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Standardized Test Scores

July 11, 1999

Re "Tests Fail the Grade," editorial, July 4: In your opinion, "As California demands more from students and teachers, results from standardized tests must be . . . absolutely trustworthy."

If you wish standardized tests to be "absolutely trustworthy" you do not understand the nature of standardized tests or accurate procedures for evaluation of student achievement. Standardized tests are a "snapshot." They are one kind of evaluation of a student on a given day. According to Grant Wiggins, a specialist in student evaluation, Stanford 9-type tests have an error factor of 60 points: Students given the identical test on different days could yield scores within a 60-point range.

It was interesting for me to read that the errors in the testing were caught by thoughtful teachers who, knowing the performance levels of their students, saw errors in the test scores. You see, that is the appropriate use of tests.

Standardized tests can give a broad brush stroke in order for schools to assess programs. They can also give an indication of the general success of students. But they are not a whole picture. Asking standardized tests to be a "trustworthy" measure of students' achievement is a misuse of tests.

WENDY ZACUTO, Los Angeles

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According to the state's Web site, Stanford 9 test administration took about 5.5 hours per student, from 335 to 360 minutes, depending on the grade level. If this is true, and if 4 million children took the exam, this amounts to about 2,500 years of student time, computed on the basis of 24-hour days. This does not count test preparation, teacher time, etc., etc. Was it worth it?

STEPHEN KRASHEN, USC School of Education, Los Angeles

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