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Just what we need — another standardized test

Submitted by on Thursday, 23 October 2008 No Comment

I love Gaston Caperton. I really do.

When he said he was going to be an education governor, he meant it. He’s had a life-long commitment to improving schools, not only in the rich districts — and that’s grading on the curve when you’re talking about West Virginia — but for all children.

It wasn’t always easy to accomplish politically, but he didn’t back down. And he did it while remaining human, which is why he’s my favorite all-time West Virginia governor.

But Gaston, the latest move by the College Board you now head just doesn’t get it. I smell baloney on this one.

A new test to “help prepare eighth graders for rigorous high school courses and college,” as the New York TImes put it this morning. A test you told the Times “had been developed in response to the demand from schools and districts”?

I seriously have to question the sanity of any school superintendent who’s demanding more testing.

Testing in California starts now in the second grade and lasts every year through graduation. And that’s just the basic stuff. There’s also the high school exit exam, the PSAT, SAT, the ACT and Advanced Placement tests. We’re in danger of making school all about graying in the bubble, if we haven’t already.

Yes, I’m an anti-testing radical from way back. Have been since I was writing about John Cannell’s discovery of the “Lake Woebegone Effect” in standardized testing. That all happened in West Virginia, too. Funny how my life keeps looping around, 20 years and 3,000 miles later.

That was back when regular standardized tests were given only every three years and kids didn’t start stressing about college exams until their sophomore year, at the earliest. Frankly, not many folks stressed at all because until someone at our high school screwed up and did well enough on the PSAT to become a National Merit Scholarship finalist, officials weren’t pushing tests.

These days, some districts force the College Board’s Pre-SAT on students as early as ninth grade. Then ACT, the College Board’s top competitor to its SAT, came up with ACT Explore. And now the College Board has created ReadiStep.

The College Board says ReadiStep is not a pre-pre-SAT though it sounds suspiciously like one. A College Board board member accidentally confessed as much to the Times.

The new test could inform parents and teachers about whether “kids are on track with the particular skills they would need as they go forward into taking the PSAT and SAT and being ready for college,” said Susan Rusk, the coordinator of counseling for the Washoe County School District in Reno, Nev.

Here’s a thought from a testing radical from way back. How about getting students ready for college by teaching them to think? Learning to keep the No. 2 pencils within the bubble on a multiple-guess test you can cram for doesn’t do that.

Copyright 2008 Debra Legg. All rights reserved.

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