Minimum Competency Testing

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Information about Minimum Competency Testing

Published on March 1, 2009

Author: magek


Minimum Competency Testing : Minimum Competency Testing “Do you mean that you spent a billion dollars and you don’t know whether they can read or not?” John F Kennedy History and Policy Context of Minimum Competency Testing : History and Policy Context of Minimum Competency Testing The post-Sputnik - many educational reforms—initially targeted to science and mathematics education—were instituted in the United States, minimum competency programs became popular in this country. Problems with these early minimum competency testing : Problems with these early minimum competency testing There was not an agreed upon definition of minimum competency; as a result, policymakers defined these requisite skills within each jurisdiction (Winfield, 1990). Minimum competency testing policies were originally intended ??: Minimum competency testing policies were originally intended To add meaning to a high school diploma; i.e., students had to demonstrate at least minimum levels of knowledge and skills if they were to graduate or at least move on to the next grade level. For graduation, it was assumed that these minimum levels would translate into successful job performance. Theoretical Assumptions of Minimum Competency : Theoretical Assumptions of Minimum Competency These fall into three main categories of assumptions: workplace readiness, school reform, and learning theory. Workplace Readiness.What is it? : Workplace Readiness.What is it? Fortunately, the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Labor undertook defining the skills and knowledge U.S. student will need to be successful in the work force. Workplace Know-How : Workplace Know-How Workplace Competencies: Effective workers can productively use: Resources—They know how to allocate time, money, materials, space, Interpersonal skills—They can work on teams. Information—They can acquire, evaluate, organize, communicate, and process information. Systems—They understand social, organizational Technology—They can select equipment and tools Workplace Know-How : Workplace Know-How Foundational Skills: Competent workers in the high-performance workplace need: Basic Skills—Reading, writing, mathematics, speaking and listening. Thinking Skills—The ability to learn, to reason, to think creatively, to make decisions, and to solve problems. Personal Qualities—Individual responsibility, self-esteem and self-management, sociability, and integrity. (From SCANS, 1992, p.6). Beliefs about School Reform : Beliefs about School Reform Proponents of competency testing programs argue that use of such tests creates incentives for low-performing schools and students to improve their performance Beliefs about School Reform : Beliefs about School Reform There appears to be evidence that this strategy works, in the sense that it produces a rise in test scores. The Resnicks (1992) argued that whether we like it or not, “(1) you get what you assess... [and] (2) you do not get what you do not assess... “ Lake Wobegon Effect : Lake Wobegon Effect All the women are strong, all the men are good-looking, and all the children are above average Performance Indicator Loses Its Usefulness When Used As An Object Of policy : Performance Indicator Loses Its Usefulness When Used As An Object Of policy The clearer you are about what you want to test, the more likely you are to get it, but the less likely it is to mean anything. Beliefs about Learning : Beliefs about Learning This approach to testing is closely linked to behaviorist learning theory. Behaviorism expects learning in a given domain to be the sequential accumulation of requisite skills, therefore testing should occur at each specific learning step. While this may appear logical, it’s not always true. Slide 14: These new developments in human learning theory challenge the factory model of education and “the adequacy of the `one size fits all' presumption of standard assessment (Mislevy, 1996, p. 12). Our believe in “basic” skills is wrong : Our believe in “basic” skills is wrong The “facts-before-thinking model of learning” according to Shepard, 1991 was just wrong. Current information from cognitive psychology indicates that students DO NOT necessarily need to possess all of the essential basic skills before moving on to more complex content. The Macnamara Fallacy : The Macnamara Fallacy The first step is to measure whatever can be easily measured. This is OK as far as it goes. The second step is to disregard that which can’t easily be measured or to give it an arbitrary quantitative value. This is artificial and misleading. The third step is to presume that what can’t be measured easily really isn’t important. This is blindness. The fourth step is to say that what can’t be easily measured really doesn’t exist. This is suicide.(Charles Handy, The empty raincoat, 1994 p219). Slide 17: We start out with the aim of making the important measurable, and end up making only the measurable important. Another troubling assumption : Another troubling assumption The use of basic competency tests relates to the expected unidimensionalilty of the domains (e.g., subtraction, spelling). It follows from the assumption of sequential mastery!!!! : It follows from the assumption of sequential mastery!!!! The domain, as represented on the test, can be ordered along a difficulty (complexity) continuum. Items on minimum competency tests are generally targeted for a certain level along this slope. Knowledge from cognitive psychology informs us that : Knowledge from cognitive psychology informs us that Most students do not have to acquire knowledge according to a perfectly ordered sequence. Intended Effects : Intended Effects 1. Improvement in basic mathematics skills (Frederiksen, 1994). 2. Increase in basic reading achievement (Winfield, 1990). 3. Increase in test scores (Frederiksen, 1994). Unintended Consequences : Unintended Consequences Increasing dropout rate for more successful students (Griffin & Heidorn, 1996, Reardon, 1996). 2. Narrowing curriculum (Lomax, West, Harmon, Viator, & Madaus, 1995; Shepard & Dougherty, 1991). 4. Lack of transfer to high-order skills (Frederiksen, 1994 Unintended Consequences : Unintended Consequences SOCIAL ISSUES : Minimum competency testing has also been characterized by its opponents as a racist means of denying educational credentials such as high school diplomas to minority students, and to Black students in particular. This argument is based on the failure rate of Black students, which historically has been greater than that of White students on these and other academic achievement tests. Unintended Consequences : Unintended Consequences Competency testing essentially contradicts current mandates for having students learn rigorous content standards. Philosophical and Practical Arguments to this Position : Philosophical and Practical Arguments to this Position Philosophically, it establishes a de facto two-track educational system. Thus, the gap between the high and low achievers will continue to widen. Slide 26: There have been no evidence demonstrating that the use of minimum competency testing positively influences the types of skills and knowledge needed for work in the 21st century. Slide 27: Now that we have all of this good news gathered, what do we do with it?

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