7 Apr 2011
Should I be Flattered or Irritated?Submitted by Karl Hagen
On March 28, 1990 Michael Jordan scored 69 points against Cleveland. After the game, his teammate Stacey King quipped, "I'll always remember this as the night that Michael and I combined for 70 points." That remark came to mind when I saw this page for a test-prep operation in Northern California where a tutor, Chris Lele, boasts about his past connection to Elite, which if you read my about page you will see is the company whose curriculum development I've run full-time since 2005 (and part-time for years before that). If we believe this page, Lele is quite the curriculum developer:
Together with an Oxford Ph.D., he wrote entire SAT tests for Elite’s 35 worldwide branches.I'm presumably the "Oxford Ph.D." in question. Where he got this notion of my credentials, though is beyond me. I have no degrees from Oxford (although I did spend one summer in the Bodleian reading manuscripts) nor have I ever claimed any. Here's the truth: Lele did spend a time (perhaps a year or two) working for, not with, me. He was a contract developer writing questions for reading passages only. He never wrote any writing or mathematics questions, and so certainly never wrote anything like an entire test, or even all the questions for the reading passages on a single test. Lele was an enthusiastic but mediocre item writer. I wound up spending many hours rewriting his questions to bring them up to sufficient quality for use on the tests. For a beginning item writer, I expect that to be the case. Writing good multiple-choice items is an art form that is not easily mastered. But typically, with mentoring, new item writers gain a feel for how good questions should be structured. Lele, however, did not notably improve over time and was billing an excessive number of hours for this mediocre work. Since he lived in Northern California and I lived in Southern California, mentoring him from a distance proved impractical, and eventually (prodded in part by the economic downturn, which squeezed my curriculum development budget) I dropped him as a developer. I have no doubt that Lele is a good tutor, and I'm flattered that he considers the reputation of Elite's curriculum to be such that he boasts of his connection to it, but I have to confess that his grandiose claims irritate me. If he's writing new material for his current tutoring, I hope--for the sake of his students--that he's learned more than he demonstrated while he worked for me.
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