Monday, October 19, 2015

The 1895 8th Grade Test from Kansas

Environmental & Science Education, Literacy, Mathematics Education

by Edward Hessler

You have probably seen the famous test given in Kansas in 1895.  It has been subject to a lot of ink and debate. But who took it? Is it authentic?  What does it say about general literacy today?

Valerie Strauss has written an essay about the test which answers these kinds of questions and provides some important background.  In addition, she includes a copy of the test just in case you want to take it again or share it with someone else.

Politicians use test questions
Bhs int classroom ss
By Bhs_itrt (talk) (Uploads)
 (Transferred from en.wikipedia to Commons.)
[Public domain],
via Wikimedia Commons
Several questions from this test have been used by conservative politicians, including one candidate for president, as a talking point on the state of education then and now. Guess when things were better. You are right. Not now.

However, the politicians and commentators who use this as "evidence" to make a point for a personal belief, miss a few things such as the source of the questions, the pass rate then (25%) as well as the percentage of actual school age kids who took it and the source of the quote itself.  The Tocqueville citation does not exist.  However, it has been traced to the original source. You may read all about it here.

Did Dorothy say it best when she stated "Toto, I've a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore"?!

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