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CLAS Exam Tests the Patience of Teachers, Trustee With State

March 20, 1994

* After piloting the CLAS test, and administering it on its maiden voyage, I had more than a few questions:

1. Why do we need another state test? We already have CTBS.

2. Why do we test limited English students? We already know they do not have the language capacity to read and interpret literature, or write narrative answers to math questions.

3. Why do we test special-education students? If they could read and function on this kind of test, they certainly wouldn't be eligible for special education.

4. Why do we need a test that ignores basic skills such as spelling, math computation and reading vocabulary, and instead tests ability to understand and manipulate language and problem solving, both of which are higher up on the teaming ladder?

5. As a taxpayer myself, how can we afford a test that is hand-scored with all answers subjective, so a consensus of many scorers is used? If a test is needed to compare districts, teachers, students or schools, let's use the CTBS, which better tests things we can teach. Now that the results of this test have been published, I have the same questions, along with a few comments:

1. Does the public know not all tests are scored?

2. Since budget cuts seem to be the focus, why did the testing service receive funding for this program? Individual scores are not recorded. I fail to see how this helps kids learn.

3. What can we, as teachers, do to show the public that, at least in our humble opinion, this is not a valid or accurate test of what kids need to know? I wish every parent could see this test, as we have.

The Corona del Mar schools have high SAT scores, but low CLAS scores. "Is there a mistake?" they ask. I think there is. I think the mistake is in the entire CLAS testing program.

KAREN EDDY

Anaheim

* Much has been said by the media (Times editorial, March 10) and the education departments about the new CLAS tests. From a teacher's perspective, there is also much to be said about the current CLAS testing situation.

First of all, teachers do not object to accountability. We constantly hold our students accountable and use our assessment information to adjust our instruction to better meet student needs. Nor do we object to tests that measure performance and thinking.

We do believe, however, that assessments are only worthwhile if they report back accurate information. At some grade levels it takes up to eight days to administer all the CLAS tests. Add to that the days spent helping students learn testing skills, and a considerable amount of instructional time has been devoted to these assessments. Unless the tests themselves ask valid questions that reflect true student achievement, and the scoring of the tests provides accurate and generalizable results, the results are of no use to us in improving instruction. What a potential waste of our precious resource time.

In the case of the 1993 tests, the percentages of tests scored ranged from only 25% to 75%. The result: A patchwork that is so full of holes that in many cases no valid generalizations can be reached.

To add to our chagrin, the scores from tests given in the spring of 1993 are only now being received. We are set to administer the 1994 tests in about six weeks. That hardly gives us time to make program adjustments and then measure for improvement in this next round of tests!

If we sound frustrated, we are. Teachers sincerely want to offer high-quality education to their students. But we can't do it alone. We need help from the state in providing appropriate assessment tools. We need help from the media in reporting accurately and fairly the true meaning of these tests. If these don't occur, not only are teachers frustrated, but the students and the public are all cheated.

LOIS ANDERSON

President

Capistrano Unified Education Assn.

* You asked that the people of California and in particular the politicians give the CLAS testing system a chance to work (Times editorial, March 10). That would be a reasonable request if we were talking about a group of people who were interested in "working" with those of us who have spent good portion of our lives working with the ever-changing student base and funding levels.

For over a year, the professionals in the district where I am a (school board) trustee have attempted to have a constructive dialogue with this new group in Sacramento.

Their arrogance has been beyond description--that is until Wednesday morning, March 9. They published the results of their test.

Their arrogance and incompetence were beautifully demonstrated by what they did to the students, teachers and community of Corona del Mar High School. If the CLAS people were professional, they would have noted a vast difference in their data and what should have been expected. Most researchers would make an effort to rationalize the differences, but not CLAS. They just wanted to show how their product "showed up" the schools. If this is not the case than they are more incompetent than I suspect.

The crime of it all is that we in California have spent over $55 million to set up another overpaid, self-important, incompetent and big-spending bureaucracy. If you ever want to see a waste of money, take a look at the "puffery" that CLAS has produced.

MORRISON M. CLEMENTS

La Habra

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