How would you do if you took a tenth-grade standardized test? After hearing for years that a large percentage of the 180,000 students in his district were not reading at grade level, Rick Roach, who serves on the Board of Education in District 3 in Orange County, Florida, decided to find out. Getting access to a version of the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test, commonly known as the FCAT, Roach tested his skill and the results were alarming.
By any measure, Rick Roach is an educated successful man. He has a bachelor’s degree, two masters and several credits toward a doctorate. He taught for many years and currently helps oversee an organization with 22,000 employees and a $3 billion operations budget.
However, he earned a D on the reading portion of the test and guessed on all 60 questions in the math portion, getting 10 correct. Although some may say that he’s been out of school too long to remember the material needed to be successful on the test, Roach says that points out just how out of touch the test really is.
“I have a wide circle of friends in various professions. Since taking the test, I’ve detailed its contents as best I can to many of them, particularly the math section, which does more than its share of shoving students in our system out of school and on to the street. Not a single one of them said that the math I described was necessary in their profession.
A test that can determine a student’s future life chances should surely relate in some practical way to the requirements of life. I can’t see how that could possibly be true of the test I took.”
Until Tuesday afternoon, Roach had released the results of his tests but kept his identity private. Now he’s going public with his findings because he’s committed to taking on this issue. He’s concerned that thousands of Florida students with GPAs of 3.0 or higher are being denied high school graduation because they fail a portion of the FCAT.
“If I’d been required to take those two tests when I was a 10th grader, my life would almost certainly have been very different. I’d have been told I wasn’t ‘college material,’ would probably have believed it, and looked for work appropriate for the level of ability that the test said I had.”
Roach suggests that the tests are being created by for-profit entities with very little accountability or perspective.
“There’s a concept called reverse design that is critical,” he said. “We are violating that with our test. Instead of connecting what we learn in school with being successful in the real world, we are doing it in reverse. We are testing first and then kids go into the real world. Whether the information they have learned is important or not becomes secondary.”