Test standards

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Next month Missouri's State Board of Education will consider recommendations from about 100 educators and residents, who met earlier this month, regarding the way the state grades its Missouri Assessment Program tests. In some cases, the recommended changes would increase the number of students who attain "proficient" or "advanced" scores in some areas. Some educators say the new standards would be more realistic and more in line with how other states evaluate scores to meet federal No Child Left Behind standards.

The MAP standards were set before the No Child Left Behind Act was adopted, and state officials have recognized from the start that the standards were aggressive. Thanks to those tough standards and the federal emphasis on student achievement, complaints that schools are "teaching to the test" have escalated significantly.

Tests or no tests, educators know -- or should know -- if they are succeeding in giving students a fundamentally sound education.

Educators know -- or should know -- that reading competency is the bedrock of learning, and students who can't read are never going to do well, on achievement tests or otherwise.

And educators know -- or should know -- that No Child Left Behind and MAP tests are tools aimed at making sure public education delivers a sound education to every student, not just those who would do well under any circumstances.

Improperly used, these tools can all too easily become weapons as public schools fight for more funding.

Let's hope next month's review of the MAP tests will result in realistic standards without backing off from the mission of making sure students aren't shortchanged by their schools.

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