Topics to avoid when developing standardized tests

Subject: Topics to avoid when developing standardized tests
From: "Darren Barefoot" <darren -at- capulet -dot- com>
To: "'TECHWR-L'" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Tue, 3 Feb 2004 13:05:07 -0800

Harper's magazine recently posted an entertaining set of guidelines
provided by The Princeton Review to writers preparing practice versions
of standardized tests. It reminded me of the care I always have to take
when providing examples in user documentation. Clients are always
hyper-sensitive that user will find a particular example somehow

The Princeton Review seems to have eliminated every topic of any
compelling interest to anyone. Here's a sample:

* Individuals who may be associated with drug use or with advertising of
substances such as cigarettes or alcohol
* Name brands, trademarked names
* Junk food, fad diets
* Abuse, poverty, running away
* Divorce
* Socioeconomic advantages (e.g., video games, swimming pools, computers
in the home, expensive vacations)
* Slavery (We can include slavery in history/social-studies materials if
the state curriculum standards cover slavery. Avoid it in reading
passages. The term "enslaved people" is preferable to "slaves.")
* Rap music, rock concerts
* Complex discussions of esoteric topics
* Extrasensory perception, witchcraft
* Anything disrespectful, demeaning, moralistic, chauvinistic
* Anything depicting racial or cultural stereotypes (e.g., Native
American in headdress and war paint)
* Anything depicting sexual stereotypes (e.g., girls shopping, a mother
cooking dinner for a working father, girls overly concerned with dating
or what boys think of them, anything accepting of a boy's aggressive

How do they not end up with tests featuring the TeleTubbies? The whole
list is at Cheers. DB.

Darren Barefoot
Take the Barefoot Oscar Challenge:

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