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100 Years of Standardized Tests


In the midst of complex debates over public education, standardized testing, and educational reform, this exam issued to Kentucky 8th graders 100 years ago seems comparatively straightforward. In truth, the test is surprisingly difficult.

Click the image for the full exam, answers, and a history of the test.

Can you name, for example the capitals of the states bordering the Ohio River? Do you know what the functions (or uses) of the spinal column are? Can you name five county officers and the principal duties of each? Remember that 100 years ago, each of these was an essay question — not a single question was designed as multiple choice.

The 8th grade exam covers spelling, reading, arithmetic, grammar, geography, physiology, civil government, and history. Each section includes ten questions or less, except for spelling, in which students were asked to spell 40 words.

Tests Then & Now
In 1912, students answered less than 60 essay questions and spelled 40 words as part of a single exam at the end of 8th grade. Students were required to travel to a regional testing site to participate in the exam.

Missouri’s 8th graders complete MAP tests in three different subject areas; communication arts, math, and science. These tests are administered in the classroom, eliminating travel requirements. Today’s tests are longer than Kentucky’s 1912 test was, and they include several types of questions, while Kentucky’s 100-year-old test was made up entirely essay questions.

Eighth graders in Missouri are given a little over two hours to complete three sections of communication arts testing; two hours and twenty minutes to complete three sections of math testing; and three hours to complete three sections of science exams. Students encounter multiple choice questions, constructed response questions, and “performance events” – extended construction response questions.

What Do You Think?
What do you think about tests 100 years ago and tests now? Could you have passed Kentucky’s 8th grade exam? Do you think you could pass your child’s 8th grade MAP tests? Leave a comment on the MOParent Facebook Page, and if you enjoy posts like this one, be sure to sign up for MOParent email updates!

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