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What the TAKS Test Can Teach Us About Our Students
Unformatted Document Text:  Open Ended Questions In order to test whether students had any meaningful knowledge of the subject matter, the pre-test was redesigned slightly prior to being distributed in the spring 2008 semester. Fourteen open ended questions were written that touched on the subject matter of fourteen multiple choice questions with suspect wording, or wording that seemed to prompt the students to provide the correct answer. The test is contained in the Appendix. The open ended questions were administered first. Students were instructed to fill out answers on a sheet of paper with the questions printed on them, return the test and then pick up the TAKS test the had been used the previous semester. The open ended questions, presumably, measure actual information that students retain, while the TAKS question opens up the possibility that question answers prompted by the question wording. This way the difference between the scores on related questions could be compared. Table Five lists the results of each test. While the TAKS questions tell us that students know a great deal about constitutional matters and the nature of civil liberties and civil rights, the open ended questions tell a different story. Again, a question about Miranda Warnings has the highest score, but the score is only a 69. I loosely evaluated the answers, giving full credit to any answer that contained at least two of the Miranda Warnings, and suggested that they were meant to restraint arbitrary police actions. Slightly more than half of the students were able to identify the unalienable rights and state their purpose. Again I evaluated this answer loosely. Afterwards there is a significant drop-off in the ability of students to answer any of the questions successfully. This includes two of the questions discussed above. Only 35% of students could, unprompted, state why freedom of speech was important and none could state, again unprompted, that the usurpation of military power by the king of England led to the civilian presidency being granted the power of commander in chief. Without prompts, students cannot state what the purpose of the Civil War Amendments was, that democracy best protects individual rights, what the Great Compromise accomplished, the reason why the Constitution states why trials must be conducted in the district where the crime was committed, the definition of popular sovereignty, and the reasons why we have an independent judiciary. Some of these questions touch on how substantive freedoms are to be 13

Authors: Jefferies, Kevin.
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Open Ended Questions
In order to test whether students had any meaningful knowledge of the subject matter, the
pre-test was redesigned slightly prior to being distributed in the spring 2008 semester. Fourteen
open ended questions were written that touched on the subject matter of fourteen multiple choice
questions with suspect wording, or wording that seemed to prompt the students to provide the
correct answer. The test is contained in the Appendix. The open ended questions were
administered first. Students were instructed to fill out answers on a sheet of paper with the
questions printed on them, return the test and then pick up the TAKS test the had been used the
previous semester. The open ended questions, presumably, measure actual information that
students retain, while the TAKS question opens up the possibility that question answers
prompted by the question wording. This way the difference between the scores on related
questions could be compared.
Table Five lists the results of each test. While the TAKS questions tell us that students
know a great deal about constitutional matters and the nature of civil liberties and civil rights, the
open ended questions tell a different story. Again, a question about Miranda Warnings has the
highest score, but the score is only a 69. I loosely evaluated the answers, giving full credit to any
answer that contained at least two of the Miranda Warnings, and suggested that they were meant
to restraint arbitrary police actions. Slightly more than half of the students were able to identify
the unalienable rights and state their purpose. Again I evaluated this answer loosely. Afterwards
there is a significant drop-off in the ability of students to answer any of the questions
successfully. This includes two of the questions discussed above. Only 35% of students could,
unprompted, state why freedom of speech was important and none could state, again
unprompted, that the usurpation of military power by the king of England led to the civilian
presidency being granted the power of commander in chief.
Without prompts, students cannot state what the purpose of the Civil War Amendments
was, that democracy best protects individual rights, what the Great Compromise accomplished,
the reason why the Constitution states why trials must be conducted in the district where the
crime was committed, the definition of popular sovereignty, and the reasons why we have an
independent judiciary. Some of these questions touch on how substantive freedoms are to be
13


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