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A Critique on Testing

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Teaching to the test is not a problem in schools as long as it is the right test, argue a couple of commentators in an online debate, "What Do School Tests Measure?," published by the New York Times this week. The backdrop for the debate is the news that New York City's students have greatly increased their scores on the state of New York's mathematics and English tests over the last seven years.

Lance T. Izumi, the senior director of studies at the Pacific Research Institute, leans toward assuming that New York state has the right test. But Sandra Stotsky, a professor of education reform at the University of Arkansas, says that when she looked over an 8th grade reading test from New York several years ago, she judged the reading selections to be appropriate for students in grades 4 or 5, independent of what the cutoff score was for the test. She asks the question regarding the New York City situation: "Should English teachers be teaching to these particular tests?"

A number of commentators give examples of how a school's curriculum suffers if teachers are teaching to a test that has a lot of flaws.

Perhaps the most scathing criticism of standardized testing in the collection of commentaries comes from Marcelo Suarez-Orozco and Carola Suarez-Orozco, co-directors of the immigration studies program at New York University. They say that English-language learners are not being served well by current standardized tests and accountability systems.

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With unmotivated students, the test results that Sandra Stotsky presents make perfect sense. The decline may be simply do to students (aka people) realizing that tests that don't matter to there grades, don't matter.

In California, STAR tests are in a quagmire: they don't count to students and the tests don't help getting into college. What's amazing is that many students try to do well. Most are smart enough not to waste their time. Tests aren't even offered to seniors because they would completely blow them off. Wouldn't you? Perhaps they count meaningfully in Stotsky's data. They will in Tennessee this year: http://bit.ly/4pDXkO

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