to write questions for the tests. What I do not understand is why these teachers who are writing cannot simply write for the state they teach in?
Oh yeah, I remember. Conflict of interest. Hmmm.