The Compton Unified School District recently came under criticism from state officials, in part because its students have ranked low on standardized tests. How accurate are standardized tests at measuring student achievement, and are they the best method to measure students' success at learning in school?
Kelvin Filer, Board member , Compton Unified School District
"I don't think that standardized tests are a good tool to use for measuring a student's capabilities. I don't think it measures their intelligence, their knowledge or their ability to contribute to society once they've completed their education. I think all it measures is their ability to take a standardized test. There have been countless studies that have shown that students who have not done well on SATs (Scholastic Aptitude Tests) or the LSAT can go on to do very well in higher education. There's a certain amount of cultural bias simply from the standpoint that students from schools where the classes are smaller can get more attention, and they are taught how to take those kinds of tests early on. I'm not discounting those tests because society has placed emphasis on them, but student scores on standardized tests can be very misleading as to whether that student is getting an education or contributing to society."
Michele Lawrence, \o7 Superintendent\f7 , \o7 Paramount Unified School District:
\f7 "They are certainly one way to measure, but from my perspective it's the least effective way because we do not measure the application and the thought process on standardized tests. We need to measure how students think and apply their knowledge, not common recall. On standardized tests, we don't have a chance to measure their written or communication skills. It doesn't require students to do evaluations or analysis, and those are the ways in which you really find if kids are learning. A lot depends on your cultural influence and the people who are writing the exams. When you have a changing ethnic population, what is the basis of the norm? That's always the question: Who is standard? It has been frustrating, and I think the education community is moving at a very good pace to put standardized testing behind us and move toward more authentic measurements.
Darline Robles, \o7 Superintendent\f7 , \o7 Montebello Unified School District
\f7 "In my opinion they don't accurately assess a student's achievement. They really don't reflect what students were taught in the classroom. They should only be used as one piece of information for the teacher and parents to assess a student, and not a sole criteria for success. It really doesn't assess what a child could know on any given day about a subject. On these tests we're limited to true and false and multiple choice, and the real world is about applying your knowledge to real-life situations. The tests are always timed, and you may be able to answer every question but you may need more time. The problem is, we've only used that and have left out other indicators of a student's success such as actual work samples, writing assessments and complete projects. It gives you a measurement at one point in time about a small specific bit of information. If we use it as that one bit of information, then it can be helpful.
Randolph Ward, \o7 Principal\f7 , \o7 Whittier Elementary School in Long Beach\f7
"I don't like them--I just feel they're the best objective way at looking at achievement in our schools to date. You see, as educators we often look at our own children's achievement test scores with glee when they are high, and we talk about our children as being GATE (Gifted and Talented Education) or gifted. But when there are students, particularly in the inner city, who don't succeed, we talk about test inaccuracies and how they really don't test achievement, and we profess to look for other forms of assessment. The question is whether the tests actually test what we are teaching in school or at least what we're supposed to be teaching. I think they are an accurate reflection of certain skills that should be taught in our schools, but they are not an accurate reflection of all that we do in school. Until we find the money and the means to come up with an objective test or assessment of student's achievement, then we need to use them as part of our school improvement process."