Saturday, November 2, 2013

Rewarding smart students, II

One major educational entity out there that continues to consistently reward smart students is the GED and its various competitors. According to A., a smart kid I know who recently took the GED, you don't have to do any actual studying in order to pass; you just have to be smart. This is consistent with what I've observed earlier; it's also consistent with what you see in today's Education Times in the sample questions for the new GED, due out in January, and those of its various new competitors.

Almost none of the sample questions require much in the way of background knowledge; when it comes to fact-intensive subjects like science or history, the information you need is built into the question itself, or into the accompanying diagram. Consider this science question from the new GED:

1. The map shows Earth’s continents, the outlines of the plates that make up Earth’s outer shell, and locations of volcanoes. Which conclusion can be reached from the information on the map?

a. Volcanoes are scattered randomly across Earth.
b. Volcanoes are only located along edges of continents.
c. Volcanoes are mostly located along boundaries between plates.
d. Volcanoes are distributed equally in the Northern and Southern Hemispheres.



Or consider this U.S. history question from the new alternative to the GED known as the TASC:

1. Which principle of the United States government is described by this excerpt?

When the legislative and executive powers are united in the same person, or in the same body of magistrates, there can be no liberty. There is no liberty, if the power of judging be not separated from the legislative and executive powers. — Baron de Montesquieu

a. individual rights
b. popular sovereignty
c. separation of powers
d. separation of church and state

My friend A reports that he encountered only one question on the GED that actually required you to draw on any specialized academic knowledge. That was a question in the science section that asked which chemical combination was toxic. A happened to know which of the four possible choices was the correct one, but not because he'd studied. Instead, he remembered how a few months ago his mother had attempted to clean a urine-saturated litter box with chloride bleach, creating a cloud of mustard gas in the process--non-weapons-grade, but still pretty intense. And memorable.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Now, what would really reward smart students is if they could take and pass the GED at any point in their public school career - 11th, 10th, 9th grade, or lower - and then after that point they could pass into a different branch of the school and study what they wanted to and be exempted from all further standardized tests.

Yeah, without that being college (which is the only option currently and one I personally enjoyed). I'm more thinking about being able to spend the last few years of school working on art, higher math, programming, drama, and other fun stuff. I'm sure plenty of smart kids could benefit from it who wouldn't be happy to skip the last couple years of high school and go directly to college.

Hainish said...

I just took a look at the TASC sample for science. It's amazingly content-based. A student would actually need to (gasp!) know stuff! I'm actually pleasantly surprised.