Putting Education Reform To The Test

One Big Difference Between Ohio And Florida Standardized Tests

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Ohio and Florida differ in the way they pick questions for standardized tests.

Our friends at StateImpact Ohio have an interesting look at how Ohio comes up with the wording on its standardized tests.

By committee, of course.

A controversy over a question about the Arab perception of the creation of Israel prompted concerns that the questions might not be without bias.

In Florida, though, the test contractor must draft questions that meet a detailed list of standards set out by the state department of education and a panel of educators.

Here’s how the Ohio state department of education describes their process:

The Fairness and Sensitivity Committee, made up of 25–30 people representing a variety of interest groups, including women, special needs students, black students, and deaf and blind students. It’s the only review committee that is not made up primarily of educators.

Jim Wright is the Director of the Office of Curriculum and Assessment at the Ohio Department of Education. He says Ohio doesn’t have any words or subjects that are outright banned from appearing on the Ohio Graduation Tests, but the Fairness and Sensitivity Committee has its radar up for pretty much anything that could be controversial, including stereotypes, anything to do with religion, sexual orientation, or diversity and “differential familiarity.”

Differential familiarity means that everyone taking the test should be familiar with what’s being asked. Take for example a question on sports. The committee has to be careful around questions about golf or tennis, and consider if all students taking the test will be familiar with those types of sports.

In Florida, questions are picked by the test contractor — currently NCS Pearson — according to specifications laid out by the state. On the elementary school reading tests, for example, the contractor must:

Use texts in the public domain, or commissioned for the contractor.

Submit resumes and writing samples from critically reviewed publications of any authors commissioned to write texts to the state.

Not use any Florida teachers as writers or reviewers. College-level writers and reviewers may work at a Florida school.

If you’ve got the patience, you can check out all the specs here.

Read the rest of the Ohio process over at StateImpact Ohio.


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