Letters

Standardized testing not an accurate assessment tool

In their July 12 opinion piece "Why not put schools to the test?" Bill Evers and Herbert J. Walberg claim that parents generally disagree with education experts, who oppose high-stakes testing.

Of course parents want education systems to be held accountable - but for all-around learning, not just what can be measured by a few-hour, paper-and-pencil test in two subjects. Parents also want schools to help foster citizenship and initiative - important areas that tests don't touch at all.

In the effort to bring meaningful accountability to public schools, it's important to remember that testing does not measure merit.

Parents deserve better information about schools than what test scores deliver.
Lisa Guisbond
Cambridge, Mass.
K-12 Assessment Reform Analyst

National Center for Fair & Open Testing

I teach 8th-grade social studies in Washington State. I have no problem with testing - assessment is a valuable and necessary tool in the learning process. Some instruments assess students' mastery of a body of facts. Others are designed to assess their reasoning abilities. Still others measure performance of learned skills, such as playing an instrument or creating a video.

I do, however, have a problem with tests being used for purposes for which they were not designed. I know of no test that is designed specifically to rank one school against another.

Public schools are a mere reflection of society. Go ahead, hold the mirror up to us; test us. But understand that the results of that test reflect all of society. Until there are some changes outside the school walls, the reflection will be difficult to change.
Richard Reuther
Snohomish, Wash.

International comparisons of test scores are meaningless as a measure of educational quality, despite what Mr. Evers and Mr. Walberg assert. Countries abroad use a system of differentiation in educating the young that is the antithesis of America's system of democratization. The sorting-out process elsewhere begins early in primary school and continues throughout the educational process. As a result, students who take the tests constitute the elite of the school population. In contrast, the tests administered to the same grade here are given to students with the widest possible backgrounds. Any inferences from the data under these conditions will not stand up to scrutiny.

The public is entitled to know if students are being well-educated with tax dollars. But all tests are not equal, and all students taking the tests are not comparable.
Walt Gardner
Los Angeles

Mr. Evers and Mr. Walberg missed the true objection to holding schools accountable based on student test scores. Student test scores measure what a student has learned. These scores do not and cannot measure where and from whence the student learned information.

Students learn from their entire environment. The home is most often the primary environment for children in the US. This is where the larger portion of a child's time is spent growing up. When this environment is apathetic toward education and sometimes anti-education, what goes on in the classroom will have little to no positive effect on a student's learning progress.

If you want to put schools to the test then you must test the schools - not just the students in the schools. To test only the students and hold schools solely accountable for the results will determine which schools will fail and which will pass almost without looking at the curriculum and teaching methods applied.
John Benage
San Antonio

The Monitor welcomes your letters and opinion articles. Because of the volume of mail we receive, we can neither acknowledge nor return unpublished submissions. All submissions are subject to editing. Letters must be signed and include your mailing address and telephone number.

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Mail letters to 'Readers Write,' and opinion articles to Opinion Page, One Norway St., Boston, MA 02115, or fax to 617-450-2317, or e-mail to Letters.

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