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EOGs are GOE

by Bo Boylan

June 8,2009

End of grade testing (EOG) is grossly over-emphasized (GOE). It is the end of the school year and that means field days, class parties, and graduation, among other rituals celebrated by our public school system representing the accomplishments associated with the completion of another school year. My son completed his end of grade testing- dubbed EOGs- in late May. He is a third grader and this is the first year he is required to take to EOG’s to help inform administrators at his school on whether he has earned the right to be promoted to fourth grade. I asked him why he was taking the tests, and that’s the answer he gave me. 

His explanation of the purpose of the EOGs created doubt in my own mind regarding the purpose of the testing. I began thinking about the use of standardized tests as a bellwether measurement of student achievement. Why is it that the state of North Carolina, and the vast majority of states, have some form of year end standardized testing incorporated in their school year? Which led to thoughts about their effectiveness. Followed by thoughts about their fairness. Then accuracy. Relevance. Here’s what I discovered. 

For individuals and institutions that support EOGs, there are two distinct schools of thought on their actual purpose. First, supporters of EOG standardized tests believe that results of the test provide tangible evidence of a student’s mastery of content and concepts during their course of study. Simply put, did the student learn what they were supposed to learn during a school year? Another group of supporters suggest that the rigor of review preparing for the test is actually a significant learning event that reinforces concepts in a way that traditional classroom instruction cannot simulate. Regardless, both camps submit to the view that the test is the single greatest indicator of successful mastery of subject matter during a class year, and as a result, should be the most significant factor considered in promoting a student to the next grade. 

Of course, an opposing view of the value of EOGs is equally prevalent. A meaningful number of people see EOG’s as a colossal waste of time and resources; valuable resources that could be redirected towards classroom instruction. Scarce resources can be, and should be, focused on ensuring that students experience concepts and content in a way that provides the best opportunity for them master the subjects presented. Count me in this crowd. 

Classroom teachers are in the best position to assess whether a student is properly equipped to handle the challenges of the next grade. North Carolina mandates 180 days of instruction for thirds graders. EOGs for third graders take three days. So a classroom teacher has 177 days to instruct, work with, and assess the development of a student during a school year. Compare this to three days of testing. I’ll take the view from the classroom teacher. 

Second, studies are unanimous in their view that underserved kids are statistically disadvantaged on standardized tests. Wake Forest University courageously led a group of top ranked universities in their decision to eliminate the SAT as a decision factor for admission to this prestigious university. Several factors contributed to this decision, but in the end, Wake Forest determined that the test unfairly handicapped underserved applicants, and at least for this student population, was not a strong predicator of future success at the university. I know from my own personal experience that financially advantaged schools have the funds available to buy test materials that help prepare students for EOGs through their PTAs. What happens to schools that do not have this advantage? They do not prepare as well, and as a result, do not score well on the tests. 

Another argument against the administration of EOGs is that instruction time for subjects not tested during EOG’s is eliminated. Classroom instruction time for subjects like social studies and science is eliminated for the benefit preparing for EOG’s. The problem of course is that students are graded on their progress in these subjects, and their year long classroom instruction grades count the same as subjects tested during EOGs. 

EOGs are GOE. You don’t have to take a test to recognize this fact.

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