Letters to the editor of the LA Times | http://lat.ms/gqr641
Re "Tests that count," Editorial, June 1
June 6, 2011
The role of standardized tests in grades merits discussion. Although imprecise, as all tests are, they may be more appropriate measures of learning than homework completion, a common criterion for awarding grades and largely an exercise in compliance. A motivator for effort? That is an argument for another day.
The editorial's real laugh-out-loud moment was in the characterization of a score of 3 on an Advanced Placement test as "mediocre." It's like calling the last-place runner in an Olympic trial "slow." The student who earns a 3 is deemed "qualified" by the College Board. The last-place runner also qualified by being among the best in the country.
What was notably not laughable, however, was the acknowledgement that our current state tests "simply aren't very good." They're good enough, however, for The Times' news side to use them as a measure of teacher effectiveness.
Keni Brayton Cox
The writer is assistant professor of educational leadership at Cal State Fullerton.
In a discussion with my classes on the importance of standardized tests, I was asked by several students if their scores would count against them. My answer led to more than a few satisfied smirks as students realized there was no good reason to perform well.
Consider this: Every six weeks our students take pre- and post-benchmarks in English, math, history and science. Factor in the high school exit exam along with the many other assessments, and it becomes clear why they may rebel against this culture of testing.
Meanwhile, teachers and administrators are graded by bureaucrats and the public using this test, which has no consequence for our burned-out test-takers. Is there still any wonder why schools have resorted to bribery?
It is unfair to call a 3 on an AP test a "mediocre" grade. There are many students who earn an A in an AP class but for whatever reason, certainly not for lack of effort, receive a score of 3 or less. AP students are highly motivated and are expected to work much harder than those in regular classes.
Students know they get nothing out of taking a standardized test that doesn't impact their course grades. Public schools today generate little of what used to be called school spirit.
Today's standardized, one-size-fits-all tests are deficient in many ways. If administrators want their students to put in some effort on these tests, they need to come up with a good reason for doing so, not a bribe.
The writer is coauthor of the Advanced Placement United States History Preparation Guide, published by CliffsNotes.
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