Aug 15, 2009

Resolved: Public high school students in the United States ought not be required to pass standardized exit exams to graduate.

The September/October NFL Lincoln-Douglas debate resolution has been released:
Resolved: Public high school students in the United States ought not be required to pass standardized exit exams to graduate.
Some questions to get you started in your casewriting:
  • What are the core values, tenets, or missions of public education? (Some potential answers, while I'm thinking about it: civic preparation / democratic principles, academic rigor, social equality, socialization, fairness, social justice, diversity, economic strength / job preparation, industry, truth, social sorting, preparation for the "real world")
  • Is it fair to judge one's entire academic career on a single slice in time?
  • Is it fair to have different standardized exit exams across different states?
  • What uniquely American educational features (i.e., local control) come into play?
  • Do standardized exit exams have to be tied to graduation to be meaningful?
  • Does it matter what kind of "standardized exit exams" we're talking about? In other words, what does "standardized" mean? Norm-referenced? Criterion-referenced? Either? Both? Neither?
  • When it comes to this issue, which figures have the most authority? Politicians? Teachers? Parents? Students? Educational experts? Think tanks?
  • Do "multiple intelligences" play a role?
I'll add links and analysis to this post throughout the rest of summer. Feel free to ask questions or promote arguments in the comments.

1. FairTest doesn't like standardized tests. Not at all. (And here's a good research starting point.)

2. Some of the best available empirical research, and its implications for the debate.

3. Joe Nusz goes looking for values in the resolution, by examining a typical school vision statement. A good way to approach the subject.

4. I offer some ideas for negating the resolution.

5. By request: Albert Einstein on the relative value of knowledge and imagination.

6. Back by popular demand: Value / criterion pairs for the resolution--a work in progress.

57 comments:

princessrem01 said...

its actually the aug/sept topic...

croc_drag33 said...

No, it's sept/oct

I'd like to make a point about question 3:
The resolution doesn't say anything about different exams for different states. And if one took "standardized exam" to the logical conclusion, it would be the same for all states.

And I don't think multiple intelligences really have anything to do with this, because everyone, whether their main intelligence is linguistic or kinesthetic, needs to have a basic set of skills for their adult life (Reading, Writing, 'Rithmetic etc).

Lena said...

I would love that resolution.

Jim Anderson said...

crog_drag33, but why must it be taken to its "logical conclusion?" When a resolution is contextualized as much as this one, we have to take a certain amount of facts for granted. This isn't France, with a nationalized curriculum--not yet, anyhow.

Your second point is also interesting: who decides which skills are valuable, and which should be tested? For instance, No Child Left Behind requires only two: reading and 'rithmetic. Writing isn't measured nationally--but, in my state (Washington), we have tests in reading, math, and writing that are required for graduation. (We also have a science test that isn't required--but why shouldn't it be? Is scientific literacy less valuable?)

Anonymous said...

Fascinating topic, but seems to be highly policy based? Even so, timing is perfect, especially were we are facing issues in preparing American youth to compete in a globalized world.

Jim Anderson said...

anonymous, it definitely has a policy flavor. That's why it'll be key for LDers to find the implicit values within the policies undergirding (or undermining) the use of standardized tests. For example, equality: the same test for everyone to measure the same skills everyone should have, and to reveal inequalities in education from place to place. Or does it only exacerbate existing inequalities?

geelookitsme said...

well if u think about the current NCLB, it allows for the states to design their standardized tests making some harder than the other, some easier than the other. So, wouldnt that be unfair for some kids to be able to pass HS by passing an easier test. Instead of a standardized test, cant the SAT make up for that since all the SATs around the nation are the same and also force a harder curriculum ENSURING the idea that a child is getting a good education.
I.E I moved from California to Texas my standardized test in cali was MUCH harder than the one i took the next year in texas.

croc_drag33 said...

@ Jim:
"Standardized" means that everyone who is taking a certain tests is taking the same test under the same conditions. If each state had its own test, the test would be standardized in each state, but it wouldn't be standardized across the nation. Hence, it would be unfair to the people in states with a harder test because they would need to know more in order to graduate than in states with n easier test.

The thing that really blows my mind about NCLB is that it allows different standards for each state. So technically, a state could lower its standards to make test scores rise.

Also, about my second point: there are some basic academic skills that adults need in order to lead productive lives (in the US, at least). Reading, and understanding what you've read is one of them. Being able to perform basic algebraic operations is another. Also, there are some skills that employers assume are present in a high school graduate. Sure, NCLB's standards may need to be re-evaluated, but that doesn't mean that correct standards cannot be created.

@Gee:
The SAT is not something that should be used as a test for high school graduation for several reasons:
1. it's supposed to test readiness for college, not necessarily mastery of the basic concepts learned in school.
2. There already exist test prep books, test prep companies, you name it. There is already an extensive infrastructure that "teaches to the test".

geelookitsme said...

croc:
i now see where you are coming from,
but at the same rate, isnt that the only way to have a national standard?

i seeee NOOOOOOOOO philosophy or anything in the topic. i hate it so much.

Matt said...

I was wondering....

Here is a Wikipedia Thing on the Philosophy of Education...
I have Read Rousseau on the subject but it would be worth checking out a few others....

Also you can do Philosophy besides That, Both Economic and Governmental theory can fit in...

You could run a No Government Intervention Aff, and argue that Standardized exams are by definition government interference in education... Biopower anyone?

Matt said...

OOPS sorry heres thew Wiki link:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philosophy_of_education

Nishant said...

@Matt- The resolution talks about public schools which are funded and administered by the government already. That would also be gov't 'interference' in education.

MTGAP said...

This resolution has a lot of wiggle room. "Standardized" could mean so many different things, for instance.

It seems like Aff has an easier time off than Neg, considering the widespread dislike of standardized testing. But Neg could get around this by arguing that a revolutionary new standardized test would still be standardized. It could be tricky, but it's possible.

okiedebater said...

At first glance, I also prefer this topic on the Aff. As a recent high school graduate, I feel like there was already enough standardized testing with college admissions and scholarships hanging in the balance, much less graduation.

However, here's a thought for Neg. The Negative should try to focus the debate on the standardization aspect rather than the requirement for graduation. Standardized exams in some forms (AP, CLEP, PSAT...) are not as controversial, because even if they are disliked, they are at least (typically) seen as being useful. By trying to tie the resolution into this less controversial topic, the Neg can bypass some of the Aff's emotional/anecdotal advantage. Assuming the Aff doesn't catch onto this...

brandon said...

hey this is my first time posting on this site, lets think about the topic from a diffrent perspective lets say that standardize test are based on a preset knowledge of general laws of what you have to have to succeed in life so if we take on the topic from this view we have philosopher like Daivd Humes, J.S. Mills, and chalmers.

emily said...

so i was thinking. and it might turn out to be a lame idea lol but for the aff why couldnt we just say that colleges and high schools should only use the students grades and gpa to judge their academic level on a more long scale term. Because then you wont be judging them only off of that "one" test. Also, if we focused more on the gpa system then the student will actually be forced to work harder and more diligently year round to keep up their grades instead of just for a week of cramming for the SAT. i also think that these standardized tests that the government are issuing leave very little room for creativity. where as the student might have little "mess ups" i.e. blanking, no sleep.

because in the end if colleges really want a diverse realm of students then looking at how the student ranks in test scores is not going to solve that.

just a few ideas. might work might not. let me hear what you think.

Matt said...

@Nishant the argument can still be made... you could simply argue that they reflect this and so getting rid of them would decrease intervention in the educational system and allow the student to think on their own....

Also as a Friend of mine pointed out to me, in this resolution you could actually construct a case very much like a policy case, with a plan as well. The phrase ought not, means that we ought not have tests because we ought to...
or you could use tests as the inherency...

Jim Anderson said...

emily, that's one of the better arguments made against exit exams. However, one problem with GPA is that it can vary from class to class, or from school to school. Not only that, but schools or districts use different textbooks, or have different course requirements for graduation. Without some kind of (at least statewide) exit exam, how do we guarantee that your 4.0 is the same as a 4.0 from down the road?

connor said...

Ok so aff seems pretty easy. it seems like the only neg argument is that we need one test that holds all students to the same level. Are there any other, better neg arguments we can think of?

emily said...

ah touche
Mr. Jim. But what if you kept the test but didnt make it a requirement? Because in the reso, it talks about high school graduation and doesnt specify that the colleges have to comply to not requiring you to take the test to attend that college. so the student could still take the test if he/she wanted to rather it be to attend a college where it is required or to have it on their resume as an extra "perk" i guess you could say.

Jim Anderson said...

connor, good question. It's one I'm going to tackle in the next couple days.

emily, the graduation requirement can make a big difference as to how seriously the tests are taken by students. In my state, for example, in 2006, when the WASL was required for graduation, scores shot up. (If you look at my high school's results compared to the state, you'll see that scores for the only non-required subject, science, have stayed flat for years.) It's not just colleges that have an interest in holding students accountable, either; business leaders and politicians and parents have led the charge to promote standardized exit exams.

mtgap said...

@Connor:

It seems that you're correct. By definition, a standardized test holds all students to the same standard. So that must be somehow justified.

gwan said...

a really fun topic to think about

but this might seem like a dumb question but gov't intervention isn't always bad, right? it can serve as a unifying factor in making sure that everyone who graduates high school has the "necessary skills" for the job place, as croc_drag mentioned.

Matt said...

No its not Gwan.... its just a possible case position, one that I will probably run given the time and dont even agree with... But yeah its got lots of literature for and against so there is plenty of possible arguments that could be made either way.

DEREK said...

ON THE NEG ARGUE AGAINST UTILITARIANISM AND WHY IT IS BAD. ARGUE THAT AMERICA HAS ENACTED LAWS REQUIRING THE YOUTH TO ATTEND SCHOOL IN HOPE OF SPARKING INTELLECTUAL INTEREST IN THE TEENS WHO DECIDE TO DROP OUT. IF THE SCHOOLS ARE ABLE TO INSPIRE A MAJORITY OF THESE KIDS TO BE OPTIMISTIC ABOUT THEIR FUTURE, AND HOPEFULLY HELP THEM ACQUIRE THE SKILLS THEY NEED TO POSESS TO GET THEM EITHER INTO COLLEGE OR THE WORKFORCE, THEN THEY HAVE ACCOMPLISHED THEIR TASK. ARGUE THAT THE IDEA OF AN EXIT EXAM IS PHENOMONAL, AND THAT ITS CURRENT IMPLEMENTATION IS NOT A SUPERIOR METHOD OF CARRYING THE EXAMS OUT. THE QUESTION THE RESOLUTION POSES IS WHETHER THE IDEA OF A STANDARDIZED EXIT EXAM IS GOOD IN AND OF ITSELF, AND WHETHER PUBLIC HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS IN THE US SHOULD BE REQUIRED TO PASS THEM TO GRADUATE, AND WHAT THE RESOLUTION DOES NOT POSE IS WHETHER THE USFG IS CURRENTLY IMPLEMENTING THESE SAID STANDARDIZED EXIT EXAMS IN A MANNER THAT WOULD BE CONSIDERED REASONABLE OR BETTER.

princessrem01 said...

any value/criterion pairs?

Jim Anderson said...

Derek, thanks for contributing; only if you could avoid using ALL CAPS in the future, since it feels shouty.

princessrem01, coming soon. I'm finishing the how-to-negate post first.

DEREK said...

Don't get down guys, there is a lot of philosophy in this topic. Utilitarian philosophers, and Kant all provide examples of how things are to be proved morally right, and that is what this question is asking of the exit exams. Socrates provides methods of teaching that could be very useful even still today, and maybe especially today because Public education in the U.S. seems to be declining. I am going to love debating this topic because of how it is perfectly worded, and I think come time for the first tournament a lot of others will love this topic as well.

Matt said...

I agree Derek, although not just those...
Montaigne is interesting for the Aff, Einstein actually mentions educational standardization if you are looking for someone a bit out of the ordinary. Rousseau as i have already mentioned for alt. education if you want a fun aff to run. Foucault Bio-Power can be run as an interesting aff case with fun impacts...

Anonymous said...

can you post a link to einstein on standardized education

Melanie said...

I'm so confused!

1. Can the negative run a counter-plan? For instance, can the negative say that the exam ought to be required, but not for graduation?

2. How do we specify either a national standard or a state by state standard exit exam? I feel as if the nationalized exam will get tackled by the aff throwing out a ton of empirics and how that would never happen so we ought not debate it? But then if it is state-based, there ought not even be a standard if there are 50 of them, because depending on the exact location where you live you can receive a diploma with more ease than someone right across the border, but still apply to any college?????

3. How EXACTLY does the negative write analysis to avoid defending the status quo in their NC? Like, what would they say?



Please help! I'm lost, and i do not have a coach at the moment!!!

liz said...

Hi,

How does an aff plan work? For example, if I wanted to write a plan about performance based specific tests, such as Regents in NY, how do i write a plan for that/ aka how is a plan constructed? also, how is that exclusive from the negative, because isn't still a standardized exit exam? Can someone explain aff plans??

Jim Anderson said...

No plans or counterplans in LD. It's about the principles of standardized testing, not about any one particular standardized test. (So performance-based testing, if every performer is held to a set of standards, can be a standardized test.)

Frame your arguments about issues of educational quality or excellence, cost/benefit, fairness, justice... values. (For a how-to that explains how to write an LD case, go here.)

Mona said...

hi you all:)
today i realized that this topic is out and have been researching for about 2-3 hours now. Actually I am not getting anywhere in this topic.
Jim why arent there any values or value Cr options on this page? also there is nothing i can think of for neg side except for fairness or students should stay at the same level but think about it if students have been taking higher level classes and for sure their knowledge is greater than the students who are taking regular classes unlike honors or AP classes. everything works for aff side and if the aff side say that standardized means all the tests that are required than how would the neg win? i am lost please help. thanks!:)

Anonymous said...

Liz, you can't really write an aff plan on a negatively phrased resolution. You can fiat an argument that solves for the neg case, which is sort of like a plan. You would structure it like this (note, this is how you structure counterplans on most resolutions).
Plan text: kids should pass X test
Competitiveness: X test isn't a standardized exit exam. Competes through net benefits. If something solves for the harms of the NC and doesn't link to the disadvantages, we should use the better policy.
Solvency/net benefit: X exam makes teachers accountable. X exam isn't discriminatory, but all exit exams are.

Most neg plans on this topic will be PICs. They will probably look like this.
Plan Text: Kids should pass X
Competitiveness: X is a standardized exit exam
Net benefits/solvency: X makes teachers accountable. X isn't racist. X doesn't make teachers teach to the test.

That's just an example. Also, there are no rules in debate aside from speech times. Be aware of what your judge thinks about plans, but don't let traditional judges determine what you do in front of other judges. If you think it's strategic to run a plan and your judge thinks it's ok, do it.

Note: I don't think it's strategic to run a plan/PIC on this topic. The above post is for informative purposes only.

James said...

Hi,

This might sound bizarre. But I have really good evidence, about 25 pages, and I'll email it to anyone who is willing to send me an affirmative case/case outline.

Thanks.
Post below if interested

Jim Anderson said...

Anonymous, I respect your right to be progressive, but to argue that "...there are no rules in debate aside from speech times" is not only going to confuse novices who don't know the rules, and may not be aware that different regions / tournaments operate by different protocols (in some places, offering a "plan" in LD will get you laughed out of the room), but in NFL-affiliated competition, is factually incorrect.

When it comes to plans and counterplans, the NFL is quite clear: "Lincoln Douglas debate is designed to center on a proposition of value. A proposition of value concerns itself with what ought to be instead of what is. A value is an ideal held by individuals, societies, governments, etc. Debaters are encouraged to develop argumentation based upon a values perspective. To that end, no plan (or counterplan) will be offered by the debaters. In Lincoln Douglas Debate, a plan is defined by the NFL as a formalized, comprehensive proposal for implementation. The debate should focus on reasoning to support a general principle instead of particular plans and counterplans.
Debaters may offer generalized, practical examples or solutions to illustrate how the general principle could guide decisions." [emphasis added]

Anonymous said...

@Jim
Yes, I put a few caveats in my post to emphasize just that. Judge adaption is very important when running a plan or something you think is progressive. However, I really don't know of any tournaments that enforce NFL rules other than nationals. Also, any debater who goes to the national circuit will discover a world where debaters make their own rules, so debaters should be aware of that. People should definitely know their circuit and their judges no matter the tournament.

Jim Anderson said...

Anonymous, and I could say the exact opposite: every tournament we attend uses NFL rules. I'd bet this is numerically the norm. As I see it, LD has two concentric domains of competition: a smaller, progressive national circuit (minus NFL nats) and a very large, fairly conservative regional/state/local circuit (minus a few geographical exceptions). Most of the readers of this blog probably are in the latter, simply because there are more teams and competitions in it.

That said, I don't have hard evidence, and would love to see a poll of coaches and competitors that would lead to a regional map of LD progressiveness. It could be very useful.

Anonymous said...

@ Anonymous:
I agree completely with what you are saying. The only reason plans/CP aren't "allowed" in conservative areas is beacuse no one ever runs them. All it takes is one person/team to break the system
(or they could just lose the ballot and get laughed at)

charles melvin smith, prattville alabama said...

when talking about ones future, one should always think ahead to consequences of ones actions. and while taking a standarized test may be a good thing for future refrence (ex. job/college application) is a good thing, should u be made to take it?
i think that u shouldnt be made to take it. those that sit in classes and act as though they dont care, make it a waste of time and money, on the states part, to test them on things they dont no and probably don't care about. if u want to attake a test to be able to get into college, then that is ur perogitive, and should not be wasted on those that do not care.

princessrem01 said...

ahhhh jim! where are those value/crierion pairs? those always help me!!!

Jim Anderson said...

I've been pretty busy--school just started!--but I can put together a list no later than Monday.

Marc said...

The Aff has been ignored so far, what are some good points for the aff argument?

ILoveDebate said...

One thing I'm not seeing this blog focus on is "public education". The whole reason we NEED private schools is because parents believe public schools are not working. That they are failing our kids. This topic reminds me of the NCLB topic a long time ago. I really loved the video by John Stossel entitled "Stupid in America" it really helped me with the neg side. One aspect is how teachers in American can't easily be fired no matter how bad they are which goes back to accountability.

aias said...

One great aff resolution would be how these tests are unfair to students with disabilities; if ALL students must pass these tests to graduate, you can have a 28 year old down syndrome student stuck in high school

JUSTICE-IS-CALLING said...

@aias

Yes, that is the point I am having trouble negating. Does anyone have ideas to negate the argument that standardized exit exams would be EXTREMELY unfair to special needs students and the ability for them to graduate?

Anonymous said...

Perhaps to deal with the disabilities aff, say that we could give school vouchers to students with disabilities. They could then attend special private schools rather than public schools, and therefore would not be public school students.

Anonymous said...

i am a tad bit confused on how to make a strong value and criteria. Right now i have value: justice under the critera of giving each man what he is due.

please help me, i have never done LD debate before and i am confused!

StewartP said...

A couple of thoughts:
What is the purpose of education?
What role does NCLB play within Exit Exams?
etc etc.

Mandy said...

For neg, wouldnt a good argument be that teachers differ? I mean, take the AP Euro exam. This is completely unfair because all teachers teach differently. Some may focus on dbqs, while others focus on book while others focus on perry readers. This gives an extreme advantage to students whose schools have the best supplies with teachers who teach to the tests. The variables are constantly changing. And doesnt standardized go hang and hand with a level playing field? just throwing some thoughts out thereeeee

princessrem01 said...

are we allowed to have observations in our neg case? i have an observation for the aff:

Since the resolution clearly states that this debate is centered on public high schools in the United States, we cannot bring in other countries or imaginary, theoretical worlds.

anyone have any other observations

JUSTICE-IS-CALLING said...

@ Mandy

Interesting argument, but I would use it on the AFF (unless you meant it for the aff and I just got the wrong impression that you meant it for neg). If some teachers teach to the test and others don't and even others are inadequate, how is it just or fair to make them all take the same test. It isn't the smart student with the inadequate teacher's fault he/she failed the SEE, it was the teacher/school's fault for being inadequate.


@pricessrem01

On that observation be careful I would argue that we MAY use other countries as EXAMPLES to either follow or learn from. To answer your question, yes you may have observations on the neg.


for the AFF I'm going to use good-old Justice (each his.her due) and I want something to do with Community-level power in the situation I.E. the community and local government ought ot decide what tests to give and not the federal government, thus not standardized.
Anybody have a criterion that fits the above???

princessrem01 said...

@JUSTICE-IS-CALLING:
I think we need this observation because ive had too many debate resolutions where they mention the united states and for 99% of the time we have deated about other countries not so much the resolution

Anonymous said...

does anyone have a neg case outline? also what would be good neg value/criterion pair? help??

Hector Rivera said...

I need some contentions for my neg case please help!

JUSTICE-IS-CALLING said...

I know the topic ends officially in a few days, but my district is keeping it for 2 more weeks! At my last meet, my opponent brought up on the Neg that there are certain types of standardized exams that are mad up of writing essays, short response, analyzing documents, and so forth. He also brought up the specific names of these exams but I didn't write them down. If anyone knows what these are called could you inform me? Thanks!