This weekend, I posted a link to an international assessment test in response to a story about a school board member in Florida who tried taking that state's 10th grade assessment test and failing it pretty badly. I thought that maybe parents would like to try some of the questions being asked of their children.
Today The Washington Post actually developed two short quizzes, one in math and one in reading, from some of the published questions from the FCAT, the actual test that the school board member took. This allows us to try some of the questions from the test to see if we agree with the board member that the questions were irrelevant to the skills needed after graduation.
I took the reading quiz, and got all seven questions right, which I expected since English and the humanities were my strengths in school. All seven questions related to analyzing the words and the meanings of two poems, which, while valuable, probably a minority of people do after they complete their formal education. I would say that the questions related to vocabulary and interpreting literature in general, but they were not directly related to the reading skills most people need in the workplace. (Note: I'm not saying the test should necessarily be all about that, but I believe that was the argument that this board member was making.)
Then I took the math quiz, which was my weakest subject in high school, and was pleasantly surprised to get six out of the seven questions right (and the one I got wrong had to do with square roots, and I had no clue what some of the potential answers even meant). But I think I lucked out on the test questions, because so many of they were graph interpretations or geometry or other math areas that I'm better at than what I think of as hard-core math...like the square root business. I probably would have done much worse if there had been more questions. According to the Washington Post, the math questions were also easier as a whole than the reading questions. But because most of the questions related to ratios or graph interpretation, etc., I think most of these samples were the type of math people use in their post-school life. Square roots---well, I never use them in "real life" (other than helping my son with his math), but maybe other people have more need for them in their daily affairs.
So, personally, the samples I took seemed like they were appropriate to the age level and setting. But I would be glad to hear what other people think. I think it is really important that when we discuss assessment, we have some actual experience of what the assessment questions are like.
The Post also had links to some samples for the state assessment tests in California, New York, Texas, Virginia, and Maryland, so you can check those out as well.