Commonsense testing

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Accountability in the nation's public schools has become a major industry. Tracking students' progress in key learning areas is supposed to give educators, parents and the government an indication of how well schools are performing.

Of course, states are permitted to set their own standards, so a state with relaxed standards may show, through testing, that it is doing a better job than a state with tougher standards. Missouri is generally regarded as a "tougher standards" state.

One of the main ways of measuring school performance in Missouri is the Missouri Achievement Program tests. A new guideline from the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education requires that disabled students who have had MAP tests read to them in the past to read the tests themselves unless they are visually impaired and oral reading is their primary means of learning.

The problem is that the new guideline looks like a one-size-fits-all solution to a thorny problem best evaluated by those who know disabled students best: their teachers. Common sense would suggest that teachers are best able to determine if and when a student needs special assistance in taking a test.

MAP tests are part of the federal No Child Left Behind effort to upgrade public education. At the federal level, the expectation is that every child in a public school will be proficient in every area covered by the federal law.

Is that realistic? Educators have varying views. The requirement regarding disabled students is another area where educators are bound to have mixed feelings.

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