China’s dreaded college entrance examination — the test from Hell 1

JISHOU, HUNAN — High school students in China suffered the annual college entrance exam (高考 gaokao) earlier this month. Unlike the SAT and ACT exams in the US, the gaokao is given only once a year and tests specific knowledge about content. In addition, it is basically the only criterion for admission to a university in China. Needless to say, these factors (and the country’s huge population) create a lot of stress. The Telegraph carried a story from a small city in Hubei province, which is just north of Hunan. It seems one high school had had a surprisingly stellar record for several years in getting its students placed in China’s top universities. Provincial officials checked it out, and discovered widespread cheating on the exam that was condoned by the school’s staff. So, this year the education office sent a small army of exam proctors (invigilators) from other parts of Hubei, who were ruthless in removing any possible method from students’ persons, including checking for cell phones hidden in students’ underwear. Students were left in tears (since they hadn’t really prepared for the exam) and parents were irate. The school had to call the cops to put down a near ...

All hat, no cattle

JISHOU, HUNAN — I’m referring to Michelle Rhee, who has turned a short time as a classroom teacher and head of the Washington, DC, schools into a full-fledged career as One Who Has All the Answers to “save” America’s public schools. I remain unimpressed, given that she has few concrete accomplishments to support her claims, thus the headline here. Rhee is the subject of a short article in the Washington Monthly, and her new book, Radical, is the subject of a longer critical review in The New Republic by Nicholas Lemann, dean of the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism. Lemann’s review is worth the read, especially if you think Rhee is the Queen Bee of school reform. Rhee has a single-minded approach to school reform, one that is fervently anti-union and test-oriented, but which ignores other factors that are related to student (and teacher) performance. StudentsFirst [Rhee’s latest school reform project] represents the next step in the journey Rhee has been taking all along. All policy and no operations, it frames education reform exclusively in anti-union terms, and ramps up the rhetoric even higher than it was during Rhee’s chancellorship in Washington. (“No more mediocrity. It’s killing us.”) Rhee actually ...

The Florida skills exam revisited 3

The Florida skills exam revisited
JISHOU, HUNAN — A few days ago, I wrote about an Orange County, Florida, school board member who took a version of the 2010 Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test (FCAT) for 10th graders and did very poorly on it: he only got 62% on the reading portion and completely bombed the math section. Rick Roach, who has two master’s degrees, argues that his results suggest that the test is not really testing what students need to know and that the tests pigeonhole students unfairly. One could also argue, as a few commenters on that post have already, that Roach’s poor reading and math skills are to blame, not the FCAT. He does admit in an email to educator Marion Brady that his math skills are rusty, but I contend that Roach and his detractors are also not considering the time factor. For example, 10th graders have 70 minutes to answer 58 or so math questions, and 70 minutes to answer about 45 reading questions, from what I can gather from the 2006 exams available online.. That works out to an average time of 1:12 for each math question and 1:33 for each reading question. If any Floridians can correct my information, ...
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