Lance Scranton: Tests and success
Tests are a relative measure of student academic success and are certainly at the forefront of any discussion regarding the effectiveness of our public schools. In a country that increasingly puts an emphasis on college preparedness, the pressure is on to perform on tests that measure academic ability with a greater stress on graduating with a diploma that will serve as more than only a ticket to get into the workforce.
Colorado ACT scores are at their highest since high school juniors were required to take the college-entry assessment in 2001. The composite score was a respectable 20.4 with all student groups improving (whites, 21.9; Latino, 17.7; and black, 17.4). This year begins the shift to the SAT, which will replace the ACT as the junior year testing requirement.
PARCC testing, which moved to computers last year, reports that while more students are meeting the state standards of the assessment, the scores show that most of Colorado’s students are far from being on grade level, and large disparities still exist between white students and students of color. In three or four years we will have more results that will better inform teachers of how to address what is being measured.
It’s easy to rail against subpar scores, just as it is to brag about great results. I’ve taught students who care about tests because they view them as sort of a job application for getting into colleges of their choice. Other students make their way through our schools burdened with a host of other concerns and find testing one more reason to stay at home. Regardless, we test them all and hope that the former outweigh the latter enough to reflect favorably on our schools.
So students have become test-takers and teachers are test-preparers in a world that demands test results to measure the quality of our teaching. I am hopeful that schools will get better at reflecting the vast array of learning that takes place within classrooms each day. I am more hopeful that we don’t ever forget that each child that walks through our classroom doors is special, unique and requires our best efforts to prepare them for a world that requires them to be responsible to display their knowledge in many different ways — not just testing.
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