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  1. #21
    Linux Engineer drl's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2006
    Saint Paul, MN, USA / CentOS, Debian, Slackware, {Free, Open, Net}BSD, Solaris


    I was working on a perl program yesterday, and I thought that would provide the inevitable distraction while I was meditating this morning. I was wrong -- I was distracted, but it was the thought of this thread that provided the distraction.

    I would like to thank everyone for their comments -- hot, cool, passionate, thoughtful, specific, general, all views.

    I wanted to touch on a few areas.

    We may not be facing a crisis in the US yet, but there are reasons for concern. Mirroring fingal's remarks -- the US high schools have allowed half of the students to be "graduated" without being ready for college-level reading (high school is considered grades 9,10,11,12, one is graduated around the age of 18 ) -- Often colleges need to create remedial courses to try to give incoming students a chance at success. While this serves the needs of the students, it takes time and resources away from the real work of higher education.
    Quote Originally Posted by d38dm8nw81k1ng
    the exams don't demand flair or ability for subjects and are mostly a test of how much a student can memorize
    I think the tests are more than that. If you cannot read well, not only will you have a difficult time in the tests, you will have difficulty making your way in life (street signs, food labels, etc). If you do not have the skill to do math problems, your most likely grade is 20-25% on tests (unless penalized for wrong answers, then even less), suggesting that you may not be able to balance your checkbook. This is really a content issue, however, not a methodology issue, but to complete this thought, at least around here:
    Family and Consumer Science programs (FACS) help students build and apply problem-solving, decision-making, critical thinking, communications, literacy and math skills. Programs include interpersonal communications, family systems, human development, parenting, resource management, community service, consumerism, housing and interior design, foods and nutrition, textiles and apparel. Students learn to synthesize knowledge from multiple sources, work cooperatively, and apply high standards to their lives.
    The behavior of teaching to the test is not optimal -- obviously something is being taught -- better than nothing, but not good enough.

    If we can believe the wikipedia reference, we should be able to separate the behavior from the method -- standardized tests were used in China up to about WWI for 1300 years -- -- suggesting that the methodology seemed to have worked. We can also understand the motivation -- if your paycheck as a teacher depends on your student grades, and you know the content of tests, what do you aim at? -- the test content, of course.

    I have been quite fortunate: after high school I enlisted in the Navy. When I took the tests there, I was assigned to the Guided Missiles School, that being a high priority for the Navy at that time. My high school aimed at producing pastors (if you guessed Lutheran, you'd be correct), so I don't think my high school teachers taught to the test of guided missiles. Late in my career in the Navy I took the SATs, and did well enough to gain entrance to the Midwest MIT -- (University of) Minnesota Institute of Technology. I don't think I was taught to the test in the Navy, so the behavior is not necessarily general. In Minnesota, we have have had and continue to have some hard debates on how to handle educational matters, evaluation being only one area. (Yes, all these things are arguable.)

    Like techieMoe, we also think of immigrants here. Many of the people here are close to being immigrants -- one set of my grandparents spoke Swedish, the other set German. Minnesota has 3 large immigrant groups now -- Latino, Somali, and Hmong. The coffee shop where I get my morning cup is an informal hangout for a group of ESL teachers (English as a Second Language), so we are concerned about the immigrant life. I would like to see a balance between assimilation and keeping immigrant traditions, because we all learn so much more by doing so.

    I thank KenJackson for his salute (and, knowingly, I return the salute). The role of government is very tricky. Local control means a lot to everyone. But how can we level the playing field of educational opportunities among, say, Mississippi and Arkansas, compared to New York, California, Massachusetts, and other well-to-do states. Difficult problem, and typically difficult, national problems are supposed to be handled by the government -- legal system, defense, etc.

    We're facing many serious problems. Thomas Friedman tells his children that they will be competing with others in the world for jobs (The World is Flat). James Kunstler notes that we've long passed the half-way mark is the use of oil, and China is really starting to awaken and is thirsty for oil (The Long Emergency). Climate problems, water problems, population problems, health problems -- not just locally, but globally. I doubt that we will be able to solve these problems in our lifetime (although obviously we need to try), so the best thing we can do is make sure that we have really well-educated generations coming up to attack these difficult issues. Have as good a life as you can, but do your best to help the new folks.

    Best wishes to all, and thanks again ... cheers, drl

    ( edit 1: typos )
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    ( Mn, 2.6.n, AMD-64 3000+, ASUS A8V Deluxe, 1 GB, SATA + IDE, Matrox G400 AGP )

  2. #22
    Linux User Dark_Stang's Avatar
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    Jun 2006
    Around St. Louis
    Quote Originally Posted by KenJackson
    It sounds like you are advocating more difficult and thorough tests. I'd go for that.
    Yes actually, I am. I got a composite score of 28 on the ACT and I have very poor study habits.

    Also, as far as teaching for the test. My high school never set aside time for that. They offered us a few books that we could buy and they had a class in the evenings but that's it.

    I never got a book. I never studied for the test. I got a 28. The test needs to be a lot more comprehensive and a lot more difficult.
    Two levels higher than a newb.
    (I can search google)

  3. #23
    Linux Guru bigtomrodney's Avatar
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    Nov 2004
    Sorry to jump in late guys but I'm quite curious about American 'second level' exams. Are the SATs the be all and end all of your pre college exams?
    Are there specific subject exams over weeks at the end of your school?

    In Ireland we have two groups of exams, Junior Certificate and Leaving Certificate. Each are based on a minimum of 6 subjects (Irish, English, Maths and three others including a foreign language). You take 3 hour exams in each, some merit two seperate exams and there are also Aural and Oral tests for languages. There is a points system too, it's out of a maximum of 600 (Even if you take optional extra subjects you get graded on only your best 6, and you must pass Irish, English and Maths to say you passed the overall exams).

    So that's an excessively detailed description of or tests - what are the equivalent tests in America? Or Canada? Or anywhere!

  4. $spacer_open
  5. #24
    Linux Guru techieMoe's Avatar
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    Aug 2004
    Quote Originally Posted by bigtomrodney
    Sorry to jump in late guys but I'm quite curious about American 'second level' exams. Are the SATs the be all and end all of your pre college exams?
    Are there specific subject exams over weeks at the end of your school?
    As far as national exams, there aren't any that I know of. SATs and ACTs are used by US colleges for admissions criteria, but each individual state generally has a set of standardized tests they give to their secondary schoolers (high school 10th grade in my state). It's not required for a student to take the SATs or ACTs, but it's highly recommended since most colleges require them for their admissions.

    I can only comment what this was like when I took it (and admittedly it was some time ago, so I may be off), but my state's standardized test had these sections:

    Writing (essay)
    Reading comprehension (read a story, answer questions)
    Math (nothing above Algebra 1 or Geometry)

    I seem to remember more but I tried actively to blot out most of my high school experience... as for the SATs I took, they had 2 sections:

    Writing (combination of the Writing and Reading sections above)
    Math (Godawful bastard of a test that went up to Algebra II and some Pre-Calculus questions)

    I welcome corrections on this because as I said, it's been a while since I actually took the tests and they were so unpleasant that I'm probably not remembering all the details.

    To sum up: the only test that was necessary to graduate with a high school diploma was the first one, and you took it 2 years before you graduated (don't ask me why) so if you screwed it up the first time you had 2 years left to make it up. High schools generally have "final exams" in your senior year (12th grade) but they're not nationally standardized; they're just reviews for each individual course you took that semester. If you have any more questions I'll do my best to clarify any of the above.
    Last edited by techieMoe; 08-21-2006 at 06:57 PM.
    Registered Linux user #270181

  6. #25
    Just Joined!
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    Aug 2006
    CA, USA
    I don't think that standardized tests such as the ACT, or SATs can correctly mark the level of one's intellegence because of the many outside factors that can affect it. For example, what if you cannot speak english well because you're a recent immigrant, or you have a learning disability, or you have a mental disability, or simply you have an anxiety attack (I know I did). Also I think a lot of doing well on these kind of tests depends on how well you can take tests, and be able to take them timed. But for anyone who can do well on them, congradulations.

    Sorry to jump in late guys but I'm quite curious about American 'second level' exams.
    In the state of Washington I had to take the dreaded WASL (Washington Assessment of Student Learning), which honestly I have to say was a lot harder than the SATs. Not only was it hard all schools had to do WASL practices for at least a week before the test because of how complicated the grading system was, it is now required to pass the WASL to graduate high school, oh and you have to take it MULTIPLE times (depeding on what grade you're in). There are different subjects and levels for each grade, although I think in the final WASL you have to do it all. In the final WASL I took (more stuff is being added as time progresses) I was tested on listening, reading, writing, math, and science.

    What is good about the WASL is that it is that you can take it as many times as you want to, it is not timed, you are allowed scratch paper, and you can get half points depending on your work shown. Half of the test is bubble and the other is in writing (graded by humans too). Personally with my experiences in standardized tests the WASL was best designed for rating one's abilities although not perfect.

    Also in Washington it's required to take a test called the ITED which is actually a test program from the state of Iowa. But it is more like the ACT and SATs only smaller and doesn't really effect your scholastic status. Why we had to take it is beyond me. It tests vocabulary, reading comprehension, the english language, spelling, math - concepts and problem solving, computation, social studies, science materials, and sources of information and is taken in grades 7 and 9.

  7. #26
    Linux Engineer d38dm8nw81k1ng's Avatar
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    Mar 2005
    the problem with all exams is what people have already mentioned: you are taught the test and not the subject. to be fair, our maths teachers try to give a wider understanding of the subject. i know that if i bothered my arse that i'd ace all my exams, but i really don't need to, so i don't.
    Here's why Linux is easier than Windows:
    Package Managers! Apt-Get and Portage (among others) allow users to install programs MUCH easier than Windows can.
    Hardware Drivers. In SuSE, ALL the hardware is detected and installed automatically! How is this harder than Windows' constant disc changing and rebooting?

  8. #27
    Linux Guru fingal's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2003
    Birmingham - UK
    Quote Originally Posted by d38dm8nw81k1ng
    the problem with all exams is what people have already mentioned: you are taught the test and not the subject. to be fair, our maths teachers try to give a wider understanding of the subject. i know that if i bothered my arse that i'd ace all my exams, but i really don't need to, so i don't.
    Exams are stressful as well. Over a three year period I did about 35 of them and we all had piles of course work as well. I got used to them, but you end up like a prisoner doing time; you get used to your 'stir' and you put the hours in. After a while you lose interest in the subject itself because you just want to clock up another decent grade.

    You do learn things, but not in depth. Modern education is as broad as an ocean and as shallow as a puddle. Would I do it again? Probably, but that's for personal reasons.
    I am always doing that which I can not do, in order that I may learn how to do it. - Pablo Picasso

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