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ACT test questions not all simple

Published: May 1, 2013

Regarding “Lawmakers stay busy lowering bar for students” (Our Views, April 22): It would be unfair for a reader to copy one line from an editorial, remove it from its context and characterize the entire argument — and even the entire newspaper — from that one, tiny, decontextualized sliver of the original editorial. Yet that's what The Oklahoman has done with an ACT WorkKeys test — using one question to call into question not only the test but Oklahoma's graduation standards.

For any test to fairly assess student abilities, there needs to be a range of difficulties in its questions. If all the questions are easy, students will do well but you won't discover much about what they've learned. Conversely, if each question is excruciatingly difficult, a few students may struggle through but you won't learn much about the majority of those taking the test. WorkKeys, like all well-constructed assessments, has questions with a range of difficulties. Students take entire tests, not just answer one question. Through the experience they have the opportunity to earn tangible, valuable documentation of their readiness to move forward in their educations and careers.

You wrote that the WorkKeys' test questions “can be quite simple.” This is true. So can the arguments that set the record straight.

Ed Walters, Iowa City, Iowa

Walter is vice president of ACT.


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