On a website promoting Common Core tests being superior to other tests, ExcelinEd cites some examples of questions. In all fairness, some of the questions are indeed better than those which can result in correct answers by guessing or other means. But in other cases, they seem to mince words.
For a high school question they cite an example of the “Previous math question”, in which “previous” means pre-CC:
If 3(y-1) = 8, then what is y?
They feel that this question “is an example of solving equations as a series of mechanical steps.”
The CC type question however is in their minds much better: “What are two different equations with the same solution as 3(y-1) = 8?”
They state: “This question is an example of solving equations as a process of reasoning.”
Well, I guess, but they still both, at the end of the day, involve a series of mechanical steps. And both require that the initial equation be solved.
Seems like a distinction without a difference. And there are some tests that have been used for years that have done a nice job of distinguishing the abilities of students, despite the “mechanical’ nature of the questions.
It’s good to bear in mind what Zalman Usiskin, a noted anti-traditional math person had to say about testing:
“Let us drop this overstated rhetoric about all the old tests being bad. Those tests were used because they were quite effective in fitting a particular mathematical model of performance – a single number that has some value to predict future performance. Until it can be shown that the alternate assessment techniques do a better job of prediction, let us not knock what is there. The mathematics education community has forgotten that it is poor performance on the old tests that rallied the public behind our desire to change. We cannot pick up the banner but then say the tests are no measure of performance. We cannot have it both ways.”
Zalman Usiskin What Changes Should Be Made for the Second Edition of NCTM Standards. UCSMP Newsletter, n12 pp. 10 (Winter 1993)