Testing In SchoolsBoth Sides Of The Issue

Testing In Schools:Both Sides Of The Issue Essay, Research Paper

Diane Ravitch, Senior Research Scholar at New York University, has written several books and hundreds of articles pertaining to the education system in the United States. In one of her articles printed by Education Week, she says that “most fourth-graders who live in U.S. cities can’t read and understand a simple children’s book, and most eighth-graders can’t use arithmetic to solve a practical problem.” This is a reason behind testing schools and its students on what they have learned. Those that support standardized testing say that it is a useful way to rate a school and its students with other schools internationally. The opposing side of the issue exclaims that there is too much time spent on testing.

There are arguments that standardized testing is not an accurate way to judge a school and its ability to teach students. Julian Barnes from the New York Times notes education experts have been complaining that “measuring second graders with standardized tests was unreliable.” Educators simply say that there is “too much testing and at too young an age.” In fact, second graders in New York take twelve to thirteen tests throughout the course of the academic school year. Some teachers and parents feel that all this test time could have been put to better use. But it is not wasted time: it does serve a purpose. Dr. Cookson, a professor at the Teachers College at Columbia University, speaks about this issue in an article from the New York Times called “Q & A: Stress Test”. He explains that “What may not be great about this is that you cannot funnel an education through a number.” But he also makes the point that testing does give feedback on the academic climate of a particular school.

Some feel strongly that strict standards need to be set by schools for their students and teachers. New York Schools Chancellor Rudy Crew is someone that has been placing standards on schools and their achievements on tests. According to Jacques Steinberg of the New York Times, Crew has used tests to “evaluate whether district superintendents…should be rehired, to determine whether struggling schools need more resources, and to identify schools that might benefit from a longer day or year.” Kesler, a teacher at Public School 75 in New York, states “he knows the test is one of the few ways his students’ performances, as well as his own, his principal’s and even the district superintendent’s, can be measured against the rest of the city.” The simple observation of a school and its low scores would help a district then focus on fixing that school’s problems. Hopefully, in finding that problem the school can look forward to higher scores in the next year of testing.

Some schools have faced difficult problems about certain students taking standardized tests. These certain students are ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) students. David Nakamura, a columnist for the Washington Post, writes, “schools might be excusing students from the tests as a way to artificially raise test scores.” Holly Stein, an ESOL supervisor in Prince George, says, “if you don’t have kids take the test, there’s no accountability….” But, the argument being raised is that these students should not be accountable for material that they can barely understand. It is hard to rate a school on an English-written standardized test when many of the children taking the test speak Spanish as a first language. A better system needs to be developed so these students can be monitored by their achievements. Dr. Cookson illustrates that “There is the idea that if we can measure kids’ achievement we can have a pretty good idea of whether they are learning or not.” This measure of achievement is the main reason behind standardized tests.

The standardized testing of America’s young students is just a minor step toward reform. Ravitch suggests that there should be “clear standards by which to judge whether students are progressing.” Senate Bill SBX1 5, introduced on February, 5 1999, gives birth to the Public Schools Accountability Act of 1999. This will allow schools to notice low standardized test scores and obtain help from the government’s “two-year action plan.” A qualified evaluator will then “assist in underlying the causes of low performance by pupils in that school.” Then government funding will then go towards fixing a school’s problem areas. The goal is to fix the problems and raise student test scores in two years, but if there are still problems the school can opt for a long-term help plan. With this bill, and ones similar to it going through Congress, public schools will be getting the help needed to raise the educational achievement levels of its students.

Barnes, Julian E. “Reading Test for 2d Grade is Canceled After Protests.” New York Times on

the Web. http://www.nytimes.com/library/national/regional/ Mar. 13, 1999. Apr. 29, 1999

Nakamura, David. “State Testing Programs Face Special Challenges.” Washington Post.


25 Apr. 1999. 29 Apr. 1999

“Q & A: Stress Test.” New York Times on the Web. 3 Jan. 1999. 27 Apr. 1999

Ravitch, Diane. “Our School Problem and Its Solution.” City Journal.

http://www.edexcellence.net/library/problem . Winter Issue 1999. 6 May. 1999

Steinberg, Jaques. “Testing Whether City’s Children Make the Grade As Readers.” New York

Times on the Web. http://www.nytimes.com/library/national/ . 18 Apr., 1999. 29 Apr. 1999


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