03/05/06 — True tests: Scores should reflect actual achievement

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True tests: Scores should reflect actual achievement

Education officials across the country are already trying to figure out how to explain why in some states — including North Carolina — the passing rates on statewide measurements of reading and math skills are so much higher than those on the federal exams measuring the same skills

No need for a lot of analysis here. The answer is obvious.

The state tests are easier.

And that is, in part, our fault.

In our ever-increasing zeal to develop a battery of tests to measure student performance and then to judge educators by that scoring, we have made teaching to the test an unspoken priority in schools.

If high scores matter on tests, and that is how a school’s efficiency is measured, it would make sense to make sure those test scores are as high as possible.

And don’t forget, too, that parents and community members don’t exactly like to see large of numbers of students held back from promotion to the next grade or receiving failing grades.

Parents aren’t shy about complaining when they feel the school is being too hard on their little Johnny or Suzie.

Educators and administrators only have so much control over student achievement. There are many more factors involved than the quality of instruction students receive in school. Student interest, preschool preparation and parental involvement and priority-setting are critical to a child’s success in school.

So, while it matters that a student might not have received the best instruction in school, improving classroom teaching is not the one and only fix for problems with reading and math.

Because we are threatening teachers and schools with sanctions if a certain percentage of students do not pass standardized tests, they would be foolish not to concentrate in that area.

To fix the problem, we need a standardized federal test with certain expectations for students in reading and math, period. There would be no consideration for students who live in certain areas — just one measurement — with the highs and lows that come with such a system.

Then, we will have a true picture of where our students stand and how best to help them improve these skills that they will need for the rest of their lives.

No spin. No excuses. Just scores.

Until we get that information — undoctored — and act on it, there will be no real improvement in educaton.

And that is the bottom line.

Published in Editorials on March 5, 2006 12:27 AM