Below is an invaluable guest post which explains why PSSA math is nothing like SAT math, and why it is not going to help get our kids "ready" for their futures.

__Why are the “new” state standardized tests__

__so much harder than before?__

By Katy Morris, public school parent and math teacher

There are plenty of reasons why the standardized tests that
students take today are more difficult and time-consuming than before. One reason
for the increased difficulty is the use of a new type of multiple-choice
question.

Sure, most adults have taken multiple-choice tests. Many of
us have less-than-fond memories of taking college entrance exams or exams for
professional licensure, but I’ll show you that all multiple-choice tests are

*not*created equal.__“Normal” multiple-choice tests__

To understand the difference between “normal” multiple-choice and the “new” multiple-choice, consider the Directions that accompany the Math section of a sample SAT recently released by the College Board.

These
Directions let the student know that she can solve the problem as written, then
look for the answer among the choices.

Here is a “normal” multiple-choice question:

This question can be solved by someone who knows how to
solve a system of equations. Even without the answer choices, a student could
solve the problem, then choose the correct answer – Here is a “normal” multiple-choice question:

*in that order*. Content aside, the SAT Math questions are generally written so that they can be solved without looking at the answer choices. The questions are not necessarily easy, but the format is familiar. Solve first. Then find your answer. Repeat.

__“New” multiple-choice tests__

These Directions are very
similar to the SAT Directions. Reading these “Directions for Multiple-choice
Questions”, one would expect that children could actually solve each problem,
as it is written, and then look for their answer among the multiple-choices.
That would make sense.

__That is NOT the reality.__
In fact, the very first item
released by the PDE on the 8th Grade Sampler requires students to try all of
the answer choices in order to answer the question posed.

__Instead of giving students a single problem to solve, the test writers have, in essence, given four problems to solve.__A student must compute each expression (without a calculator) to determine that expression D is between -4 and -3.

In fact, the question itself
makes no sense without the answer choices. With this question and many others,
students are unable to follow the Directions, as stated. How would a student
“solve the problem on scratch paper”?

**In short, they can’t.**
Here is a common-sense suggestion for how this standard
could be tested more directly.

But, asking direct questions
is not the business of the “new” multiple-choice tests. In fact, there is no
way to solve these questions as written. Not every question is like this, but
there are enough to make these tests extremely time-consuming and frustrating
for kids.

And it happens again… (on the7th Grade PSSA Math Sampler)

and again… (on the 6th Grade PSSA Math Sampler)

and again… (on the 5th Grade PSSA Math Sampler)

So, are you smarter than the 5

^{th}graders who have to try all these answer choices?I’ve heard adults say that children should suck it up and take the standardized tests they are given. After all, their reasoning is that students will eventually have to take the SATs. So they should start getting the practice now. But comparing the SATs to the PSSAs is comparing apples and oranges.

In short, the PSSA test writers have written questions that
require students to solve all the answer choices in order to answer the
question. And they’ve written Directions that are impossible to follow. It’s no
wonder our kids are confused by the PSSA questions.

Please excuse formatting and font error in this post due to blog limitations on the day of posting.

__Solving 4 problems to get 1 answer? The math just doesn’t add up!__Please excuse formatting and font error in this post due to blog limitations on the day of posting.

Thank you Katy (and Danielle!) <3

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