Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Illinois Basic Skills Test results, in detail

The Illinois Basic Skills Test was never going to be a big problem. Anyone who wants to be certified to teach public schools in the state of Illinois has to pass the test. Even kindergarten teachers have to be able to pass this test. No disrespect to kindergarten teachers (I sure couldn't do that job!), but that tells you something about how difficult this test is; no one demands kindergarten teachers to have mastered multivariable calculus or be able to dissect a Shakespearean sonnet at the drop of a hat.

In its earlier form the test was described to me by a science teacher with thirty years of experience as "insulting to my intelligence". It evolved from there and became "ridiculously easy" (which, if you think about it, is a step up from "insulting"). Then in the last few years the State Board of Education realized that the test was only assessing teachers on an 8th to 9th grade level. So they made it more difficult, requiring the knowledge and ability equivalent to a sophomore college student.

I knew I'd be able to pass it without problems. The only question was how long it would take. While I was in town I wanted to catch a gymnastics meet that was starting later that same morning. Could I rush through the test - though still being careful enough to be sure that I passed it - and make it to the meet on time? This was the drama of my IL Basic Skills Test experience.

Four hours are allotted for the test. I was hoping to be done and gone in ninety minutes. Fast as I was, ninety minutes was out of the question. Still, at a furious pace I got out of there in just about two and a half hours. I wrote the concluding 5-paragraph essay in about twenty minutes. I was the first person out of the room and left with many surprised/resentful faces staring at me as I left.

So how did I do?
Well, I got an email that said I passed and that my score was a 290 out of 300 (a passing score is 240). 290 isn't bad, but I really wanted to know what I'd missed. I absolutely tore through the math section, but I was totally rocking it. I was going to be very mad if I'd missed any of those questions. Reading Comprehension is always a little iffy, but Grammar is pretty straightforward. I'm sure my essay was more than sufficient but not spectacular.

Well a few days later I got my written results and they included the following breakdown:

click for more details

Yeah baby, perfect Math section. If I hadn't been such a nerd in high school and didn't have a tech degree and a tech job, I can see how the Math section could present problems for people. I'm serious - most people don't recall things like the Angle-Angle-Side rule in geometry or understand how the interest rate formula works (I know that one because I've been very carefully saving and investing my money the last year or so). There were two full-on geometry proofs that a lot of people in a geometry class would have struggled with, let alone people who haven't dealt with geometry proofs in years or decades.

Still, I was just flying through those questions. There were two tougher questions that took a little extra time, but the others took no more than ten seconds each. It was pretty damn sweet. I haven't been back in that pedal-to-the-metal, kick ass and don't look back mode in a long time.

Reading Comprehension is respectable. I always seem to be faced with answers that all seem wrong to me and then it's a matter of choosing the least wrong one. Maybe I'm over-analyzing them or maybe I'm just weaker here or maybe the questions just aren't that well written (you can guess where my opinion sits). A 289 must be about two questions wrong in the section. Oh well.

Language Arts (aka Grammar) is a little annoying that I missed one. Those were all pretty easy. I'll chalk that one up to carelessness on my part. Damn my rushing!

I'm trying not to take the weaker Writing score personally. It's funny how much it makes me grumble though. I know it's not a comment on my real writing abilities, but it still hurts my pride to see it come in so far below the others when I'm much more proud of my writing than I am of my Math abilities. Whatever. It was twenty minutes' worth of work. I'm probably lucky it wasn't any worse.

Anyway, that's that.

It wasn't as ridiculously easy as I thought it was going to be (and made me miss the first rotation of the gymnastics meet), but at least now I can be a little bit more proud of my scores. If it were all at an 8th and 9th grade level, I'd hardly see it as much of an accomplishment. At least this way I feel justified in boasting a little bit.

And that perfect Math section really tickles my inner nerd.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

well done banzai!!! thought you'd get a perfect score from you. i'm a little disappointed in you. went down on the writing part!! quite not like you. English teacher? why don;t you be a math teacher like i was, though i was in primary grades-alot different than a high school teacher. i am just joking of course. i'm very proud of you & your score. i'm sure glad that in my time, they didn't have those tests. luv, ???

Tue Apr 11, 09:26:00 PM CDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just took it in July, and I cannot find anywhere what the "average" score is. I got a 291 over all and perfect on the writing and math and missed just a few on language/reading comprehension. It made me pretty sad that so many people fail this multiple times...

Mon Aug 30, 10:47:00 PM CDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bloody tosser. "Oh I am sooo clever....such a big brain..." No wonder you had to fall back onto teaching.

Fri Jan 21, 04:18:00 PM CST  
Blogger banzai said...

Normally I would delete the above comment because it's pointlessly rude. But I think I'll point my students to it as an example of how horrible people can be to each other when they have the cover of anonymity.

Plus it's kind of funny (though I don't know what it means to be a "tosser").

And yes, that person is so correct that I "had to fall back onto teaching." It's such a shame that I'm not qualified at all to excel in any other realm. I guess I'll just have to accept this life of mediocrity. Sigh.

Fri Jan 21, 05:19:00 PM CST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This was very helpful, thank you! I'm taking the test in a month and I feel better prepared now hearing your experience :)

Thu Aug 18, 11:20:00 AM CDT  

Post a Comment

<< Home