"Bear in mind that the wonderful things you learn in your schools are the work of many generations, produced by enthusiastic effort and infinite labor in every country of the world. All this is put into your hands as your inheritance in order that you may receive it, honor it, add to it, and one day faithfully hand it to your children. Thus do we mortals achieve immortality in the permanent things which we create in common." - Albert Einstein

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Are Politicians Academically Ready?

Elections in the Philippines are coming soon. This is a midterm election where 12 senate seats and all seats in the House of Representatives are up. There are so many issues the Philippines is currently facing. Education, health care, and defense rest on the national government. "Fighting corruption" seems an overused slogan that competence appears often overlooked. With the poor state of both basic and higher education in the country, perhaps, aspiring politicians in the Philippines should take the National Achievement Test so that the people could see if the people they elect into office can actually read, write, add and subtract.

I came across an article in the Huffington Post that talks about a politician in the state of Texas. The article, "Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?", written by Jason Stanford, talks about Texas State Representative Gene Wu's exploration of the states's exam, State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR):

Above figure copied from http://www.tea.state.tx.us/student.assessment/staar/
Jason Stanford begins his article with an answer to the article's title:
Are you smarter than a 5th grader? For some Texas politicians, the answer is no.
Gene Wu has been closely examining the assessment exam used in Texas. He recently issued the following memorandum:


Above downloaded from http://www.genefortexas.com/docs/STAAR_combo.pdf

And the following is one of the questions that Gene Wu chose to demonstrate "confusing, or even maddening":

Above downloaded from http://www.genefortexas.com/docs/STAAR_combo.pdf
With regard to how the other legislators in Texas answered the challenge, Wu says:
"Some of them refused to do it. Some of them gave it a good shot, did it, and said, 'I can see your point,' Some of them were like, 'Yeah, I did this, no problem.' That's great. So you're smarter than a 5th grader."
I could see some of Wu's points in the above example. This question is not only testing a student's ability to subtract, but also a student's ability to read a thermometer, as well as fluency in English.  However, there is nothing really wrong with the question. The problem lies in what the real intention behind the testing is, and how are the exam results going to be interpreted. Of course, the exam also comes with a huge price tag. Apparently, as Stanford's article mentions, "Texas is paying Pearson $468 million for this new test." 

The example above is indeed a good question to weed out politicians who are not academically ready. It is a question that tests how one can read and do arithmetic. It is a question that we all really need to ask in elections.







No comments:

Post a Comment