Testing Abuse

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Monday, June 18, 2007

Teacher Letters on Testing Abuses

Letters: Second-graders
Published 12:00 am PDT Monday, June 18, 2007
Story appeared in METRO section, Page B5

Standardized tests gone too far
Re "A test worth keeping," editorial, June 12: The Bee asserts that without a state test, we won't know if students can read until fourth grade. Actually, informative, classroom-based assessments can meet the educational and emotional needs of young children and enable teachers to communicate more effectively with parents.

Most psychologists and educators agree that children in kindergarten and first and second grade should not be subjected to rigid standardized testing. Potential benefits are few because of the unreliability of the test data.

The National Academy of Sciences warns against overreliance on standardized testing, concluding, "Problems of test validity are greatest among young children, and there is a greater risk of error when such tests are employed to make significant educational decisions about children who are less than 8 years old or below grade 3 ... or about their schools."

STAR testing of second-graders wastes hundreds of thousands of hours of instructional time for test preparation and administration in classrooms throughout the state.

Because of the unreliability of standardized testing at this grade level, and because of the wasted instructional time, wasted dollars and harmful effect on children caused by these tests, 42 other states have rejected state testing of second-graders.

- George Sheridan, Garden Valley

Making reading enjoyable
Preparing for technical, lengthy test format questions takes time away from the proactive process of creating an interest in reading. Second-graders do not need to be subjected to this kind of intimidating, grueling task that they will associate with reading.

Many second-graders are in what educators refer to as the "learning to read" stage. They haven't reached the "reading to learn" stage. Teachers in my school keep a close look at these students by checking their fluency (speed of recognizing words) monthly and giving them a variety of comprehension tests related to the current state reading series. The children are moving from stories with lots of pictures to the ultimately prestigious chapter books without pictures. This requires a big change in their reading instruction.

Beginning readers need a literature diet rich in phonics, teacher read-alouds, pleasure and shared reading to nourish their appetite for reading. This requires lots of enjoyable reading experiences. The best way to learn how to read is to love reading.

- Cindy Sage, Orangevale

A 'black eye' for teachers
Sometimes The Bee just doesn't get it! The second-grade test only shows how a particular student fills in bubbles, which is not a math or reading skill. The test asks second-graders to sit and focus for long periods of time, which is not a math or reading skill.

The Bee gives all teachers a black eye by citing one instance where a teacher said one thing while a test said another. Teachers see the students over long periods of time. They know what the students are capable of better than a developmentally inappropriate test.

As a third-grade teacher I know from experience the second-grade tests are of little value.

Give teachers credit for the great and difficult job they do. Don't blame them and decide a one-time test is better than daily observation and ongoing assessment. No Child Left Behind (as wrong as it has proven to be) doesn't require a second-grade test. Why should California?

Oh, by the way, did you mention how much money those stupid tests cost? Remember the constant budget woes?

Get it right next time!

- Thomas J. Carroll, Sacramento

George Will's whacked logic
Re "Newark's lesson about schools," commentary, June 7: Comparing the New Jersey state teachers union to a gang of thugs and murderers is not the most inane part of George Will's column, just the vilest. What really whacks logic is Will's reasoning for likening teachers to the mob made famous by "On the Waterfront."

After holding up Newark as proof that greater spending on education does mean greater results, Will then slams teachers for objecting to the mayor's plan to spend even more money on education. Will approves of this spending plan because it would be funded by businesses in exchange for tax breaks, and it would go to scholarships for private and public schools. Scholarships to free public schools? I need Will to explain that logic.

- Michael Mahoney, Sacramento

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