|The New Jersey high school proficiency test in writing:a pragmatic face on an autonomous mode|
Monica Norton Coyle
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Pockets: Gottesman Libraries Archive, Historical Dissertations
Tags: Ability testing, Composition and exercises, Educational tests and measurem, English language, Evaluation, New Jersey, research, Rhetoric, Study and teaching (Secondary), writing
THE NEW JERSEY HIGH SCHOOL PROFICIENCY TEST IN WRITING: A PRAGMATIC FACE ON AN AUTONOMOUS MODE
Monica Norton Coyle
This study examines student interaction with the newly designed New Jersey High School Proficiency Test (hereafter HSPT) in Writing. The format of the new test, which will be administered officially in 1993, differs from the original 9th grade HSPT. Students arc now given full passages to edit and revise through six multiple-choice tasks. In addition, each passage is accompanied by a description of the rhetorical context explaining the author, audience and purpose for each passage. The use of full texts with rhetorical contexts suggests that the test will be a more authentic assessment of a broader range of editing and revising skills. The degree to which the test fulfills these expectations is the subject of the study.
Five of the nine passages on the 1990 due notice version of the test were analyzed. Forty 11th-grade students freely revised each of the passages and on a subsequent day responded to the multiple-choice tasks, also giving justifications for their choices. The degree to which the test reflected the skills evidenced in the revisions was analyzed by comparing the two sets of student responses.
Results suggest that the new format contains problems-similar to those found in more traditional tests and introduces new problems because of the coupling of full passages with six separate tasks. The need to accommodate six tasks per passage causes disjunctions in style and coherence in the passages. The tasks seldom call for full use of the passage and rarely require a sense of the rhetorical context. Local detail tasks tend to dominate so it is difficult for test takers to shift from local concerns to global considerations. Responses to each task have a cumulative effect upon students∆ approach and response to subsequent tasks and their perception of the emerging passage. Although full passages are used, the use of the multiple-choice format short circuits students∆ normal revising strategies.