School test result: “Lame”

Last week, the state released another round of standardized test scores. This has become a favorite political pastime in recent years, and we think it is, in schoolyard parlance, “lame.”

State and federal policymakers pile test upon test. President Bush’s sweeping No Child Left Behind Act aims to promote student achievement but unrealistically orders that all students become completely proficient or their school could be taken over. And to top it off, the government didn’t even count right and will be issuing corrected scores.

Testing is important in that schools need a way to measure student improvements as classes move up through a district. Low scores could indicate problem teachers and schools or weaknesses that need addressed. In the CUSD a few years back, test scores helped identify the need for a better approach to teaching spelling. But more often, the results—which are more indicative of socioeconomic background than anything else—are divisive, pitting school against school.

By the time the test results show up in media reports, all context is lost as people peruse a list of schools with labels like “underperforming” slapped on them. Parents say they want to live within the boundaries of a “good” school, not a “bad” one. In Chico, where schools are comparatively safe and teachers are well-qualified, this type of elitism is shameful.

In the CUSD, the test results are reported through gritted teeth and the reminder that they are but one measure of what Chico kids are learning. Perhaps worst of all, officials now admit that the surest way to achieve “adequate yearly growth” is for schools to figure out how to teach to the test.

Kids need educators to define the standards, not politicians. The current testing system is excessive, and it’s wrong.