Rick Roach, a highly educated, multi-term member of Florida's District 3 school board, took the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test (a mandatory standarized test that largely determines a student's final educational certifications) and failed miserably. He's gone public with his conclusion that the test "has no accountability."
I'm sympathetic to his arguments on the reading sections -- students are questioned on an unfamiliar passage and are asked to pick the most correct answer from several largely correct answers, and receive no points for a partially correct response -- but less sympathetic to his reaction to the mathematics section. He argues that higher mathematics aren't "what kids need" in the "real world" and should not be on the test. I'd be happy to abolish the test altogether, but not higher mathematics instruction.
I struggled with higher math (flunked calculus twice before passing) but I'm glad it was part of my education. Mathematical literacy is critical to participating in a society where complex policy decisions from the "War on Terror" to questions of public health (such as vaccination) and other critical issues that directly effect the day-to-day lives of average people, and these policy decisions are often contested on the basis of warring mathematical conclusions.
“I won’t beat around the bush. The math section had 60 questions. I knew the answers to none of them, but managed to guess ten out of the 60 correctly. On the reading test, I got 62% . In our system, that’s a ‘D,’ and would get me a mandatory assignment to a double block of reading instruction.
“It seems to me something is seriously wrong. I have a bachelor of science degree, two masters degrees, and 15 credit hours toward a doctorate. I help oversee an organization with 22,000 employees and a $3 billion operations and capital budget, and am able to make sense of complex data related to those responsibilities....
“It might be argued that I’ve been out of school too long, that if I’d actually been in the 10th grade prior to taking the test, the material would have been fresh. But doesn’t that miss the point? 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.”