2004-05-12 / Editorials

On the subject of standards

By Brent E. McCoy

By Brent E. McCoy

We’ve reached that time of the year when STAR testing begins, so we can see if the schools and the students measure up to the new standards set for them.

For those of you without kids, or for anyone who isn’t familiar with these tests, I’ll provide a brief background. Basically, the tests measure the progress of schools and students based on what they would have learned if the state had bought books and paid teachers a decent wage instead of spending the money on tests and the grading of these tests. The idea is to measure the progress of learning and to make sure that said progress is satisfactory from year to year.

This year, most students will take the CAT/6 test, which (according to the California Standards STAR Website) is not to be compared to the Stanford 9 test, which the students took the last few years. The Stanford 9 test, in turn, is not to be compared to the old "standardized tests" that we took as kids. The results of the CAT/6 test will determine the progress made in the past year based on the results of the previous tests, which, as previously noted, are not to be compared to the results of the CAT/6 test.

There’s probably a lot more background required before one can fully understand all of this, but the above information will have to be enough for now—especially if you’ve become as dizzy reading it as I did typing it. I admit that sometimes I might make something up for a cheap laugh, but I swear I didn’t make any of this up—so far.

A few teachers I know have commented on how much they look forward to this time of the year. These tests are a good excuse for the teachers to break up the monotony of their daily routine.

All year long, the teachers go to the same classroom with the same prepared material for a period of learning that is always the same length. Now, for one week a year, the instructors get to use different classrooms and operate without a lesson plan. Every day during the tests, the periods change and the length varies.

Of course, all of the course- work not covered during this week will have to be made up as soon as the tests are over, and this, in its own way, provides even more excitement for the staff and students.

As an added bonus this year, the test results will become part of the student’s package and will be used by colleges in their evaluations, when the time comes. I understand that one of the reasons for these tests is to evaluate the schools and the districts and to measure the success of the plans used by all involved entities. It seems to me that to use the same package to evaluate the students and the system is a little like shooting the racehorse because someone forgot to unlock the starting gate.

I suppose that we’ll continue to argue about the merits of these tests, and both sides will have valid positions, so let me leave you with one last thought. All through grades seven to 12, this writer consistently scored in the top 10th to 20th percentile across the board. Look what’s become of him.

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