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Testing Trumps Classroom Realities

July 15, 2001

"Good mooorrrning Littlerock High Schoooool," the vice principal blurts out over the intercom, trying to sound like Robin Williams. "Only 183 days until STAR testing." This type of greeting is heard at least twice a week from September until April, when those dreaded standardized tests are given to the students. And this is just the beginning of all the time spent on testing preparedness. Countless staff meetings, in-services, departmental meetings and strategies are spent gearing the staff up so in turn they can get the students geared up for a test that half the students could not care less about.

So much time, in fact, is spent on preparing for April testing that the curriculum that needs to be covered is dangerously left by the wayside. Wars don't get covered in social studies. Graphing doesn't get covered in algebra. So what is a responsible teacher to do? This question has no simple answer. Probationary teachers must please the administration if they enjoy teaching and want to keep on doing it. Tenured teachers do what they can to cover the standards and ready the students for the April exam. The administration wants the school to get outstanding results from standardized testing, while the teacher sees the students not getting the material set out by the state standards. This will hurt the school and the state in the long run. Students will fall further and further behind in math, science and English. But they will know how to take a standardized test.

John Derse

Palmdale

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"Proposed Laws Don't Address Actual Issues" (Opinion, July 8) spotlights the truth about education and welfare and should be sent to every school board and legislator. The focus is on goals, which is proper if you give attention to the barriers. But training for tests is not appropriate learning in education unless your goal is to be a professional test-taker. The tougher job is to attend to the causes; class sizes, quality of faculty, parent participation, et al., which far too few school systems have the resources to correct.

The same goes for welfare, where the goal of getting work is appropriate but does not attend to the basic causes--inadequate education, low wages, inadequate child care and other social problems. Education and welfare are intertwined issues having much to do with economic class benefits and differences. We had better be busy at eliminating basic causes rather than nibbling at the edges.

Chauncey A. Alexander

Huntington Beach

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