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School Tests Parody 'The Weakest Link'

June 02, 2002

Re "Schools Challenge Mandatory Testing," May 29: The worst fault of the Stanford 9 is the way in which it is used to reward and punish schools as their scores rise or fall in a grim parody of "The Weakest Link." Critics of the test would not be charging it with racial bias if it were being used, instead, to identify schools in most need of increased financial support, schools whose students need the most help but receive the least. Put more resources into schools with the lowest scores, supply students with enough textbooks, attract qualified teachers through additional incentives and make buildings as usable as those in affluent neighborhoods.

Education in the U.S. has not uniformly declined over the past 50 years. My 13-year-old son, in two middle-class public schools, has been receiving an education far superior to the one I received in the 1940s and 1950s (and mine got me a scholarship to Harvard). He has a backpack full of textbooks to carry home, fine teachers, interesting and challenging honors courses. Parents in his elementary school contributed and raised $80,000 a year for teacher aides, a librarian and supplies. That school had one of the top Stanford 9 scores in the LAUSD. If we are going to administer standardized tests, let's change other laws and procedures so that we use their results fairly and productively.

David Eggenschwiler

Los Angeles

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Reading your article, I found myself in a rare agreement with Roy Romer and Delaine Eastin. The issue is not a "racist test" but rather the racism of the LAUSD board members trying to get rid of testing. The article says, "School leaders ... argued that standardized tests perpetuate discrimination against poor and minority children." It is not the test that perpetuates discrimination but the discriminatory education provided by those leaders. And now they want to get rid of objective testing, so the parents and children they discriminate against will never realize or rebel against the ersatz education they are getting.

Some of the poorest and most disadvantaged school districts in the state, like Azusa or Inglewood, show us that poverty and race do not have to doom children to a sham education.

Ze'ev Wurman

Palo Alto

Wurman is a member of the California Mathematics STAR Content Review Panel.

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