Lance Izumi of the Pacific Research Institute for Public Polic has an article on the OC Register online that asks the question, which do we value more in elementary students - self-esteem, or learning?
Remember when Pinocchio was led astray by the fast-talking fox who promised him fun instead of the hard work of school? By the end of the story he turned into a donkey. Some modern-day foxes in Sacramento want to raise student self-esteem by eliminating state testing of second-graders, which could result in an education for our children better suited to donkeys.
Under the current testing program, the main state test, the California Standards Test (CST), is administered to students in grades two through 11. This test measures student achievement in reading, math and several other subjects. Correcting a defect in previous tests, the CST is aligned with the state's tough academic content standards so that students are being tested on what they should be learning in the classroom.
Legislation authored by Assemblywoman Loni Hancock, D-Berkeley, and sponsored by the powerful California Teachers Association, however, would exclude second-graders from the testing requirement.
Why? Because of the belief that testing is too stressful for second graders. I must note that this attitude is not inconsistent with the "conventional wisdom" I learned in graduate school. We assumed that testing below the third grade would not be useful because the test takers wouldn't understand the stakes and wouldn't necessarily be able to focus on the test in order to give useful results.
Our concern wasn't so much that we thought second-graders would irreparably harmed by a high-stakes test, but that they would goof around and be unfocused and not really get the point of it all.
Mr. Izumi doesn't agree with the stress argument:
Poor performance by a child on the state test isn't the end of the educational process, but the beginning. Test results allow teachers, administrators and parents to see student weaknesses and target remedial help.
While the teachers union wants to eliminate second-grade testing as part of its continuing assault on the state school accountability system, many classroom teachers value the information they glean from test scores.
Christina Andreas, who works with struggling students at Walnut Elementary School in Chino, relies heavily on the exams to identify students needing extra assistance...
...if testing were conducted beginning in the third grade with results not coming in until the start of grade four, a student would be halfway through elementary school before this valuable information became available.
Assemblywoman Loni Hancock's suggestion of using textbook end-of-chapter tests as in-class assessment fails the standardized requirement. Students could not easily be compared to one another, or tracked over time. I tend to agree with Mr. Izumi that early testing might reveal early problems in enough time to get students back on the right track, but thanks to what I learned in graduate school, I believe that it's not necessarily a simple matter to get good, solid, reliable data from kids that young.
There's definitely a dearth of research on testing children below the third grade, and it might be the case that the type of test would have to be qualitatively different in order to validly and reliably assess such skills as reading in children who are just beginning to learn what testing is all about.Posted by kswygert at February 20, 2004 12:45 PM