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Validity of the EOC?? Questionable!

 This fish is disgusted by its environment.
This biology teacher is disgusted by the EOC.

So today in school, my Biology I students (my daughter included) had to take the EOC.  What is an EOC?  It is the bane of my existence!!  For those of you who don't know, EOC stands for "End of Course" exam. In my state, every student must take EOC's in certain courses.  We still have three weeks of school left, but the EOC was given today.  Why, you ask??  Because the exams have to be sent to our state department of education and graded.  We MUST get the scores back before the end of the year.  Why, you may ask??  So that the EOC can count 20% of their semester average.  Call me crazy, but this seems a bit much to me.

Here are my complaints with a state mandated "End of Course" exam:
1.   Who writes the questions on the EOC?  Certainly not me.  Is this fair to my students?  I don't think so.  I valued the information years ago, when we gave "achievement tests".  I could look at these test scores and see how my students were performing against various benchmarks.  This information let me know what I needed to do differently.
2.  I have a problem with the EOC counting 20% of the semester grade.  My final exam will count only 10%.  And 70% of the semester grade will come from the work done in my class during the course of the semester.  The questions on the EOC are written by some anonymous face that I will never see, and some of the questions are really bad.  I often think that whoever writes these questions must not know anything about biology!
3.   Teachers are forced to be automatons of information.  Many of the really fun and exciting things that I used to do in the lab had to fall by the wayside.  We are in a race against time to teach volumes of information.  Does this get kids excited about science?  NO!  Give me back some time for creativity.  Give me back some time to take the kids to the lab so that I can teach them what science is really about.

I understand all about accountability.  I understand that the "powers that be" want to make sure that every teacher in the state is teaching a core set of objectives.  I think this is a mistake.  Just as asexual reproduction produces offspring with no variation, mandated state testing is producing students who are clones.  Every biology teacher worth their salt knows that variation is key to adaptation.

It is my belief that we will eventually realize that the massive testing of students at the end of each school year is a mistake.  Students are not going to remember the volumes of information that we cram down their throats prior to the EOC.  Along the way, the teaching of critical thinking and problem solving skills are being lost in favor of fact after fact after fact.  An education does not consist of a set of facts.  A good education consists of the ability to be able to think and respond, not recite back facts.

Thanks for letting me vent a little steam today.  If you have opinions on this topic, please feel free to leave a comment.


Tracee Orman said...

I agree! We do not have state-mandated EOCs, thankfully, but still focus so much attention on our own standardized tests for NCLB. I think you are absolutely correct that teaching to the test is going to come back to bite us. I can already see it in my students who struggle more and more each year to make simple decisions or problem-solve. Their critical-thinking skills are suffering dearly. Thanks for writing what we all feel!

Amy (aka Science Stuff) said...

Tracee, Thanks for your comments. The trends we see in education happen because people who are not educators are making decisions about how to educate children. It's crazy!