Thursday, May 17, 2007


For those who don't know, the LAST is the Liberal Arts and Sciences Test, which is something all wanna-be NY teachers have to pass in order to get certified. I took it in January and got my scores today: 267 out of 300, which is passing (minimum passing score is 220). The test is composed roughly of five sections: Science/Math/Tech, History/Social Science, Art/Humanities, Communication/Research. and Written Analysis and Expression. Ironically, my highest scores were in the sections furthest from my field. But what's really pissing me off is that my lowest score (by more than 50 points) is in the written analysis and expression section. The test prep books I skimmed made a big deal about "reading the instructions" and making sure you "address both parts of what the assignment [an essay] is asking you to do." So, of course, I did that. I double checked it twice (which I guess adds up to quadruple checking). And my essay was, if I say so myself, fucking killer. So what gives?

This is one (of many) of the things that infuriates me about standardized testing. Even though I passed, I didn't do as well as I'd expected, and I'd like to see some explanation and justification for my scores. And even though any score is as good as another as long as it's above 220, I'm still disappointed because I walked out of there expecting aces and since I didn't get that, and because I am a motivated independent-learner (as all the people taking this test should be), I want the chance to either learn from where I went wrong, or to show the scorers (who are "typically New York State educators using standardized procedures," to paraphrase the test's "score report") that they are morons.

This is why standardized tests are so bad. Either the standards that the test uses are so narrow that even exemplary writing gets scored poorly, or the scorers are inept, or I am a poor writer making serious errors that none of my teachers for the last twelve-plus years of my higher education have picked up on. And whichever the case may be, there's no way for anybody outside the testing system to find out. This means the test is worthless because either it's identified major problems in my writing that need to be addressed before I'm allowed to be an English teacher, but it won't tell me what they are (nor, apparently, will any of my professors), or the test itself is flawed in how it assesses people, which means it has no business assessing people, but the state is still using it to decide who should or should not be permitted to become a teacher.