In general, I don't like multiple choice tests simply because when an answer is bubbled in, a guess is indistinguishable from what a student actually knows. That's a brief explanation of why I think that there is a sense in which multiple choice tests such as the California Standardized Test (CST) are fundamentally unreliable. HOWEVER, last week, my mentor, Mr. Agajan showed me something that I found helpful with respect to the CSTs.
Mr. Agajan showed me how the students' scores were displayed. In the first column on the left of the sheet, all of the students names were listed. In the same column, immediately to the right of their name in parentheses was the percentage score that each respective student received. Again, immediately to the right of the percentage score was one of four labels: "Approaching," "Below," "Above," or "Benchmark." Each of those labels is relative to scoring at grade level. If a student is "approaching," that student is close to reaching a score that is at grade level. If a student is "below," that student is significantly below scoring at grade level. If a student is labeled "benchmark," that student scored at or a little above grade level. Finally, if student is "above," that student is significantly above a grade level score. Unfortunately, I can't be specific in terms of what % is equivalent to each "approaching," "below," "above," or "benchmarking." I'll ask about that when I see Mr. Agajan tomorrow. Anyway, having those labels are interesting just for the sake of being able to identify whether a student scored at grade level or not. For my case, I would care most about whether a student is labeled as "benchmark" or not.
That wasn't what I thought was the most interesting aspect of how the results were displayed. I believe that after the name column, there were 8 or 9 other columns. I was looking at the results for an English CST. For each column, there was a California standard. Underneath each standard would be the questions from the CST that correspond to that standard. For example, one standard might read as follows: "2.5 Identify the main idea of a paragraph." Underneath that standard, it would simply read something like "21, 22, 23." Then, in the next column, it would read "1.5 Identify the synonyms of a word" and underneath that standard would be the numbers "15, 16, 17." I think you get the idea.
Below each column, it would say how many of the questions each student scored correctly under each standard. I think that's cool because if several students score low in one particular column, then you know pretty quickly what needs to be retaught. And, you can't reteach everything. So, having results displayed in that way saves you time in deciding what to reteach.
Now, if only I could be convinced that multiple choice tests are a reliable mode of assessment.